The impetus on social distancing as a necessity arising from the global Covid-19 pandemic has a direct co-relation with the necessity for going digital for almost all businesses.
It is a wake-up alarm dong for those whose omni-channel strategies might have been languishing under the wraps for years. Even once we win the battle against this disease; it would take the retail industry several months to recover. It is natural to expect nascent footfall in markets and stores for a long time thereafter too.
Going completely digital and contactless – this scenario might not be practical for all businesses; however, to a large extent, graduating retail to digital platforms would be a given for everyone. This would see a drastic change in a retailer’s physical expansion strategies set in the pre-Covid-19 period, and a marked thrust in exploring all digital avenues.
For the apparels sector, digitalization initiatives would need to go much beyond simple payment options and effective items display. Perhaps for the first time, Indian retailers would give serious thought to incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) into their digital platforms. While all this might sound dramatic at this point to many, those who really start working on this stand to gain a lot of market traction in the long run.
The booming smartphone internet penetration even in tier 2/3/4 cities and townships across India would undoubtedly act as a springboard for such initiatives. To aid this, targeted marketing campaigns built around the theme of ‘safe shopping’ would be a sound idea for retailers.
What’s more, digitalization offers a new vista of delivering personalized service to your customers, which would only boost your loyal customer base. This effect would be more pronounced post Covid-19.
As far as the in-store shopping format is concerned, retailers who start distinguishing themselves from the point of view of ‘footfall management’ would undoubtedly fare better than those who don’t. This could involve re-aligning merchandise displays, regulating customer check-ins, front-store, revolving digital displays of merchandise etc.
This forced thrust for many on digitalization and newer ways to run businesses would see a lesser direct human interactive society eventually; however, so be it as I feel this could be nature’s way to reprogram us humans who have been maltreating it for ages.
Business won’t remain ‘as usual’ post Covid-19, and perhaps all this would be for the greater good of everyone – your customers, business partners as well as employees.