How to turn a short Covid boom into a lasting bloom

Covid lockdowns have been a disaster for a variety of sectors, from travel to restaurants and those heavily reliant on bricks-and-mortar. For others, however, particularly in pockets of retail, this has been a boom period.

But that gives rise to another big challenge down the track.

There’s plenty of guidance out there around recovery for the hardest-hit businesses but what about the big winners? How can they ensure they comp last year’s numbers and give the market what it has come to expect?

There’s no time for self-congratulations. They need to work on ways to deliver growth versus the past bumper year. Here are some ways they can do it.

Double down on convenience

During lockdowns, consumers have developed a taste for convenience-led shopping, with fast home delivery, click-and-collect and drive-and-collect offerings. When lockdowns end, there could be the temptation to nix these services but don’t be too hasty. If your customers have grown to appreciate the convenience, why not continue to give it to them? Find out how they feel and what they value before you make the call either way.

Leverage the data you collected during lockdown

The smart businesses that have been thriving during lockdown are the ones collecting plenty of first-party data. From existing to new customers, businesses that have been raking in the dollars from shoppers will now also be rich in a gift that can keep on giving.

For supermarkets, online grocery purchasing is generating mountains of data that can be used to fuel special offers and discounts into the future, as well as remind people at the online checkout of things they might have forgotten based on past purchases.

Other retail businesses with rich data stores should follow suit. Did your customer buy a printer during lockdown? They’re going to need cartridges soon. Why not send them a reminder email with a special offer? Or perhaps your pet supply business saw an uptick in puppy-related purchases from new customers. They’re going to need a host of other products in the coming months and years. Use your purchase data to match specials to the pet owner’s ongoing needs.

Review your omnichannel approach

Another valuable piece of data you can examine is the localities where incidences of online purchasing have increased and have remained at higher-than-average levels. Is there an opportunity to rationalise your bricks-and-mortar footprint? Would one bigger, brighter, more efficient super store serve an expanded catchment equally well? Would that become a more cost-effective distribution or fulfilment point to service the online orders?

Also worth a rethink is the way you get orders to your customers. Covid’s unavoidable delivery delays have taken some of the joy out of online shopping, so should you change delivery providers or perhaps set up your own delivery network? Again, look to the data you have been collecting during this period to inform these sorts of decisions.

Mix up the in-store experience

Cooped up Aussies will be looking for unique experiences when they emerge from their Covid caves, so give them what they want. Work out ways to make your in-store experience more immersive, interactive and fun. That could include engaging with kids who have been trapped inside or the adults who’ve been trying to find ways to entertain them. And it doesn’t have to be extravagant. Simple things such as in-store product trials will feel novel to shoppers who have had little-to-no in-store interaction in months.

Rethink your supply chains

The impact of Covid on global and national supply chains has been extremely frustrating for retailers and shoppers alike. So how can you change that? Should you explore manufacturing more of your products here on Australian shores or sourcing from suppliers closer to home? While it seems unlikely we’ll live through a health crisis of this scale again soon, take a lesson from the unpredictable conditions to future-proof your business against other events that are out of your control.

Evolve your product offering

During Covid, essential services trumped all other purchases but summer will soon be upon us and, god willing, freedom. Some of the learned behaviours from the Covid lockdown periods will stick, others will wane. Use your instincts, look into the data you have, and tweak your product and experiential offering to appeal to the changing needs and desires of shoppers who will be looking for more than just a transaction.

With the right focus, this period of unprecedented growth could be just the start for smart retailers, rather than simply a Covid blip.

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