How the Retail World Is Having to Evolve Because of COVID-19
The impact of the coronavirus crisis grows daily and the retail world has had to evolve in countless ways, as how we shop and connect with each other has shifted dramatically.
The pandemic has changed the way that all businesses are operating. From working from home to diversifying their production lines, brands are showcasing how important it is to be able to adapt and evolve in order to survive in volatile markets.
We are living through dark times but it is important to try to stay positive – and the situation may well be giving many companies the chance to take stock of the future, writes Robert Lockyer, the owner of luxury packaging company Delta Global.
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Here, he looks at how retail brands are dealing with the crisis and how to best prepare for when life can eventually return to normal.
It is vital to keep up a dialogue with customers that is transparent, creative and presents solutions. After all, consumers are feeling just as uncertain as businesses are.
As the majority of physical stores are on lockdown, an ecommerce presence has never been more valuable. But, with financial uncertainty being faced by many, businesses must remember that now is not the time for a hard sell – they must show support for the communities which are keeping them going.
Although the pandemic has forced the cancellation and rescheduling of many events over the last few weeks, the fashion industry has shown how digital evolution can help business. We’ve seen Milan, Paris and now Shanghai experiment with live streaming fashion shows, opening up what is normally an elite event to millions online and making it accessible to buyers, inspiring people around the globe, and without the carbon footprint, it once had.
Instagram has introduced a “Stay Home” story feature to encourage its users to stay home but remain socially connected during the pandemic. With in-store interaction no longer an option, many retail brands and businesses are curating entertaining content under the Stay Home sticker, to keep in touch with their customers.
In these days of social distancing, conversation is key to strengthening the relationship between brand and customer, to help ensure they come back when you need them most.
Statements of solidarity have never been so important, with one of the first coming from Louis Vuitton. They told their Chinese customers on WeChat and Weibo: “Every paused journey will eventually restart. Louis Vuitton hopes you and your beloved ones stay safe and healthy”.
Luxury gym wear brand Sweaty Betty has been working alongside fitness enthusiasts and influencers to bring consumers a daily IGTV video of at-home workouts and nutrition advice. Working with influencers such as Caroline Inspired and Sleek Technique, they are keeping thousands motivated with free exercise routines and a daily challenge to keep people connected with them.
Community group Positive Luxury has set up a podcast ‘power series’ containing advice from top luxury CEOs, with the first episode discussing ‘using better dialogue in times of uncertainty’ to help brands communicate effectively with customers during the outbreak.
These messages must be consistent with your brand’s culture. It’s about creating a sense of comfort and customised contact – an empathetic and efficient approach is crucial.
These are all examples of how amid the COVID-19 crisis, it’s no longer just about the product or service being sold by a retailer. Instead, creativity, support and the intangible aspects of a brand are the real value-drivers during times of difficulty.
Togetherness over competitiveness
Brands have been uniting to help pull people through these difficult times with a range of innovative ideas.
LVMH has used its perfume production lines to start making hand sanitisers, while L’Occitane has donated over 10,000 hand creams to the NHS and is also manufacturing another 70,000 litres of hand sanitiser.
Meanwhile, Giorgio Armani donated $1.43 million to four hospitals in Rome and Milan and Walpole members have been sharing resources surrounding the financial support available to British luxury businesses from the Government.
The British Fashion Council has launched a crisis fund to support creative fashion businesses and individuals.
Burberry and retailer group, Inditex who own highstreet brand, Zara, have offered to produce and donate protective gowns and equipment to hospital staff and patients.
All of this is helping businesses and individuals to keep our economy and our lives moving during the lockdown.
Although staying connected with consumers during this time is important, so is keeping employees motivated. Whether you are able to continue working from home or have had to furlough in-store staff, connection and communication are a must.
Collaborative working platforms such as Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Slack and Zoom are truly coming into their own. Entertainment apps like TikTok are keeping our lives connected and our businesses moving. People are also looking to Facebook groups for support – starting up online book clubs, sharing photos and even conducting live bingo sessions.
Many of us, employers included, are seeing how working from home has created more time – instead of our daily commute, we are using this time wisely to organise our homes, exercise or to get creative.
As retailers navigate their way through this transition, staying connected and motivated is vital.
Businesses must use this time to review and futureproof their brands. Keep people interested in what you do, give advice, increase awareness and build brand advocacy. Create for the greater good.