Covid-19 Accelerates Retail’s Digital Transformation

The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has significantly and, possibly, irreversibly changed the way the retail sector solves complex business and communication issues, increasing dependence on electronic technology.

Retail’s digital transformation, that’s the idea of using new digital technologies to address business performance, has been continuing for decades. Ecommerce is potentially the most crucial retail electronic transformation ever.

Covid-19 has forced retailers to invest more money into new technologies and implement those technologies far faster than otherwise planned.

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Ecommerce Expansion

Possibly the best example of how Covid-19 has quickened retail digital transformation is that the range of brick-and-mortar shops that included ecommerce during the lockdown.

A poll of 200 merchants conducted by Software Advice, a testimonials platform, found that 25 percent of surveyed companies added an ecommerce revenue channel because of the pandemic. The poll, while relatively small, makes the point that retailers who hadn’t yet begun to market online quickly transformed their companies.

Software Advice’s survey found that 50 out of 200 respondents started ecommerce operations because of Covid-19.

Retailers that hadn’t previously taken ecommerce seriously or dedicated much funds to it had been closed and had a way to create cash. What is more, those exact retailers saw reports about the enormous increase in online ordering and wanted to take advantage.

It’s worth remembering that ecommerce has been growing, pre-Covid.

“Ahead of the pandemic, ecommerce sales already represented the majority of overall retail sales growth in america. Some $600 billion in online sales accounted for 56 percent of total retail growth in 2019,” composed Agnes Teh Stubbs at the opening of the aforementioned Software Advice report.

The coronavirus hastened ecommerce’s growth trends significantly.

“U.S. ecommerce penetration jumped to more than 25 percent in April 2020 from 15 percent in year-end 2019, pulling forward a few years of adoption,” according to a June 2020 report by Prologis Research, which also estimated that ecommerce would reach a”penetration of almost 20 percent for 2020 as a whole vs. a pre-pandemic prediction of 16.9 percent.”

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Communications

“Over the past few months, we have seen years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into weeks and days to adapt to the new normal as a consequence of Covid-19. Our customers in virtually every industry have been required to recognize new ways to communicate with their clients and stakeholders — from patients to pupils, to shoppers, as well as workers — basically overnight,” said Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer in Twilio, the text and communication platform.

Weinstein’s comments accompanied the launch of a big digital transformation survey Twilio conducted in June 2020 that included responses from 2,569 decisionmakers in enterprise-level companies globally.

The poll found that, normally, Covid-19 had hastened businesses’ strategies to implement new communications systems and stations by about six years across all businesses addressed and a few 6.1 decades especially for the retail and ecommerce businesses. With 95 percent of the responding businesses looking for new ways to communicate with and engage clients in light of the pandemic.

To deal with this need to communicate and participate, some 35 percent of those companies Twilio surveyed additional live chat, irrespective of business, and 33 percent additional interactive voice response solutions.

All told, Twilio discovered that 70 percent of the retail and pure-play ecommerce companies it surveyed in June had popped up their electronic transformation in communications.

What’s more, when asked about increasing the use of electronic channels already in place because of Covid-19, retailers said they boosted live chat by 52 percent, email by half, video calling by 46 percent, and SMS (texting) by 49 percent.

Supply Chain

“The pandemic has exposed how vulnerable distribution networks throughout the planet are. Many retailers are affected due to their inability to forecast and meet customer demand for their products. Retailers will need more transparency of stock to plan their offline and online client experience,” wrote Vishnu Nallani Chekravarthula, head of innovation with Qentelli, a consulting company, in a May 2020 article in Total Retail.

Supply chain issues throughout the pandemic will almost surely result in new solutions, which in turn, are likely to need a digital transformation.

Small-and-mid-sized retailers might want to warehouse relatively more stock of important products and position that stock closer to customers. This may mean, for instance, that a retail ecommerce SMB that was shipping from one warehouse should add several fulfillment centers across the nation either by incorporating their own warehouses or Dealing with third-parties.

As fulfillment becomes dispersed, companies will need new stock and order management systems.

What’s Next

At the time of writing, some states and cities were rolling back their opening programs, including mask orders, and still suffering from the pandemic. It’s becoming more challenging to envision a v-shaped recovery.

When the coronavirus is a thing of the past, the investments retailers have made in hastening their electronic transformations will still pay off. The companies which become better at communicating and engaging with clients will probably benefit long-term.

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