The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on businesses globally. Several companies had to shut down operations, deal with supply chain disruptions, and even were forced to lay off employees.
The global retail industry has been severely affected by the pandemic, showing a decline of 5.7% in the growth rate in 2020. In July last year, the retail rates for Singapore alone fell by 8.5%, compelling several physical retail chains and stores to shift swiftly to online retail management systems. The year-on-year performance was dragged down by departmental retail stores, where sales dropped by 32.1%. Other retail sections like watches and jewelry, apparel and shoes, etc., also went down significantly during this period. The graph below shows how different sectors performed during this period.
Source: DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS
While super and hypermarkets were among the only profitable section due to high demand for groceries, most large retailers suffered massive losses, except those with an e-commerce website.
Global Retail Industry Post Covid
Retail sector losses to the European Union too amounted to 3.2 billion last year. As the pandemic still looms over, retailers are looking for innovative strategies to solve their problems through technology.
Retailers have seen a stark change in consumer behavior around this time. Besides being cautious of their spendings, buyers also splurge less, save more, avoid shopping in stores, and prefer contact-less delivery. Here’s a graph of how the sales figures of different items increased/decreased during the pandemic.
Aggregated via ShipBob, ShipHero, Attentive, Stackline, CTC, Klaviyo, Emarsys, Rakuten & Adobe
Source: Big Commerce
Retailers, too, are putting a cap on their expenditures, especially on advertising, and creating more personalized experiences to get closer to their customers. Specialty retailers are focusing more on creating relevant and more engaging content that boosts conversions.
Retail firms have also realized that the only way to stay afloat and scale during such tough times is through technology and innovation. Digital-first retail players would have a definite edge over their competitors due to their omnichannel approach which offers greater agility in customer responses and decision-making. E-commerce too has become a necessity for retailers as it helps them keep their stores open 24×7, provide quick resolutions using AI chatbots, and assist customers from anywhere.
Technology can greatly transform any retail business, no matter the size. By making use of specialized POS and retail management software, coupled with automation and smart devices, firms are continually looking to improve the consumer experience, engagement, process efficiency, safety, delivery times, and query resolution.
This article looks at some of the most significant technology-powered improvements in retail and how they will fundamentally transform the retail industry over the next decade.
So let’s find out how technology can help struggling retail businesses get back on their feet post the COVID-19 crisis.
How Can Technology Assist The Retail Industry
Both retail insiders and buyers are privy to the problems faced by retail manufacturers and suppliers. The need for better communication, inventory control, oversight, and flexibility has made many retail houses use customized retail tech solutions for streamlining their tasks. The increased use of technology in retail also has the following advantages:
- Better Record-keeping: Going paperless has several advantages for any retail business. It saves money, prevents data hacks or loss of data, helps keep records organized, and is better for the environment. Additionally, digital records can be accessed by you from anywhere using cloud, which improves transparency and consumer loyalty.
- Improving Production Standards: The pandemic has forced people to be skeptical of their surroundings and be cautious about the safety standards being followed during production. Modern software and automation tools ensure better quality of goods and stricter adherence to safety through real-time monitoring of such facilities.
- Enhanced Reach: The use of social media and its influencers have enabled many retail brands to get more leads and improve customer traffic. Brands can also advertise product discounts and deals, share promo codes and digital coupons for easy promotion.
- POS & CRM solutions: The widespread use of online POS systems for processing, managing, and recording point-of-sale operations is a testament to their efficiency and usefulness. Many providers also integrate CRM modules with retail management solutions for better engagement and easier communication.
- Virtual-reality Shopping: Though still in its formative years, VR retail experiences will play a major role in the future of retail. Many brands are already utilizing such technologies to offer customers premium, immersive, and ‘real’ shopping experiences.
- Omnichannel Shopping: Retail businesses can have multiple physical stores with a varied degree of product availability. Providing an onmichannel shopping experience does wonders to your brand’s image and ensures that customers can place orders on the fly. Additionally, a single store rarely has all products in all sizes or configurations. However, with an online store, you can list all products you like, add store and inventory data, and offer shipping or ‘buy-online-pick-up-in-store’ (BOPIS) facilities to buyers.
- Quicker ( and safer) buys: Technology helps buyers browse through thousands of your products in an instant and find what they need. They simplify and speed up the shopping experience and offer users to ‘shop & collect’ items from their digital stores.
- Richer Forecasts: If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to plan for a better future. The use of business intelligence in retail allows you to predict what is coming and plan your inventory and production accordingly to prevent wastage.
The above are tried and proven methods in which technology helps retail businesses scale smoothly with technology. However, there are many innovative ways in which technology can be leveraged for a superior customer experience. Here are a few instances:
1. John Lewis stores allow you to try on multiple dresses without needing to change!
2. SayDuck furniture stores use virtual reality to allow customers to imagine how products would look in their homes!
3. Zara tracks in-store customer behavior through iBeacons to improve the retail experience
4. TopShop allows you to customize & instantly print your clothes in-store!
In today’s uncertain environment improving response times and providing a seamless customer experience are crucial to win. Technology can significantly transform the realm of retail and make it faster, more transparent, interactive, and personalized for users. Besides helping retailers make more profits and deal with changes sooner, it also makes them more organized, provides them with better control, and helps them serve their customers better.
We at Integrated Retail have implemented over 3000 POS and other technology solutions with 200+ highly satisfied customers who can vouch for us. Our clients have seen tangible benefits ranging from a 95% reduction in staff dedicated for inventory management to 80% reduction in lead time for technology deployment to a four-fold return on technology investments. In fact most of our clients recover the money spent on deploying our technology solutions within 3 to 12 months.
To learn how Integrated Retail can help you future-proof your business and scale click on https://lnkd.in/gCqTXMX