Posted by David Orešič on Jun 5, 2020 9:00:00 AM
David Orešič
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Coronavirus had a profound impact on everyone and all companies regardless of how large or small. As we see success in flattening the curve and the situation is stabilizing, one thing is clear – to succeed in the future, companies will need to deploy and focus on digital channels, experiences and technologies.

 

As retail sales cratered during the pandemic, ecommerce growth will remain mostly neutral, which is an exciting business opportunity. Any delays in moving to digital, may result in lost business opportunities and market share. People will look for ways to stay out of stores and GlobalWebIndex’s ninth release of its coronavirus research has revealed that nearly half of global consumers do not expect to resume shopping in brick-and-mortar shops for ‘some time’ or ‘a long time’ once lockdowns ease. This means that even the most local businesses need to extend their reach online not just to reach new audiences but also to keep their existing ones. Otherwise, global players, such as Amazon, are ready to pounce and seize the market.

Digital is the new norm


As the crisis struck, companies that have undergone digital transformation were in a far better position than companies that failed to prepare. Suddenly, digital transformation was not an option anymore but a brutal wake up call. Companies of all sizes rushed to implement digital stores and channels and other ways to interact with their customers directly. Even individual farms suddenly found a way to offer their products online and extend their reach through home delivery.

Where do we go from here?

 

It does not matter whether you are a B2B or a B2C company – things have changed, and digital channels will be critical to success in the coming years. If you are a B2B company, you should know your customers are essentially just consumers. Therefore, you should invest in digital channels that are convenient to use and transparent. It is probably about time to stop thinking that customers want to meet in person. They probably do not. What they do want is to reach you in the way they prefer – that might be an online form, an e-mail, a text message, or a chat app. You should be there for them.

This consumerization has been going on for a while and has accelerated during the pandemic. It is not that difficult for a business to change their supplier. And Amazon and other digital-first retailers are lying in wait with its convenient purchase process, broad selection and attractive prices. More and more people are comfortable with buying from them and this is impacting businesses as well. You need to compete and that is impossible without robust and effective digital channels that will serve your clients. Look at how you can scale your existing processes to serve more customers by relying on online services.

Another area, where B2B will need to adapt is the use of digital tools. Video conferences, shared screens and other advanced communication scenarios have quickly become the norm and will stay in the future. This will also impact other areas of your business. For example, live events have been replaced by digital events and while live conferences will return, there is enough benefit in going the digital route for many companies to continue to rely on them in the future.

What about consumers?

 

People’s habits have changed and not all will return to the “old normal”. People will continue to think twice before going to a brick and mortar store as long as there is unresolved uncertainty surrounding the virus and its transmission. Online commerce will fill this gap, Home delivery is very affordable and online stores are very aggressive in customer acquisition. As more and more consumers shift online it will be increasingly hard to grow market share without operating digital channels, same-day delivery or in-store pick up service.

If you are a traditional retailer, the online retailers are now gaining the upper hand and most brands and retailers cannot afford to ignore them any longer. While it may be hard to fight them, their business models are based on eroding brand position and product differentiation, which is a serious threat not only to your margins but even long-term survival.

B2C companies are in for a rough ride. Retailers, particularly. A recent study has shown that in the US, 3,600 stores have closed in 2020 and as many as 12,000 may close by the end of the year. This includes gaming, apparel, stationery, pharmacies, and crafts. This is the retail apocalypse. But consumers are not going anywhere, their habits changed, and they are shifting their spending online.

Just like B2B companies, B2C organizations should look at more innovative tools to deliver experiences that stand out and drive customer loyalty. The spending on physical stores should shift to investments in rich and attractive online content, live video and chat support, VR and AR technologies and customer acquisitions through free delivery and robust return services.

Engage your customers for long-term loyalty

 

Establishing engaging and robust digital channels is the first step and it all starts with a powerful website that is optimized for every device accessing, personalized and integrated with your marketing tools and processes.

Comtrade will help you select the right Content Management System or e-commerce platform that will help you engage with your customers by providing personalized content, relevant products and recommendations that resonate.

Looking beyond online stores, we can help you create attractive self-care portals that allow you to manage your customers’ lifecycles and their journeys from end to end. This way your interactions continue after you sell your product and service and result in improved customer satisfaction and higher life-time value.

Combine all of this – your content, your store performance and your long-term relationships – and start focusing on Customer Life-cycle Management. This means that you focus on metrics that map to individual stages in the lifecycle so you can easily improve and drive more value.

Comtrade will help you make an impact on your customers from the very first time they visit your site to years later when they are a loyal client.

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