Blog Post - Chioma Anokuru, Aug 6 2020

Back to business in the new abnormal – and where yours needs to focus

Back to business in the new abnormal – and where yours needs to focus

News of an epidemic in China was nothing more than watercooler chat at the start of the year. The office was bustling with business and everyone was going about their normal lives. But skip forward three months, and businesses across Europe were being forced to abandon their workplaces. And there was almost a survival feeling in remembering to take everything you needed back home just in case you couldn’t return the next day.

The flattening of the infection curve and relaxed restrictions may give the illusion that we’re returning to a state of normality. The in-person watercooler conversations will return in time, and the safeguarding survival instinct will cease. But this isn’t what businesses will be returning to as they resume operations.

The return to the workplace has been described as ‘post-pandemic’ but in reality we’re not out the woods yet. And this continues to pose challenges that businesses won’t have contended with before the virus. For example, health and safety will need to take a bigger focus with social distancing and temperature checking to stem a second wave. Additionally, if a second wave is avoided and we can work without the threat of the virus, will normality in the workplace ever return? Or are the changes to businesses throughout the virus irreversible?

What to consider for the ‘new normal’

The biggest considerations for businesses that are beginning to resume operations centre around eCommerce. While online may have already been a focus, customer habits look to have moved towards online spending. Only 16% plan to return to their normal in-store shopping habits. Therefore, eCommerce is anticipated to account for 51% of expenditure.

For businesses returning to work, the dynamic between in-store and online needs to be considered. Now is the right time to determine whether you have the right equipment to facilitate the way your consumers want to shop. So think about:

  • What’s worked in lockdown, and how can you develop this?
  • How can you make the most of resurged popularity in online marketplaces?
  • How can you ensure customers receive the same personalised experience online as they do in-store?
  • How can you create an omnichannel approach that takes advantage of increased online browsing time?
  • What architecture do you need to meet your customer’s shopping needs?
  • Have you optimised your product data?
  • Do you have a strong social media strategy?

What next?

No doubt a heavier emphasis on eCommerce indicates that there will be a reduced reliance on in-store. Moreover, footfall limitations and long in-store waiting times are pushing shoppers to use online even more.

To deal with this requires two overarching activities. Firstly, changing your view from online vs offline to omnichannel. Secondly, listening closely to customers and ensuring you’re supporting them and using their feedback to mould your omnichannel approach.

Your online activities should be built to support in-store efforts and vice versa. For example, you could use your online presence to offer consumers’ discount vouchers for in-store use, which will contribute to increasing footfall.

Using systems like CRM then allows you to track the response of this approach and tailor as necessary. COVID-19 has led to widespread disruption and changes to operations that it’s really important to keep your finger on the pulse. Adapting to customer needs quickly will become imperative for retailers.

While the daily commute to work or the reopening of the high-street will give us all a sense of normality, we have to appreciate that COVID-19 has accelerated the journey towards eCommerce. Online has always been here to stay. Now, we must all adapt our operations to succeed in the ‘new normal’.

If you’d like to find out more about what your business can expect from the new normal, download the full playbook here, which details the key focus areas as your business gets back to business.

The playbook is one of a series of “Business Fightback” content resources created by Wunderman Thompson Commerce to help bolster businesses in the current Covid-19 impacted climate, addressing the key challenges such as a drop in demand, loyalty and footfall, as well as the new opportunities, including the accelerated transition to online shopping.

View our COVID-19 resources