The global spread of coronavirus has hugely impacted the fashion and textile industry. Lockdowns in many parts of the world have led the future of industry towards uncertainties. The impact is severe and is expected to increase since social distancing is predicted to last until a vaccine is available, which might take time. Recently, Indian retailers approached the Government to support them in these difficult times. “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the entire retail industry is witnessing uncertain and challenging times more than ever. Getting back on track will be a long and arduous journey, as the way forward looks fluid with millions of jobs at risk,” shared Sundeep Chugh, Managing Director and CEO, Benetton India.
The social distancing and avoidance of public gatherings have evidently given a new direction to digital retailing. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 is forcing brands to engage and experiment with immersive technologies. A report by Intelligence Node has revealed retailers’ guide on how to fight and prepare themselves to face the disruption due to COVID-19. The fashion industry is among one of the majorly impacted sectors due to the current situation, which is mainly because it is based on discretionary spending. With almost everyone talking about how the industry is being impacted, let’s have a look at what retailers should focus on to prepare themselves for future after the pandemic is over.
To begin with, it’s important for retailers to understand the consumers’ buying behaviour. Nielsen’s research has explained six levels of consumer buying behaviour due to the impact of COVID-19. Globally, the consumers have passed the first three levels of buying including – Level 1: Proactive health-minded buying; Level 2: The reactive health management; and Level 3: Pantry preparation. The consumers are currently going through Levels 4, 5 and 6 of buying in which, Levels 4 and 5 are Quarantine living preparation and Restricted living respectively, while Level 6 is the Returning to normal way of living. Since social distancing will expose more and more consumers to the idea of online shopping, how can the retailers prepare themselves for the future that is coming their way?
According to Shopsys website, the average turnover of online stores for the period of 1-29 March 2020 was 55 per cent higher than in the same period last year. The basic necessity products like pet food, medical supplies, electronics, etc. increased by 149 per cent and other goods including hobby items, automotive products, clothing, toys, erotic accessories, etc. increased by 68 per cent (the average growth was calculated as weighted and includes large B2B portals that typically do not experience large fluctuations).
This shows that online business can be the future of retail, and an omnichannel strategy will prove to be beneficial for the retailers; those who have actively invested in the digital strategies will be reaping the benefits. Having an online presence will help the retailers sustain themselves through the storms. Since many of them would now recognise the importance of digital presence, they are most likely to expand their operations to online. Another report by Capillary Technologies suggested that though the short-term impact of coronavirus will be severe, omnichannel retailing will save the situation. “Brands who invested in enabling a personalised omnichannel shopping experience are experiencing the fruits of their labour,” it said.
The article highlights the options for managing the online business with the help of technology. Omnichannel retailing is a strategy of having a presence across all touchpoints, which basically means going beyond bricks-and-mortar locations to mobile-browsing, online marketplaces, social media, and every online channel where the customers can browse. Managing operations from all these channels simultaneously is often a complex task to take care of –managing content, sales, and inventory – require collaborations and transparency. A wrong approach can lead to customer dissatisfaction. For example, there should be consistency in the products showing in all its digital channels and these products must always be updated for their availability. If a product shown online has the wrong cost price or is mentioned available on the site despite being out of stock, customers will be left disappointed with the shopping experience.
However, software can help control the operations. The omnichannel software helps retailers manage their tasks smoothly, and allows customer engagement through a common quality service across different sales channels.
Few technology suppliers that can help retailers establish a transparent ecosystem –
Computer Generated Solutions (CGS)
The company offers BlueCherry Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) solution that helps retailers manage their supply chain with a complete control over their operations. The solution is designed to meet the specific need of the apparel and footwear retailers where the product demand is very dynamic. It includes features like Order-to-Cash Management, Financial Management, Credit/Factor Management, Purchasing and Receiving, Production/Import Management, Predictive and Actual Costing and Robust Reporting. The software comes integrated with BlueCherry Business Intelligence (BI) solution that helps gain insights of the trends, challenges and market opportunities. The database reporting tool provides data based on the product performance and analyses this data to gain actionable insights. The pictorial presentation of this analysis is in the form of increased inventory turns, optimised product allocation, established more effective pricing and promotions, and improved vendor scorecarding.
Unicommerce, an e-commerce supply chain solution provider, offers an omnichannel platform that enables a centralised management of all the orders and inventory of digital and bricks-and-mortar stores. The solution can direct the order placed online to the nearest store for quicker deliveries, thus enhancing customer satisfaction. The solution can update the inventory in real time across multiple channels. The automatic inventory updates help with better stock management across all stores. The quick update in the inventory further assists in automatic stock replenishment, so that no product runs out of stock which may lead to sales loss. The accurate information about product performance and trends helps in maintaining turnover.
The orders from various points are allocated to the nearest stores for processing and shipments. Moreover, the software hosts pre-integrated marketplaces and shopping carts like Amazon, eBay, Snapdeal, Flipkart, Shopify etc. The software comes integrated with 30 plus shipping partners and in-house logistics to enable the organisation to expand their reach and deliver their products to different locations.