The COVID-19 epidemic and preventive measures have resulted in an impactful drop in storefront, shopping mall and high street foot traffic, and subsequently the shift of customer behaviour. Seniors are more digitally assured than ever with an appetite for online shopping. Shoppers have become more purposeful in shopping and lost impulse buying. Retailers can only wait and see the change in customer behavior, both local and tourists, once preventive measures are relaxed and the border reopens. On the other hand, the shift of customer behaviour reveals how data affects retailing. With data, retailers re-examine the behavioural database and offer more intelligent and customised promotions and offers to retarget and retain the customers. The change in customer behaviour and uncertainty in the future of retail suggests the importance of data analysis to advise actionable insights.
The change in customer behaviour affects the shopping journey that customers look for. Retailers apply retail technologies, such as augmented reality and interactive 360 videos, to facilitate virtual try-on. Some retailers position the online platform as information and interaction centres, while turning physical stores into education centres. Some reposition their products, highlighting freshness of products at offline sites, to attract customers. All the work retailers have done is to integrate the online-merge-offline (OMO) shopping experience into a seamless and entertaining one, so as to turn retail into retail-tainment.
Inventory synchronisation is a key to creating a delightful shopping journey. Managing inventory, fulfilment centres and supply chain operation across all channels has to take place in real time so to make the stock levels transparent and the promotions for customers timely. Another key to success is to connect the offline and e-commerce teams into one working towards the same goal to boost sales in all purchasing channels. This calls for retailers’ effort and IT talents to bring together different teams and operation processes through system integration to create omni-channel retailing.
E-commerce is moving forward by leaps and bounds, especially during the pandemic, but the need of keeping physical stores has been verified. Retailers need to develop new retail in their businesses, which converges digital and offline experiences using omni-channel strategies to enhance customer experience. As new retail is the pursuit of omni-channel retailing, it is not an argument about whether physical stores and e-commerce compete with each other. It is about making shopping not just the in-store experience but every experience the customer has with the brand at every touchpoint.