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Industry Updates

What Will It Take to Prepare Your Business for the ‘Next Normal?’

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As the list of retailers filing for bankruptcy continues to grow, their peers are urgently looking for ways to avoid the same fate.

Organizations that have already embraced omnichannel retail will probably have a leg up in this Darwinian struggle. But it’s not too late for others to create a distinctive customer experience that could help ease their operations’ recoveries from the pandemic.

“To remain relevant in this changed environment, retailers should set a North Star to guide their aspirations for customer experience, with specific goals across five actions: double down on digital, inject innovation into omnichannel, transform store operations and win on ‘SafeX,’ reimagine the physical network and embrace an agile operating model,” McKinsey & Company advises in a recent blog, “Adapting the next normal in retail: The customer experience imperative.”

Here’s some background on how McKinsey recommends organizations put these five best practices to work:

  • Double down on digital – To make up for decreased in-store traffic, now is the time to invest in digital assets, if you can. Acquisitions of online marketing tools and the creation of mobile apps are two approaches.
  • Inject innovation into omnichannel – Solutions can include bringing a personalized, in-store feel to the online shopping experience. Some retailers attempt to achieve this with the use of virtual appointments with sales associates.
  •  Transform store operations and win on “SafeX” (safer experiences) – This is about addressing the customer’s comfort level in your brick-and-mortar stores. “Retailers must implement policies and processes to enable safe distances, sanitize surfaces and products, and communicate proactively, clearly and empathetically,” McKinsey said.
  • Reimagine the physical network – “While physical stores are critical to the customer experience, our analysis suggests that the United States has more retail shopping capacity than other countries with sizable retail markets,” McKinsey said. “Retailers should be thoughtful about which stores they choose to reopen and in which sequence.”
  • Embrace an agile operating model – Data about your shoppers has become even more important in recent months: “Winners will … construct targeted retention plans, messages and offers to maintain the customer relationship in this era of brand switching and cost consciousness.”

McKinsey concluded that “retailers have much ground to cover, and time is of the essence.” It recommended that a cross-functional team should kick off the process by “assessing the starting point, quickly developing the path forward and driving implementation. The next normal is still taking shape, and customer expectations will continue to shift in response. Retailers that focus on customer experience and respond with agility and innovation in their omnichannel experience will fare better and strengthen their ties to customers.”

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