Omnichannel to the fore at the outset of COVID-19 pandemic

June 26, 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the economic, healthcare, political, societal, and cultural facets across the globe.

Despite requisite preventive measures to contain the coronavirus, the number of positive cases as well as the death rate is rapidly rising exponentially.

The way of work and life has been impacted massively due to the lockdown, social distancing, and containment measures to mitigate the risk of the spread of coronavirus.

Considering the damage already done to the economies across the globe, it is anticipated to take longer than usual to reverse the economic downturn and actually improve the scenario.

While most industries have been the victim of the lockdown-induced operational disruption, the retail industry is at the receiving end of the harshest impact.

COVID-19 and the changing retail landscape

COVID-19 pandemic has led to the biggest ever paradigm shift in the retail landscape by altering consumer behavior by a great deal.

Studies highlight that 9 out of 10 consumers have let go of their traditional shopping habits and are opting to adopt the online approach.

More than 50% of consumers have been observed to make online purchases of the items that they would otherwise preferably but from a brick-and-mortar store. This reinstates the likelihood of declining footfall in the brick-and-mortar stores as well as an uptick in the online sales.

The scenario is expected to switch to the pre-pandemic state, however, certain changes in consumer behavior are going to gain ground, immensely. People across the globe would continue to favor online buying even long after the COVID-19 crisis ends. The higher propensity for digital buying adoption among the general public is surely set to bring a rather much-needed digital revolution in the retail ecosystem.

Simply put, the COVID-19 pandemic will mark a tipping point for the adoption of eCommerce as well as mobile commerce platforms. And, retailers with an omnichannel strategy and execution measures in place are going to emerge as the leading forces in the trying times.

What retailers must do to outdo the COVID-19 impact

Adopting the omnichannel retail approach

The retailers across the globe have been enforced to ride out this storm and in order to survive, they must embrace the omnichannel retailing approach at the earliest.

They must act on converging their offline and online operations and somewhat bolstering their online presence to avoid the massive revenue loss risk.

Delivering innovative customer experiences

Retailers must take the agile approach to omnichannel retailing and constantly deliver innovative shopping experiences for their end consumers.

This way they stand a chance to keep their existing consumer base engaged as well as score a new user segment. They must adopt the omnichannel approach across their essential and non-essential products alike.

Keeping a close tab on consumer behavior

Retailers may survive this gigantic shift by observing consumer behavior closely and leveraging online market places to improve their online visibility, sales, and revenue. Those who are waiting out the lockdown and COVID-19 spread and not adapting to the change might incur huge losses.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most retailers were focused on establishing higher market share and making their physical stores as the epicenter of their operations.

Though online traffic to eCommerce platforms have been lucrative, measures to amplify this stat always have been in the back burner for the retailers. Well, the tables have been turned in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic as a massive number of consumers are opting to buy online.

In these times of crisis, retailers are increasingly using their brick-and-mortar stores as fulfillment centers to turn inventory over quickly and minimize losses. Omnichannel retailers, who utilize their physical store space creatively will inevitably be in the forefront.

Omnichannel approaches for retailers to survive the pandemic

Buy now, deliver later

The global pandemic COVID-19 has disrupted the brand-customer interaction immensely.Despite an uptick in online purchase behavior, consumers at large are going to curtail their online spending. The buying journey will be more complicated than ever as random shopping sprees take a back seat.

To cater to this evolving scenario, retailers are fast adapting to the “buy now, deliver later” model. The purchase orders from the end customers are being accepted with the promise of delivery once normalcy returns.

Though this approach may keep the online sales roll on, it is not entirely devoid of setbacks. With the considerable gap in the order and delivery schedule, customers may be more prone to cancel their orders at any point.

Inventory stocking in the distribution centers

Keeping inventory in the distribution centers will be pivotal to reduce the time to ship the items to the customers. Retailers may employ a skeleton crew of store staff to pick-up highly essential items from the stores and to transfer them to the eCommerce fulfillment centers.

With this, retailers can operate with a minimum capacity of employees and follow the social distancing norms. However, all this back and forth shipping may uptick the expenditure scale.

Shipping with minimal contact

The “BOPAC” strategy is gaining ground rather fast wherein minimal contact is a norm to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“BOPAC” or “Buy Online, Pick-up At the Curbside” approach has the ultimate advantage of minimal contact as the payment is completely received online. However, retailers must ensure that their employees are willing to follow the requisite guidelines.

While omnichannel retailing seems a lucrative prospect, it comes with its own set of challenges and uncertainties. Inventory visibility is critical for the success of the omnichannel retailing strategy. A study by Forrester highlights that more than half of the retailers find inventory accuracy and planning challenging.

There is yet to be a definite cure for the COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery road may appear a long way ahead. Still, omnichannel retailing would be pivotal in lighting a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel.

Retailers armed with a robust omnichannel retail strategy stand a strong chance to sustain and strive.

Today’s customers are more tech-savvy and channel-agnostic and interacting with multiple digital devices, touchpoints, and channels. And, personalized experiences are set out to be a clear differentiator.

Retailers must have a clear roadmap of the customer journey, cultivate a holistic, 360-degree customer view, and embrace new channels for keeping customer communication and engagement flowing.

Retailers must leverage the omnichannel approach to deliver a seamless experience reflecting the individual customer’s preferences, buying patterns, and more. Advanced technological tools can help achieve the ultimate omnichannel goals by enabling retailers to understand consumers’ preferences with regards to both products and shopping channels.

Parting Words

Beginning the journey toward true omnichannel retailing can be daunting. However, the immense value it creates for both customers and retail brands far outweigh the rethinking, reinvention, and innovations it demands.

Retailers with robust omnichannel strategies in place will delve into the recovery phase much more quickly than their counterparts.

For more insights into omnichannel retailing, do reach out to the experts at Vinculum today!


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