Digital Retail in the Pandemic
Lessons Learned on the Journey from COVID-19 to Digital First
Retail and consumer organisations have been forced to adapt rapidly over the pandemic. Lockdowns, furlough schemes, remote-working, health and safety, cost-cutting, government backed financing, supply chain changes, rent-deferrals and customer engagement have all been in the mix, typically underpinned by hurriedly devised and launched digital initiatives. As we slowly emerge from COVID-19’s shadow, Ralph Fernando (Agile Change & Transformation Leader at FTI Consulting) considers what we can learn from retail’s recent digital initiatives.
Like most retailers, we don’t
know exactly where we will land
at the end of it but our curiosity
and willingness to create will be
a guide for us 1.
Jesper Brodin, CEO, IKEA
Speaking at the World Economic Forum 2018
Jesper Brodin’s celebration of retailers’ curiosity expressed in 2018, embodies both prescience and optimism – two qualities in short supply over the past year. For some, the forces unleashed by the pandemic have proved too powerful, with weak propositions, poor customer experience, misaligned channel strategies, fragile supply chains and threadbare balance sheets providing insufficient defence. However, this is not true for all - alongside the well-documented fables of failure, there are also many inspiring stories of success.
The pandemic has been an accelerant of digital transformation, forcing retail and consumer businesses to commit and experiment faster. Borne of operational necessity, it is also the result of the most fundamental of retail considerations – meeting the needs of customers, who have themselves been forced to adapt and accelerate digital adoption. For example:
- Approximately 0.5bn new users joined social media in 2020 – an annual increase of more than 13%, taking the global total to 4.2bn in early 20212.
- In 2020, for the first time, the world’s users spent more time on their phones than watching tv3.
How larger international retailers respond to changing consumer behaviours is further complicated by the significant geographic variation in speed and depth of digital transformation . Against this backdrop, what are the stories of digital transformation success for retail and consumer companies during the pandemic, and what can we learn from them?
2: Data Reportal: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-global-overview-report
3: Data Reportal: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-global-overview-report