Sliver linings

Silver Linings series - part 3

How retailers can best prepare for business after the lockdown

By Tom Vieweger

April 24 2020

Also, read Part 1: Social commerce and silver linings for shopping in times of crisis and Part 2: How retail is adapting to the crisis.

Retailers are waiting for this day all over the world. Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic are the first countries we see currently re-opening for business after the lockdown in Europe. Now that the first stores have opened their doors again, we see on the one hand that footfall is going down, but on the other hand,  conversion rates are going up. It can be said that those customers who come to stores to buy products. It seems many purchases are "only" being postponed by COVID-19,  not canceled entirely. 

It can now be a simple "we are back for you" that shows commitment to the customer

Kindness & Humor - Emphasize the positive 

An example of how Suitsupply is open for safe shopping in The Netherlands. Suits are fitted through plexiglass. (picture: Suitsupply)

Many brands and retailers continue to communicate intensively with their clients. After weeks of content about "staying at home" and "keeping the distance", it can now be a simple "we are back for you" that shows commitment to the customers. 

And in the stores themselves, there need to be new ways found on how to present a smile from behind a mask.

I hear that many store employees have been trained on how best to advise customers from a distance of two meters. It is a simple gesture of kindness to thank customers for coming for their general support and, of course, for keeping a physical distance.

Agile stock management is critical to react to store openings after lockdown 

Warehouses and stores are full of stock from the running season. Spring literally didn't happen, and summer is coming closer. Since the fashion industry is structured around seasons and the products, therefore, have a kind of expiration date, lost sales are difficult or even impossible to make up for. Thus,  a high degree of agility is needed to be ready to sell through a different channel or in a different region that is opening stores earlier than other markets.  

To be able to react to shifting demands, it is necessary to fully understand the location, the flow, and the status of products. This is where RFID and EPCIS (the "Electronic Product Code Information Service" standard) can create end-to-end stock visibility, assuming the products are source-tagged and logistics facilities are equipped with RFID read-points. 

Combat the price war in fashion retail 

There is high pressure on retailers to clear their old inventory to make room for the new summer season. Fashion brands face a severe dilemma. Do they pack away this year's product for next, mark it down, or sell it to off-price retailers?  

Customers react to price promotions even in times of crisis. What happens with all the money that consumers cannot spend on travel, restaurants, and leisure these days?  

Sure, consumption needs a stimulus. But must there be a price war? Maybe it can be enough to discount just a few products to stimulate consumption. For the rest of the products, you can say that the whole seasonal schedule is just 4 to 6 weeks behind. Dynamic pricing can help here.  

Omnichannel on the rise 

Many retailers have used this lock-down to digitize their stores. A lesson from the lock-down is that the success of online and offline shopping goes hand in hand. Around the world, we see that online platforms are taking center stage and have even suspended their registration fees (e.g., eBay or Google). Consequential low entry barriers and the need to explore new sales channels have accelerated the adoption of marketplace initiatives from retailers.  

With hundreds of millions of shopping searches conducted on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and have them ready to ship, but are less discoverable online 

Bill Ready, Google

When warehouses have reached maximum capacity, and parcel delivery services are fully stretched, the stores can actually be utilized as omnichannel fulfillment centers – or micro hubs.  

Learn fast & scale smart 

It seems to be the right time to convert lessons into actual "Omni-operations" and combine services from offline and online. The role of stores is changing, and retailers offer more omnichannel services. Thus, the demand for stock accuracy and merchandise visibility grows. However, many retailers still lack the prerequisites for active online trading, namely a functioning ERP or merchandise management system. Due to situational necessity, now is a better time than ever to actualize omnichannel services by ensuring stock visibility. RFID technology provides just that.  

Tom Vieweger
RFID business expert
Tom Vieweger