Rewriting the Retail Strategy with Virtual Retail in Times of COVID-19

The modern-day definition of 'new normal' in retail has given rise to unique challenges. The question now is - do we have the solution to overcome these challenges?
Rewriting the Retail Strategy with Virtual Retail in Times of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and fears of an impending lockdown lurk around the corner every moment. This has forced many retailers and e-commerce marketers to think long and hard about staying competitive and sailing through the economic fallout. 

Challenges Faced by the Retail Industry 

There are quite a few challenges that electronics OEMs like OPPO, Lenovo, and Dell are facing with their brick-and-mortar stores. With social distancing norms in place, gloves, masks, and sanitizers marking entries everywhere, customers are wary of returning to the stores. The clear discomfort of avoiding close proximity with customers has led to a re-imagining of the retail DNA for these electronics OEMs. So how is their retail business affected? 

The Supply Chain Effect - Every country in the world is reeling under the aftermath of the pandemic. The retail manufacturing and supply chain segment has been heavily disrupted. Moreover, with curbs on exports and imports in place, retail outlets face disruptions in the supply chain. Brands like Lenovo and Dell may face shortages at some stores due to the soaring demand for work from home essentials like entry-level laptops and other electronic accessories. 

Distribution centers fear contamination and product supply is facing problems, creating a supply bottleneck that is clearing, but slowly. 

Closure of Physical Stores and Lesser Footfalls – Brick-and-mortar stores are downing their shutters due to lesser footfalls. The reasons are government orders, or to protect staff and members of the public. Few electronic OEM stores that remain open are seeing reduced footfall, in a bid to maintain the mandatory social distancing norms. 

It is taking its toll on ROI. Add to that the overheads like rent, wages, and inventory. Retailers are forced to think about how long the stores will remain closed, how will the resurgent wave of the pandemic and its ensuing lockdown affect the brand’s ability to start regular operations.

The Solution 

It's time to evolve when you have stay-at-home orders and fewer mall visits. The new business practices can disrupt retail sales even further. OEM electronics retailers need to reimagine their benchmark requirements and focus on taking their customer's experience to the next level. 

From education to church sermons, everything is online today. It's imperative to develop a proactive, and progressive approach to digital retail transformation.

Enhancing the Experience - Let your customers linger more in your store by extending your line in the product and services. Allow them to find more and buy more in one place. Also, think of reaching out in areas where there was no presence before the crisis. 

A seamless e-commerce experience that delivers a consistent, reliable digital experience is a prerogative for better customer engagement and conversions. This step will align with customers’ priority for speed and convenience in their retail exploration. 

This pandemic will also see the concept of revenge shopping just like it happened in China. Retailers need to have the necessary hygiene measures to cater to the large-scale shopping demand. Measures like contactless payment, barcode scanning, sending bills through WhatsApp will help customers feel safer shopping in the store in these times.

A New Digital/ Virtual Way of Shopping - The digital customer experience also needs better service with innovations. It’s time to give your customers a new virtual experience, especially for the purchase-ready customer. According to trends, 87 percent of marketers find the opportunities generated by virtual events as a success factor.

Real-time inventory management, predicted analytics, AI-enabled search, personalization, and functions are the sectors to invest in now. A retailer can use capabilities to create a social, interactive, and immersive experience. Plus technologies like AR will promote the ‘try before you buy’ culture which is a drastic shift from traditional ways of interaction in the real-world shopping journey. 

Think about using social commerce that works with peer support recommendations, interactions, multimedia content, and a whole new virtual world, like never before. 

Supply Chain Optimization - Technology OEM retailers need to rethink supply chain logistics and maintain inventory as per shifting customer preferences. They may order only those electronic products that are in greater demand. For example, in the era of widespread WFH policies, many customers would want to buy an entry-level laptop to help with their office work or studies. The OEMs can focus on a better evaluation of logistics with AI-enabled solutions that lets them know the accurate inventory levels, and hence optimize the overall supply chain.

What the Industry Experts Forewarn? 

According to predictions, the Virtual Reality environment will dictate how retailers will provide feature-rich experiences. Virtual Brand Consultancy - the new code of conduct will rewrite the shopping experience for customers who can enjoy a feeling of being there when not actually present at the store. 

The benefits of an elevated shopping experience through a virtual consultant include:

Flexibility and Convenience - Better customer experience with personalized guidance and recommendation ensures the in-store experience unites in holy matrimony with the online sessions. What else could be more beneficial than when you have a virtual experience where customers surf through a guided tour of their favorite store and click on their favorite brand?  

Close Interactions - Retailers need better interactions with customers to boost sales that have seen a fall in the crisis. Take, for example, Burberry, a high-end apparel brand. Burberry now offers one-to-one virtual meetings with store associates and ready-to-purchase customers. 

It is essential to note that such a strategy works with efficacy with the luxury fashion segment. Consumers have this penchant for personal communication with the team on the other side before they decide to buy. In such cases, retailers need to train their sales teams. Take Dell’s case of the virtual sales assistant display that helps customers give more information virtually. It provides helpful information around the customer’s intended usage and helps her get ready for purchase. 

Data-Driven Campaigns - Brands should consider having a strong social media presence and run data-driven ad campaigns. Having more partners can lead to more data exchange. 

The Infrastructure - If you seek to provide an impressive virtual experience to consumers, go for robust video technology, like Zoom, Skype. It can integrate an audio dial-in option and have a facilitator for assistance. It is imperative to test the technology before it starts. 

Conclusion 

The technology OEM retailers should invest in digital experiences backed by robust technology to provide a virtual tour to consumers if they have to succeed. After all, they are investing in virtual business practices that may help them sustain their business and enable it to thwart competition in the coming few months.
 

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