On December 10th, Postis invited 4 major Romanian retailers to share their experiences in 2020, the problems they faced during pandemics, how they managed to go through difficult times and turn challenges into opportunities to evolve their businesses and thrive. Black Friday in pandemics, what technologies to use in order to adapt to the new reality, what to expect in 2021 were also in discussion.
Having Andrei Radu, Founder and CEO at GPeC, as a moderator, the participants brought to the webinar’s public their impressive experience and knowledge from different retail and e-commerce categories.
From their key findings, we noted some.
- Pandemics generated tidal shifts in consumer behaviors, retail business model, supply-chain organization. These changes should not be perceived as transitory changes, but systemic transformations that are here to stay.
- Online ordering, home delivery, online payments, cross-border trade, more cautious customers and higher purchasing pragmatism are changes that will define how the market will be organized in the years to come in Romania, Europe and all over the world.
- 2020 was the year of safe shopping, with people rediscovering the importance of family life, home living and self-indulgence. This trend will be found in 2021 as well, while pandemics will continue to burst, and remote-working and home-schooling will remain probable choices.
- More and more product categories are now ordered online. On the rise are FMCG products, including fresh or canned food, home care products, cosmetics and health products. Also, DYI, home and deco products will grow in importance, as people improve their home as a place to live, learn, work and relax.
- Omni-channel or pure online trade are business models that need to be implemented by any retailer that wants to successfully overcome the pandemic restrictions and meet their customers where they can be found and where they are willing to look for goods and buy.
- Black Fridays and any other seasons holidays campaign should not be seen as marketing events, but also as logistics events, too. It is a joint effort to ship in just one weekend the volumes equivalent for one or two regular months. Therefore, the success of such an event must be measured only after the product is delivered to happy customers.
- 2021 will be the year when retailers will need to reinvent customer experiences and stand out from the clutter. Not cost efficiency, but quality of service will be the key factor when choosing from available options.
- Starting 2021, the retailers will have to keep-up with the increasingly demanding customer and their business models and supply-chains will see sophistication. The online stores who succeeded in 2020 by better answering to their customer needs, in 2021 will have to anticipate and over-deliver on their expectations. Customer experience, post-sales communication are key.
- With new technologies implemented and tested in Romania, the international expansion will become part of the strategy of many retailers. As seen in Postis Platform, growth rates on international markets are higher than those for local territory.
Retailers who succeeded in the harsh conditions of 2020 share several key features.
- High flexibility in business model, with stocks being quickly moved from offline to online channels, when instore restrictions and traffic regulation occurred. This way, online growth succeeded to balance severe decreases in brick&mortar stores’ sales.
- Proactive approach in adjusting their product catalogue when certain categories were on high demand, not only as an opportunistic tactic, but as a strategic way to offer to their customer base a wider range of products, complementary to their traditional offerings.
- Supply-networks replaced their traditional supply-chains, with redundant supply sources, shorter delivery chains that integrate an increasing number of local manufacturers, regional warehouses and brick&mortar stores used as distributed logistics and delivery centers for online operations.
- Customer centricity was key to preserve and grow their customer base. The customer experience was deployed in an integrated omni-channel manner, with a holistic approach that included not only advertising, retail experience, online engagement and sales, but also and most importantly, the after-sales phase: order collection, fulfillment, delivery and post-sales support.
- In times of uncertainties, continuous communication with customers along their entire journey proved to be key. Successful retailers used customer communication not only related to their products and offerings, but they also educated on key topics related to pandemics and safety and showed full transparency related to service level, stock availability, time of delivery.
- Extended delivery options became mandatory, as customers needed to regain control over their schedule, in a time when their private and professional lives are merged. The retailers who succeeded provide to their customer the possibility to choose the time of delivery (express, same day, next day, planned), the place of delivery (at home, in the office, in a store of their choosing, in a drop-box from a partnering network), the way they pay (online, cash on delivery, card on delivery) and the added service they need (insurance, heavy weight transport, furniture installation, concierge service aso).
- Digital technologies and innovations were of the utmost importance in providing flexibility, scalability, speed, redundancy, control. Those who already invested in online stores or e-commerce platforms were able to reach customers in the safety and convenience of their homes, some opened their platforms to other retailers and evolved their business into marketplaces. Warehouse infrastructure such as conveyors and Warehouse Management Systems allowed them to cope with surging demand and high order volumes to be delivered in a short period of time. Open digital platforms to manage and optimize distribution and deliveries provided for fast process adjustment, full control over the costs and resource allocation, while preserving the service quality during a fast degrading market context. Integrated communication systems via SMS, e-mail or mobile apps allowed for a close relationship between retailers and their customers, along the entire journey, in a period when regular means of communication and instore access were disrupted.