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The pandemic has disrupted the economy in many ways—from job losses and income insecurity to shutdowns of brick-and-mortar shops and an unprecedented shift to online purchasing. If much has changed in 2020, much has also been learned, as retailers have worked hard to pivot to keep up with the ever-evolving situation that the pandemic has thrown at them. Here’s an overview of five key lessons this challenging year has taught us.

Accelerating the shift to digital

During the early days of the pandemic, as people were told to stay home and countless brick-and-mortar stores were shut down due to lockdown measures, customers turned to online shopping. Businesses that were already equipped with a robust omnichannel commerce platform were well positioned to manage the sudden increase in demand on digital channels. Those that weren’t scrambled to make the shift as quickly as possible.

In this new, post-COVID-19 era, retailers have no choice but to leverage the plus side of what has otherwise been a devastating blow to the retail industry—an industry that will likely never be the same again. Agile retailers who can quickly and effectively adapt to meet their customers’ new needs in terms of convenience and safety will be more likely to weather the storm, as retail numbers continue to show signs of faltering.

Seeking safety and convenience

In today’s new reality, safety and convenience are more important than ever as customers seek alternative fulfillment options—such as home delivery,curbside pickup, and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS)—that will allow them to limit the time they spend in stores. The in-store fulfillment (or ship-from-store) model has become essential during the pandemic, as brick-and-mortar shops use stock from their stores to fulfill orders, often bypassing the once-mandatory step of relying on a distribution centre. This alternative turns agile retailers into local fulfillment centres that can respond swiftly to customers’ needs. Some shops are even going so far as to become “dark stores”—no-customer retail locations that retailers use as warehouses to fill online orders or facilitate customer pickups.

Embracing new shopping experiences

In this era of endless change, shoppers are responding with a strong willingness to try new shopping methods and embrace new digital experiences, such as contactless payment and self-service capabilities. They appreciate and feel safer having the option to complete their orders or transactions themselves. Companies with the right omnichannel fulfillment model are better able to provide consumers with a seamless, user-friendly shopping experience, from product research all the way to product delivery.

Buying local

While online retail giants like Amazon have seen their profits soar during the pandemic, another trend has been picking up speed. To save small, local retailers, many communities, from Yorkshire in the UK to Vancouver, Canada, are urging residents to shop locally. One such move is Small Business Saturday, an effort to divert some of the billions spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday into the hands of small, independent businesses to boost local economies.

The pandemic has also created a shock in the supply chain, and some retailers have turned to local manufacturers to ensure they can meet the demand as swiftly as possible. Border closures have made it harder for retailers to source items from other countries. They have also changed how consumers shop, with many forced to abandon cross-border shopping and buy closer to home.

Redefining loyalty

The pandemic has caused an increase in both unemployment and job uncertainty, as those who are still employed remain concerned about losing their job. This has disrupted normal shopping patterns—many consumers are worried about their spending and looking for deals, while others are stockpiling due to anxiety about supply chains. Most consumers are watching their discretionary spending, sticking to the essentials, and planning to maintain or reduce their holiday spending this year. As consumers face new financial pressures, many are turning away from trusted brands and trying out new stores, brands, and channels, looking to find better value and stay safe.

Orckestra’s cloud-based commerce solutions

Orckestra provides mid-size and enterprise retailers and brands with a single platform that allows them to bring their organization up to speed with the reality of the pandemic and offer their customers “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere” options.

Orckestra’s turnkey solutions let retailers quickly create an omnichannel commerce experience for their customers, including online storefronts, tailored web and mobile experiences, flexible order routing and fulfillment, and real-time engagement across various customer touchpoints. With Orckestra, retailers can even turn their store into a hyper-local distribution centre that can provide a full range of fulfillment options, without the need to change their current order management or e-commerce system.

Succeed during the pandemic

Contact Orckestra today to find out how your business can harness the plus side of today’s turbulent retail landscape.