A recent HBR article offers some sobering advice for the retail sector. According to author Denise Lee Yohn, “Retailers need to stop expecting business to return to ‘normal.’ There’s no going back to how it was anytime soon.”

Brick-and-mortar retailers were already struggling before the pandemic, and they cannot afford to continue to look in the rearview mirror. Rather, it’s important that they embrace the new rules of retail, which include:

Recognizing a new baseline

Part of reimagining baseline requirements is recognizing that a seamless eCommerce experience is critical. Yohn writes, “Customers will no longer tolerate subpar digital shopping experiences like they may have before the crisis. Retailers have to make sure their sites are mobile-responsive, offer integrated services such as ‘buy online pick up in store’ (BOPIS), and deliver a consistent, reliable digital experience across devices and channels.”

Rethinking the in-person experience

Ecommerce may be king but that doesn’t mean that retailers can forget the in-person experience. In fact, in the post-pandemic environment, in-store considerations may actually be more important than ever. As Yohn puts it, “As a result of COVID-19, all retailers will have to make their in-store experiences even more extraordinary for those who can visit in person. They have to give people a reason to visit that is so compelling, it justifies their exposure to health risks and overcomes the inertia of the behaviors they adopted during the shutdown.” She points to the strategies premium movie theater brands employed to fight back against Netflix and other home movie-viewing options—luxury recliners, specialty food and beverage items, and lobbies with games and other interactive amusement. Traditional retailers must follow suit and transform the in-store experience into something that can’t be replicated through virtual interactions alone.

Devising a digitally native customer experience

Brick-and-mortar retailers often make the mistake of trying to extend their in-store experience online, rather than devising a truly digital native customer experience. According to Yohn, “Investing in some of the unique capabilities of digital—including real-time inventory management, predictive analytics, AI-powered search, and personalization and co-creation functions—can create completely new and different shopping experiences.” Other avenues to investigate include social commerce, augmented reality, and gamification.As Yohn puts it, “This isn’t the time for the retail industry to try to simply ride out the storm.” By taking note of the considerations outlined above, brick-and-mortar companies can emerge from the pandemic stronger and better positioned to harness the possibilities inherent in digital transformation.

To learn more, read the complete HBR article.

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