What Retailers can do NOW in the face of COVID-19

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The retail industry is in uncharted waters due to global pandemic. As the world continues to shut down, Logic’s team of experts put our heads together—what advice can we offer our clients, and the industry as a whole, to help them through these difficult times?

As leaders, you have first and foremost established, and continue to monitor, safe working programs for your associates whether at checkout lanes or curbside, satellite facilities, or deployed to their home offices.

Daily insights are key as you navigate new ways of working and different operating models. Use your data to provide a solid understanding of current state business for tactical decisions. In addition, leverage predictive analysis as much as possible for actions you may need to take on the other side of this crisis.

Ensure your “Control Tower” is working with clear priorities and has the necessary tools.

Do you have the right players as part of your ‘Control Tower” or situation room in this phase of the crisis? This is the time for unique skill sets that may not be reflected in job titles or current roles.

People and roles to consider:

  • Project Managers who have a broad understanding of the business and trust across functional business teams. (Clear-headed thinkers and the ability to cut through the existing silos.)
  • Analysts to navigate new data sets that will provide the business with insights relevant to the changing needs. Web analytics is critical now as potentially the bulk of shopping may be online at this point.
  • Have you engaged your product vendors as part of this planning? What insights can they bring to this team for current tactical actions and long-range planning?
  • Do you have resources from your BI/IT team to swiftly get the right data and refined reports to leaders? And perhaps most importantly, are executives looking at an aligned view of metrics?
  • Do you have the IT infrastructure teams in place to support the systems and data flow without interruption? Are Disaster Recovery teams in place to triage potential impacts?

Empower your Team with Data to Enable Decisions at Local Level

Now is the time to get creative and think about the needs of special demographics and local communities. Expedite initiatives to support channel strategy:

  • This pandemic is affecting each community differently. Your response team needs to be informed, empowered and should reach down to the local level if possible. What’s most important is that you set clear objectives and communicate effectively.
  • Your stores that are providing curbside service, or now strictly operating as a fulfillment center need insights to sense and responsibly respond. For instance, common situations that require this information include managing labor and changes to the basket.
  • What are the Top 100 SKUs and in-demand categories during this crisis? Product demands have changed locally as well. Most customers are focused on basic necessities right now. There are likely 100 or so SKUs that are selling at high volumes. Do your stores have these insights to act locally?
  • We’re hearing from many retailers that data integrity on store counts is poor, and critical counts may not be done due to shifting priorities. This leads to frustrating situations for customers as they pull up curbside to request products or pick up an order. Deploy current resources to address these challenges.

Review inventory fundamentals with a new lens.

Review fulfillment rules and lead-times: Under unusual circumstances, auto-replenishment, allocations, and DC shipments will need adjustments and monitoring on a case-by-case basis. This can create a large backlog of work for your team. If needed, Logic can provide staff augmentation to help you get through this rough period. Manage planned inventory: Review your future orders, and adjust purchase quantities, assortment mixes, and delivery times as needed.

Quick wins and creative thinking will drive success now and long-term loyalty when done right.

Knowing your customer: which special store hours and extra services make sense?

This is one of our favorite approaches retailers have been taking. For our elders and those with underlying health conditions, this is a life-or-death situation. These customers deeply appreciate a “safer” shopping experience, and these populations may also need extra assistance. Many stores have been offering the first hour or two after opening to these groups. Based on your customer segment and store location what hours make the most sense at a local level? Consider how you reach out to these groups on the new services or hours, notice on pharmacy pick-ups, etc. For example, newspaper advertisements and mailers to that customer segment might be your best way to get in touch.

Re-merchandise stores to place necessary items up-front and bundle multiple items for solution selling.

Shopping behaviors are changing. “business-as-usual” dynamics have changed drastically. In short, shoppers want to get in and get out as quickly as possible. You could even expedite this process by creating packs or kits of items that are commonly purchased together to make it easier for your customers.

Ensure you’re able to fulfill orders from any channel through any type of distribution method, and verify your systems can consume this information.

Because of the highly-localized approach to setting restrictions at the moment, it’s critical to be flexible and proactive. First, you need to be able to react quickly to additional restrictions in viral hotspots, changing state regulations, and your corporate guidelines. And second, you will also want to think about the business model you will support as restrictions may be lifted in phases in the future.

Customers, regardless of the rules, are worried about going into the stores. However, you can offer multiple options to address this: store pickup, ship from warehouse, ship from another store, and many other variations. But, make sure your systems can accommodate these options upfront, and if they can’t let us help you examine your options. Many of these are relatively simple adjustments, and we can help you work through it—remotely, of course!

It’s no surprise that online business is booming as customers are leery of shopping in-store. For retailers forced to close their stores, the digital channel may be a lifeline. Enable any online or store initiatives to support sales.

One of our customers, an “essential retailer,” found that many customers were calling to place orders rather than visit the store. Their POS systems were not set up to handle these types of transactions. We were able to step in and make the changes within 48 hours to support this new channel, which is helping everyone—store associates, customers, and the bottom line.

— Maureen Ryan, Director, Commerce Solutions, Logic

Although most of us are focused on the tasks and challenges of today, we all must think beyond “Business as Usual” – nothing about this is usual. What challenges has this crisis exposed now that need to be addressed post-coronavirus? What have you learned that you can use to improve the customer experience and employee experience? A focus on execution now, with an eye to the future, is what’s needed to get through these difficult times and come out stronger on the other side.

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