September 17, 2021

4 Strategies to Unlock Opportunities Post COVID for Retailers and Brands

The pandemic has brought about business changes and challenges to every organization around the world, forcing them to reexamine their business models and operations.

But it has also shown their resilience. As retailers and brands look to pave the path forward, they need to continually adapt and keep a critical eye on what’s working and what’s not. Here are a few recommendations for what you should do next.

Prioritize the Customer Experience

U.S. consumer spending increased for a second month since the start of the pandemic in June, jumping 5.6% percent. Customer acquisition is challenging so brands should be taking steps to ensure current customers are satisfied. Identify their needs, fulfill them, and add an extra layer of care.

Brands like Mielle Organics, a natural hair care company, have seen an uptick in sales, using the surge in new and existing customers to connect more deeply with their community. While it’s already carried by major retailers across the U.S., COVID-19 helped the brand renew its focus on connecting with its customer base through social media and the website to drive sales. Through brand engagements like Instagram Live, founder Monique Rodriguez made the time to connect with the brand’s community weekly, hosting motivating live Q&A sessions and how-to videos.

Direct-to-consumer and omnichannel sales strategies lets customers interact with brands in the most convenient ways for them, and therefore should be where companies are investing resources. Even in a tough environment, consumers are looking to support businesses and brands that they find share their values.

Doubling Down on Ecommerce

Ecommerce has become the cost of entry in today’s reality. Retailers and brands have been forced to overhaul their online presence to meet shoppers where they are. But you can’t just put an ecommerce solution in place and think all your work has been accomplished. It’s important to make sure you’re investing in getting to know your customer, delivering seamless interactions and creating personalized experiences shoppers want to come back to.

Tailwind Nutrition, a brand offering endurance fuel and protein recovery powders, was initially hit hard by the pandemic. Wholesale was down 55% due to retailers shutting doors, and their usually steady sales from Amazon became shaky when the marketplace shifted orders from Amazon FBA sellers to third-party fulfilled vendors. With these challenges, Tailwind prioritized its digital channels, putting more resources into its communications and marketing directly with customers and ramped up website sales. With this strategic investment, the brand nearly doubled its website revenue from the previous year with an 89% increase.

As third parties are interrupted, ecommerce has become a reliable way to build relationships while establishing a stabilized channel of revenue.

Bridging the Online/Store Gap with Email, SMS

Buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) options have gained traction in recent years, but never more so than in response to COVID-19. As we approach the peak holiday season, these flexible options will be an important part of the shopping experience.

So how do you get shoppers used to this new option? An easy first step is to make sure you’re marketing BOPIS or curbside pickup options in your transactional emails. You can also embed this message into regular promotional emails that provide updates on what you’re doing to keep customers safe. If it’s an option, take advantage of your email provider’s geolocation feature to share the closest stores with subscribers. Then, set a transaction trigger when customers choose BOPIS and curbside options at checkout, sending them detailed instructions on the pickup process to make it seamless.

Whether you’re leveraging the store as a distribution hub or still welcoming customers, bridging the digital and in-store experience for maximum customer flexibility will set your brand apart among the steep competition.

Investing in Tech to Deliver Front-End Experiences

Whether sales are booming or have slowed for the time being, it can often seem like a gamble for retailers and brands to invest in new technology. But keeping up with customer experiences often means such an investment to get your brand to the next level and emerge better than before.

Whether it’s making smaller investments in solutions like email marketing or SMS software, or larger investments like ecommerce, spending the time to capitalize on back-office solutions can help your brand keep up with fluctuating demand. It’s crucial to ensure you have the infrastructure in place to offer flexible services that will deliver a memorable and positive customer experience.

Operating in this economy will continue to bring unforeseen challenges. But even with the unpredictable changes, there’s room to unlock opportunities. Whether its accelerating adoption of plans or leaning into core business strengths, retailers and brands have shown they can overcome the obstacles.

Ranga Bodla is VP of Industry Marketing at Oracle NetSuite

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