The pandemic has turned the economy on its head, leading to massive job losses and employment uncertainty for many. Lockdowns and restrictions, put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, have forced countless brick-and-mortar shops to close or drastically change their retail practices. Despite these challenges, manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers have found new and inventive ways to keep up with the ever-evolving situation. Here’s a look at five key lessons learned from this challenging year.
A sudden shift to digital
Back in March, when the first lockdowns came into effect and people were told to stay home to curb the spread of COVID-19, many businesses including brick-and-mortar stores shut their doors to the public and business buyers and consumers turned to online shopping. Businesses that already had a solid omnichannel commerce platform were better positioned to handle the rapid and unexpected surge in demand on their digital channels. Those that didn’t had to suddenly shift to a digital platform to stay in the game.
Businesses that want to succeed in the post-COVID-19 era need to leverage this increase in online purchasing activity, as many businesses especially the retail industry is unlikely to go back to “normal” anytime soon. Agile companies who can quickly adapt to meet the new convenience, safety, and self-service needs of their customers—whether they’re a B2B or B2C business—will be more likely to weather the storm, as retail numbers continue to struggle.
A focus on safety and convenience
In today’s new reality, safety and convenience are top priorities. Customers are looking for more fulfillment options—such as home delivery, buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS), and curbside pickup—as they seek to reduce their time spent in stores. The in-store fulfillment (or ship-from-store)model is now more important than ever: brick-and-mortar shops are using stock from their stores to fulfill orders, relying less on distribution centres to fill the gap. Agile retailers are seizing the opportunity to function as local fulfillment centres, responding quickly to customers’ needs. Dark stores—retail locations not open to the public—are being used by retailers as warehouses for filling online orders or expediting customer pickups.
From teachers to sales representatives, social distancing has also led to an increase in remote workers. Though many workers will be eager to get back to the office, without a doubt, more people will be working remotely after the COVID-19 crisis than before.
If your team wasn’t remote already, your business had to make some huge adjustments. By investing in the technology and systems to support remote work and cybersecurity during the pandemic, you are investing in your company’s future.
Unified full-suite back office systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, SAP Business One or Acomba, offer flexible tools for managing your projects, operations, financials, supply chain, sales, and customer service. They also provide robust reporting and analytics to give you in-depth insights into your company.
A willingness to try new shopping experiences
In this ever-changing landscape, consumers are embracing new shopping alternatives and digital experiences, from contactless payment options to self-service solutions. They feel safer when they can complete their orders or transactions themselves and appreciate any efforts that businesses make to simplify their lives. Companies with a good omnichannel fulfillment modelare better positioned to provide consumers with a seamless, user-friendly online experience, from product research to product delivery.
B2B buyers and sellers have also embraced the new digital reality. Their interactions have shifted from in-person to remote and digital self-serve engagement. In addition, B2B buyers have not shied away from making significant new purchases and reordering online. According to McKinsey & Company, 70% of B2B decision makers say they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000.
A push to buy local
During the pandemic, online retail giants like Amazon have seen their profits soar, while smaller companies have struggled. In response, a grassroots effort has been gaining ground. To prevent local businesses from going under, many communities, including Yorkshire in the UK and Vancouver in Canada, are encouraging people to buy locally. One such initiative is Small Business Saturday, a push to redirect some of the billions spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday into the hands of small, independent businesses to save local economies.
The pandemic has also shocked international supply chains. Sudden surges in consumer demand (think toilet paper), temporary trade restrictions, manufacturing shutdowns, and border closures have made it harder for suppliers and retailers to reliably source items. As a result, some have turned to local manufacturers to meet consumer demand as quickly as possible. Consumers have also changed their buying patterns, with many forced to abandon cross-border shopping and buy closer to home. Others, especially at the start of the pandemic, were hoarding due to anxiety about shortages, which disrupted the supply chain.
A new kind of loyalty
With pandemic-related unemployment and job uncertainty being major concerns, most consumers are watching their discretionary expenses, focusing on the essentials, and maintaining or reducing their holiday spending this season. Due to continued financial pressures, many are stepping away from their usual brands and trying out new stores, brands, and channels in search of better value and safety.
k-eCommerce’s innovative and integrated e-commerce solutions
Whether you’re a manufacturer, supplier, or retailer, the pandemic has made it essential to harness the full power of your online channels. k-eCommerce can help you do just that, providing innovative and integrated e-commerce solutions for Microsoft Dynamics and SAP Business One. Features include a rich multimedia product catalogue, a user-friendly CMS with publishing and SEO tools, customer service capability, PCI-certified private cloud hosting, and responsive, professionally designed themes.
Make the pandemic work for you
Contact k-eCommerce today to find out how your business can leverage the power of digital commerce during these challenging times.