The pandemic has caused major effects on the global economy: every sector, albeit in different ways, has suffered for its negative impact.
The retail industry is not an exception. While several stores had to close their doors due to the first lockdown, others considered essential, such as grocery and pharmaceutical stores, stayed open with reduced working hours and reduced capacities.
Some retailers have survived the temporary collapse during the pandemic. Others had their final days.
Not only small but also large retail chains that suffered the worst consequences had to file for bankruptcy over the spring and summer. For example:
- Stein Mart, a discount department with 112 years of activity;
- Lord & Taylor – the oldest chain of department stores in the U.S founded in 1826;
- the large luxury chain Neiman Marcus;
- the rental-car company Hertz (for the U.S and Canadian market);
- the legendary Cirque du Soleil that said it hopes to restructure its debt in the future with the help of the Canadian government;
- the great giant of pizza, Pizza Hut, that closed with a debt of 900 million $;
- between the airlines can be cited Aeromexico,
- the Chilean company Latam and the Colombian Avianca;
- and the list could go on.
Right Business Decisions in the Crisis
Many physical stores that were forced to close during the lockdown had moved their businesses to the digital world. Nevertheless, even though there was an e-commerce boom, customers were still hungry for physical shopping and brick and mortar stores’ experience. Thus, the second wave of the pandemic hasn’t kept us waiting.
Today, we live in the 2.0 lockdown in many European countries. As the number of confirmed COVID19 cases has increased again, the governments have imposed new measures and restrictions, with the partial or total lockdown.
Although it seems to be less impactful than the first one, it will certainly interrupt the pace of the gradual economic recovery that is in place until the end of the summer.
Businesses must adopt new agile business and marketing strategies to manage both offline and online activities and keep their sales numbers at least on the same level.
How can they handle this situation and survive? What response can they give in a world that is moving slower due to social distancing and self-isolation, and what to do long term if the pandemic will take much longer than expected?
The evolution of this pandemic shows that its effects on businesses differ not just based on the industries but also on the geographical area. This puts the location data front and center in the response.
Location intelligence can be a key factor for better business performance in different areas.
The pandemic has dramatically changed the way people travel, move, choose, and buy goods. The customers’ buying behavior is not so friendly anymore, and the competition is more fierce. Thus, businesses have to take full advantage of the data collection to make the most strategic decisions.
How to create an innovative customer experience
Over the last months, the habits, attitudes, and behaviors of consumers have dramatically changed. These changes are driven by the general situation and personal circumstances of people. Many of them took a pause in their lives to reflect on their consumption, which brought more awareness of the environment, costs, and health while shopping. More people are now committed to shop locally, with care and attention to costs, trying to help small local businesses.
Some of these trends are likely to become new normal.
In times of uncertainty and confusion, consumers are looking for products and services they can trust.
When trust is lacking, rebuilding a business and recovering economically becomes a daunting task. Surely, an effective way to rebuild consumer loyalty is to implement visible safety and hygiene measures, and train employees to deal with consumers and handle new situations.
There are some other, more innovative ways to respond to these changes. These are presenting new products, services, and working methods, addressing key social and environmental issues. Most of this possible by leveraging innovative technologies.
- Big Data analytics can help delineate new consumer trends and habits and guide companies in renewing their relationship with them.
- Location insights can draw new personas and show marketers their interests and moving behaviors.
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning open big opportunities in marketing and business development.
- New media channels and omnichannel marketing strategies can help provide a holistic customer acquisition approach and increase brand awareness and trust.
- Finally, to provide a mix of informative and entertaining content, including social networks and shipping communications, encouraging social sharing to create a community and be a part of an impactful strategy.
Hyper-localization for Sustainable Business
Especially now, when customers are traveling less, hyper-localization can help serve new customer needs. It will allow marketers to personalize and localize offers and target potential customers by delivering discounts and deals in specific areas.
Location insights and geofencing can be used to analyze the competition and improve the strategy to attract new and retain existing customers. Besides, these insights can say how often and when customers visit the competition’s stores, where they go before and after visiting a certain location, what is their demographic
Connected Supply Chain
Location intelligence can also provide a solution to the supply chain issues, especially when supplies arrive from abroad. Using GPS-enable IoT devices, businesses can optimize their logistics, constantly tracking the location and movements of their goods. The connected supply chain can allow businesses to keep track of their supplies, update customers on the availability of inventories, possible changes, and deals or promotions.
By using geo-location and traffic data, companies can improve deliveries. Real-time data allows to schedule delivery requests, controlling every step of the process; plan the departure time according to customer’s availability; identify red zones to avoid delays.
All these insights help to reduce delivery time and fuel costs. This can be translated into more efficient service and growing productivity. Also, updating communication between business, employees, and customers can greatly improve customer experience during the entire logistic process.
Protecting and Empowering Employees for Business Growth
The health and safety of employees is a top priority in these times of crisis. As a result, most companies have implemented social distancing measures, home working strategies, contactless services, rotating shifts, and centralized communication strategies. Companies have to maintain high productivity while protecting, motivating, and communicating more with their staff.
Location data can also help in this area. Businesses can create online portals to share safety and health-relevant information, maps, and applications. The insights collected online can provide a better understanding of the “offline world” that can be used to make better decisions.
While waiting for a reopening of the economy for the Christmas season and aiming to survive the second wave, companies will need to switch to a consumer-centric business strategy. Thus maximizing the potential of their store network based on location data, increasing digital investments, and expanding their online presence will be essential for retailers to effectively respond to new consumer needs.
The pandemic is not only a threat, it’s also an opportunity. It’s a great time to reset and rebuild business strategies, mission, and vision. By supporting customers and employees to get through the pandemic retaining their trust, companies can achieve growth in the crisis.