How should IT Teams Respond, Recover and Reimagine How They Operate post-COVID-19

May 1, 2020

Tahmid Akthar

Content Executive

This pandemic has led many businesses to quickly readjust their strategies, firefight and figure out how they will come out of this on the other end. 

According to Gartner the next 12-18 months are make or break for businesses - especially with 50% of mall-based stores set to be shuttered. For retailers, amidst the backdrop of slowing sales numbers and staff cuts, many haven’t been able to focus on life past Covid-19. CTO’s and CIO’s can play a crucial role in the recovery and reimagining of their brands, utilising their tech nous to futureproof the company and help set it up for retail 3.0. This comes on the back of figures gained from our Pulse of Retail survey which indicated that 74% of Capex projects have slowed and as such the role of the IT team will have to pivot. For CTO’s and CIOs this period of steadying the ship will require technical support to deal with overstock issues, cost-effective digital strategies and new shopping experiences to help their business respond, recover and reimagine life post-COVID. 

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RESPOND

Let’s begin with the here and now. The sudden jolt of COVID-19 to the world and subsequently retail has forced brands to deal with issues of overstock and store closures. As many businesses were preparing for the oft lucrative summer holiday season - they have been left to deal with a £15 billion overstock issue with this being compounded by the fact that sales of non-food items are down by 70%. 

 

For retailers, they will have to get tech-savvy in order to manage their merchandise and approach. Brands will be reluctant to go down the heavy discounting route in order to avoid negatively impacting their image. As such CTO’s can step in to help brands respond to the mass amounts of overstock. One route tech teams can take to aid the issue is to seek and implement AI solution providers which can help with merchandising analysis through machine learning, automated attribute tagging and visualization. 

 

Footwear retailer Ekonika were quick on their feet and decided to adapt to the changing face of retail. The brand decided to send its staff home while stores were beginning to close - armed with the Mercaux app in a bid to aid in-store teams to continue working on their customer relationships and engagement from home. The business tapped the Clienteling solution so shop floor staff would be able to send individual shopping recommendations to their clients and then further follow up via WhatsApp to confirm. 

Ekonika's Clienteling interface from the Mercaux AppLooks

Moving forward CTO’s can also look to empower their shop floor staff to be prepared for online-only scenarios. Naturally, we are all hopeful that situations akin to this do not arise again but there's nothing wrong in future-proofing your staff to help deal with it if it does. This is especially as recent figures have shown that 44 per cent of shop floor staff feel that their employer is not providing them with enough training to keep up with changes in technology.

 

RECOVER

In the short to medium term brands and retailers will be looking to recover from the impact of extended lockdowns and its subsequent impacts. I’m reluctant to use the term new normal as it feels too driven by fear - instead, the recovery phase can easily be described as the early stages of the retail evolution taking place. 

 

For the time being, retailers will have hoards of shop floor staff which they would have unfortunately have had to cut or in some cases furlough. As such moving forward CTO’s can look to consider bringing in in-store technologies which can be deployed and trained for remotely by staff. Providing education and training to your shop-floor staff even when they cannot physically be there will help to keep them busy during downtimes as well as aid in their development, which inevitably leads to better consumer experiences. 

 

Mercaux's intuitive App makes it easy to switch on and use straight away

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Mercaux's intuitive App makes it easy to switch on and use straight away

 

Tech leads need to utilise this time to understand and listen to the changing needs of the consumer. Driven by an insatiable appetite for convenience, shoppers want the instant gratification of online shopping in-store which has been further compounded by the outbreak. Recent numbers show that this hasn't gone unnoticed amongst tech and executive teams all of whom are prioritising a frictionless high street shopping experience by providing real-time stock availability (49%) and offering delivery from store (46%) as they look to capitalise on the benefits of combining the digital with the physical.

 

Moving forward brands will need to look at deploying multiple solutions in a bid to tackle consumers changing shopping habits. Technology purchasing decisions are still somewhat tunnel-visioned - the solution to getting retail right will not be a one size fits all approach but rather requires a combination of tech. Mobile Apps (59%) have the most influence on retail technology purchasing decisions, while 14% look to invest in digital signage and point-of-sale. Providing consumers with moveable pay points and support in conjunction with a mobile app - can help provide that instantaneous seamless purchase experience that consumers are used to with their online and mobile shopping. 

 

A key role CTO’s and CIO’s can also play during these unprecedented times for the world and in this case retail is to help the business to provide clear communication on changing shopping approaches. This is in hopes of allaying fears of shoppers who want to feel safe and protected when they head back into the shops. Detailing changes in store formats - such as cashless payments, curbside pickups and other tech implementations will go a long way in helping consumers to confidently shop and ultimately feel safe. 

 

REIMAGINE

The reimagining of retail requires a deeper dive. An impact of this size has flipped the retail industry on its head and has accelerated the pace to which we arrive at Retail 3.0. Our CTO Alex Petrov has provided his expert analysis and advice on how fellow CTO/CIO’s can help to drive retail innovation for those with limited budgets and resources. While the new normal has also shone a light on store formats and what a post-COVID world will look like for bricks and mortar stores - with brands looking to keep pace at the top by pivoting to provide experiential yet safe shopping options for the new safety-conscious consumer. You can read about that in further detail here. 

Please feel free to check out the Mercaux COVID-19 Resource Centre

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