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Silver Linings series: part 2

How retail is adapting to the crisis

By Tom Vieweger

April 3 2020

The first shock seems to be over. Despite, or even specifically due to the (social) distance, retail is adapting to the crisis by finding new ways to stay in touch with customers. Directly after the lockdown has become into effect, retailers started to use online channels and in the meantime, many new initiatives have emerged. This blog post summarizes some practical and creative examples I have seen over the last few days.

Also read Part 1: Social commerce and silver linings for shopping in times of the crisis and Part 3: How retailers can best prepare for business after the lockdown.

Connect on social media: educate, entertain & engage

Brands and retailers are very active on social media. Digital channels such as WhatsApp Business, Instagram or Facebook are used to continue communicating with customers.

The content more and more refers to the actual situation these days and often exemplifies how retailers genuinely help others. For example, various retailers are campaigning for physical distancing.

An example is Urban Outfitters: they show what the employees do in their home office and hold practical fashion workshops. And also Under Armour has started its “Healthy at Home” challenge.

Under Armour's Healty at Home challenge
Under Armour's Healty at Home challenge

Live shopping, video chat & streams

We know about live shopping from TV broadcasters such as QVC. In times when musicians give live stream concerts and authors conduct online readings, now also fashion retailers conquer online streams.

Especially in China, many retailers have adopted teleshopping in the past few weeks and have turned their sales associates into live streamers. You simply need a smartphone with an internet connection and a streaming app.

A major advantage is that a live stream provides better and more personal advice and emotionalization than simple product photos on a marketplace or in an online shop. This type of selling is particularly personal and approachable.

An example is adidas, which hosted an exclusive online debut of its limited-edition Superstar sneaker during its Super Brand Day. Its “See Now, Buy Now” stream, which lets consumers make real-time purchases of featured items from their mobile phones, drew 2.23 million viewers.

Digitize stores by joining an online marketplace

When retailers are forced to close their stores, more customers turn to online alternatives. Many online marketplaces offer free participation during the Corona crisis in order to support brick-and-mortar retailers. As a consequence, stores are utilized as a kind of “mini DC” or “omnichannel hub” by applying ship-from-store services.

For example, Lululemon is currently re-staffing some stores to fulfil e-commerce orders. RFID-based inventory tracking will enable flexible e-commerce fulfilment and allow Lululemon to proactively manage inventory.

Fashion care packages, stay home kits and surprise bags

Some stores are preparing pre-packed boxes for their customers. These boxes include fashion products from various categories based on personal style recommendations. Meanwhile, as we all are now spending most of our time indoors such a fashion care package can be a good way to get some fresh style.

For example, the Dallas-based retailer for hand-made goods Magic Hour offers care packages and Commerce Goods + Supply has created stay-home kits for their customers.

Prepare for the revival day

While the actual situation should not become “the new normal” these examples show how retailers find new and creative ways to connect with customers.

Public facilities, retail stores, offices and schools will cautiously start reopening. Let’s stay strong, look into the future and use the next days and weeks to prepare for “revival day” – the day when stores reopen and retail comes back to life.

Tom Vieweger
RFID business expert
Tom Vieweger