The global retail landscape has been severely affected by COVID-19 as the pandemic has altered and will continue to overhaul retail operations significantly. The way customers live, shop, and consult with brands has been compromised too. With more and more business beginning to hibernate or even shut down due to the prolonging pandemic, retailers, distributors, and manufacturers that entirely depend on foot traffic at physical stores continue to remain in the dark about their business operations.
Businesses are facing a multitude of challenges, including closure of physical stores, slower response rate to increased demand in online channels, and delayed deliveries. These challenges affect all businesses regardless of them being pure-players, omnichannel retailers, or the ones that exist in between these two. Grocery stores, for instance, are having a hard time keeping up with panic demands as and when lockdown regulations become severe. As several countries have imposed measures such as shortened working hours, brick and mortar stores around the globe are facing trouble pertaining to inventory levels. Supply chains are working round the clock to meet store demands, forcing grocery stores to revisit their strategies in order to manage inventories and order fulfillments efficiently.
Enter Unified Commerce
As these issues are detrimental to supply chains, unified commerce turns out to be a ‘get out of jail free’ card for retailers. According to Gartner, unified commerce serves as a testament to providing flexibility, continuity, and consistency across digital and physical channels to deliver a seamless customer shopping experience.
Retailers must not only enable their physical stores to act as sales points, but also serve as omnichannel hubs so that they could meet the increasing online demands and introduce new services and features as a part of their omnichannel strategy. To achieve this, retailers must be able to pull data from physical and digital sources into a single repository. They will gain more control over their supply chain network and have access to real-time data to leverage the ability to adapt to fluctuating customer demands.
How Unified Commerce Helps Retailers During COVID-19?
1. Enabling More Omnichannel Hubs
While the lockdown regulations have taken a toll on brick and mortar sales for most retailers, online channels observe a massive surge in sales. According to a recent survey by ACI Worldwide, e-commerce sales saw a growth of 74% since March.
The drastic difference in sales between online and physical channels forces the retail landscape to deploy more omnichannel hubs. When a business is entirely dependent on their physical channel, a recession due to COVID-19 induces unbearable losses to the business. A unified commerce approach serves as insurance to such unforeseen events and enables businesses continue their business operations with minimal impact of losses.
The virus outbreak has taught us that relying on a single sales channel is definitely not the way forward for retailers. To serve their community better, e-commerce giants have shifted their focus on essential products such as medical supplies, groceries, and home appliances at the cost of luxury products. Moreover, the lockdown allows retail businesses to expand their sales channels across several social media platforms as customers are grounded at home, spending most of their time on Facebook and Instagram. Customers can enjoy a much more convenient shopping experience, while retailers can accelerate order fulfillments for faster delivery and response time.
2. Meticulous Inventory Planning
Inventory management is one of the crucial operations in retail especially during the times when demand might surge and supplies are harder to process. When a business operates on multiple channels, business might find it hard to track the amount of incoming and outgoing products.
A typical example is the Chinese government imposing a complete lockdown few days after the Chinese New Year celebrations. Although consumers stocked up on groceries, physical stores had no way to restock their shelves. As we witnessed, there was a sudden increase demand of toilet papers and sanitizers in several countries, leaving the manufacturers unprepared for such a scenario.
Unified Commerce bridges the gap between the increased demand and delayed supplies and empowers swift response to sudden demand shifts. Retailers can also improve supplier collaboration by making room for contingency plans in case their existing supplier is unable to meet the demands.
3. Faster Order Fulfillment
While several fashion brands are perishing with sales levels in the tank, companies that manufacture essential goods such as sanitizers and groceries can barely keep up with the rising demands. Faster and accurate management of order processing is paramount for retailers to stay in the business during demand shifts.
Several retail businesses rely entirely on manual order entries that are error-prone and time consuming especially when they are working from a remote location. Unified commerce automates order processing and payments with 100% accuracy. Customers, today, expect faster response time and deliveries with real-time order tracking features.
A One-Stop Solution for Retailers
The coronavirus outbreak has been a great teacher for retailers to manage their supply chains better. Adopting unified commerce not only increases digital footprint but also allows business to invest more time on more essential operations and boost customer satisfaction. Although, we’ve learnt that we can’t predict every market shift, businesses across industries must be equipped to revive from such events faster than before. Unified commerce is one such solution for the retail industry as it unifies all segments of your supply chain to serve customers better.
Our team of retail experts will help you with the best unified commerce solution tailor-made for your business requirements.
Top Omni-Channel Challenges in Retail and its Single Platform Solution – Download White Paper