HomeOPINIONPart one: The world is changing and with it, retail

Part one: The world is changing and with it, retail

If you’re looking for a digital solution to Covid-19 problems, Katie Te Nahu Owen, co-founder of Transformative, has answers for you. In part one of this two-part series, she talks retailers through the process of identifying what needs to change.

Like several industry sectors, retail is hit particularly hard by the restrictive, though necessary, measures in our current Covid-19 Level 4 Alert status. Most retail activity, outside of grocery, has come to a hard stop. Employees are sidelined. Storefronts are dark. It’s a tough time for any retailer.

According to Judy Smith, the American attorney, writer, and television producer who has also founded a crisis management firm, there’s always an opportunity with crisis. “Just as it forces an individual to look inside himself, it forces a company to reexamine its policies and practices” says Judy.  In these difficult times lies an opportunity for retail leaders and business owners. Working from home with some distance from our normal routines provides an opportunity to work on the business and make positive change.

Start asking questions to best plan for the future

Thoughtful leaders will ponder the “Big Questions” about the impact of this crisis, such as “What will the retail landscape look like once we’re on the other side of this? How is my business positioned to thrive in that new landscape?” And, “What can be done to help minimise the impact on my business if this happens again?”. 

Now is the time to readdress or create not only your business plan, but also your business continuity plan. If you have some downtime, consider establishing new processes and refining existing ones, with the goal of becoming more effective and efficient – with an eye toward an understanding of the retail landscape of the future. Digital solutions can be particularly useful as they typically reduce the amount of manual work required and reduce errors, data entry and redundancy. Plus, they can be accessed remotely, allowing management of the business from any location. 

I recommend mapping out all of the different systems you use, the purpose of each, which roles within your business utilise them, and how they currently interact with each other. Once you’ve done this “digital platform audit”, some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • What reporting can we implement in order to help us make future decisions?
  • Can we automate any work that is currently done manually?
  • Do we have overlap between systems that means we’re doubling up on data entry or analysis?
  • Can we have one system be the single source of truth, with other systems pushing or pulling data from here?
  • Can some of our systems be “glued” together in order to work together more seamlessly?
  • What systems could be improved or implemented to enhance customer delight?

The answers to those questions can lead to some interesting planning and system development, the extent of which is limited only by the imagination and budget of the business leader. In every instance possible, consider changes to drive the lowest possible level of “friction” in the solution.  More automated, integrated, and seamless solutions, with a holistic view, are a start.  Look to how the business operates overall, outside of any single process or system component.  Take this time to start with the big questions, and make plans and roadmaps – then move to the more immediately actionable fixes.

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