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7-8 Feb 2022

Miami Convention Center

Digital commerce: how to build and adapt at scale during the coronavirus pandemic

By Stuart Higgins, Partner at BearingPoint

Since the start of the outbreak, retail has come under unprecedented pressure. Consumers are staying at home and buying online en masse.

Yet, for many brands, supply chains are overstretched, and rising e-commerce and e-retail purchases aren’t matching the reduction in sales from the shutdown of non-essential bricks and mortar operations. 

Adobe Digital Economy statistics show growth is focused on a few key product categories such as pharmaceuticals and FMCGs. Amazon sellers are seeing sales of nonessential goods drop by 40-60% and 65% of European e-commerce associations expect a decrease due to the pandemic. 

What steps can be urgently taken to ensure business continuity, then take advantage of new opportunities, attract new groups of consumers online and ensure their loyalty?

Brands late to digital commerce are in a perilous position. It’s crucial you leverage e-commerce to rapidly adapt to the crisis, but in a matter of weeks, how can you forge the partnerships, online presence and customer experience required to flourish? How do you take the offerings and experiences of products best suited to bricks and mortar, replicate them online then sustain momentum? 

Thankfully, there are plenty of solutions available to build and safeguard your retail operations, fast and at scale.

1.  Emphasise product experience to engage your consumers

Replacing or improving the product experience for goods suited to bricks and mortar sales is imperative to facilitating, sustaining and growing direct and indirect online consumer interest.

·      Ensure brand storytelling runs deeply through your communications and product listings.

·      Leverage product experience management to replace photography with 3D digital product models. 

·      Make sure all products benefit from exceptional-quality imagery to give consumers a complete, well-branded view – on-site and on social.

·      Improve e-retail customer pathfinding – align product suggestions with customer needs, not product types.

·      Use email, social media and influencer marketing to engage communities and start conversations with consumers.

2.  Redefine supply chains to ensure agility and improve your customer experience

To guarantee continuing quality of service, you must pay close attention to your supply chains and customer experience. 

·      Implement features such as product tracking to improve multiple customer experience touchpoints.

·      Liaise with suppliers and distributors to make sure they are coping well – 48% of retailers are currently acting to improve supply chain communication.

·      Redefine digital commerce partnerships to succeed together – work closely, share ambition, and provide content and sales support.

·      Continually monitor and review product and customer experience, and sales performance.

3.  Act at speed and scale to sustain your business

While the information and directions given to the public and businesses is constantly developing, a ‘wait and see’ approach will only harm your prospects of business continuity and resilience. By acting rapidly, now, you can implement agile solutions that sustain business and prime you for future success.

·      A global hair and beauty leader implemented e-commerce in ten countries at a global level in just three months. The business saw 50-100% growth in these countries versus their other retail territories, with first-day results.

·      The priority for businesses without e-retail is to focus on a limited number of the most highly performing, digitally mature territories. For one retailer, creating an effective online presence in the UK took less than a month. 

4.  Plan for the altered customer groups following lockdown

The changes in customer demand, highlighted in our insight “Let’s get going again: How to effectively re-start retail operations after the shut-down”, requires action to enable a quick and flexible response. 

By utilising key data points businesses will be able to react appropriately. Utilising a pragmatic approach for the first few weeks following lockdown will unlock the highlighted opportunities.

·     Getting to the information - review how your existing reporting structures can identify the demand changes.

·     Communicate, Communicate, Communicate - employees will remain a key success factor for realising your strategy. Engage your teams early, ask for their feedback on your plans and ensure that everyone understands their tasks. This will not only ensure a successful execution but will likely lift your team moral as they can see the leadership taking action.

·     Hold inventory centrally - the first weeks following lockdown will see varying demands in the retail network driven by a business’ exposure to each of the customer groups. It is therefore important that stock is held centrally and allocated based on up-to-date demand information.

·     Work collaboratively - suppliers will face an equally unprecedented situation with less visibility of changed consumer demand. They will be relying on historic information to drive their decisions. A close engagement will provide them with valuable information, allowing them to prioritise production based on demand patterns observed by retailers.

Fast, far reaching action is possible. With the right ambition, approach and an innovative eye, you can secure your business and seize opportunity.


Article courtesy of Retail Technology Innovation Hub -