Full shelves and empty shopping streets!

In the retail sector, we are somewhat accustomed in terms of chaos. We are no stranger to changing the plan several times a week to respond to the weather or the proposition of the competitor. But the magnitude and speed of the changes taking place in the industry today is unprecedented.

While everything is on deck in the food sector, the visitor flows in the main shopping centers have dried up within a few days and staff in the non-food sector are waiting all day for customers.

It is not without reason that various retailers have announced to adjust their opening hours or to close their stores. De Bijenkorf, Coolblue, vanHaren and Ikea indicate that they are focusing on their e-commerce operation, which makes sense given the enormous growth in online orders in recent days.

Amazon is immediately recruiting employees for its distribution centers and warns that delivery times may increase. Both Amazon and Coolblue have now announced that they will focus on a few product categories to keep the sudden growth under control.

Especially for retailers who normally depend on their store network, suddenly a lot is changing. Where normally 80% - 90% of the turnover comes from the stores and 10% - 20% from the e-commerce operation, this has now been completely reversed.

On the one hand, there is enormous pressure on the e-commerce organization to deliver all orders on time and on the other, the entire infrastructure of shops and store staff remains virtually unused. These special times therefore require adjustments and creative solutions. Below we give some tips:

1. Use the store as a logistics center
The decline in visitors and the closure of shops are causing two major problems for retailers: the shop staff has virtually nothing to do and a large part of the stock is stuck in branches across the country. The latter is a major problem, especially in the sectors where the spring collections are coming soon. So see if you can deliver orders online from the store instead of from the DC.

Normally you would automate the distribution of orders via an order management system (OMS) and have the packages delivered by a logistics partner such as PostNL or DHL.

But in this situation, central insight into local supplies may suffice, in addition to what people behind the phone can allocate and deliver orders from a store. Store employees could take the packages to the logistics partner's parcel points or perhaps even to the consumer's home. After all, payment has already been made, so physical contact with the consumer is not necessary. There is also a solution for the shipping labels. With the packages that consumers send, the labels are often simply taped to the packaging.

2. Use store staff to improve product content
Optimizing product content is one of the neglected children in many e-commerce departments. That while the advantages are generally known: good product content contributes to a higher conversion and fewer returns. Good, detailed information regarding dimensions, materials and details removes a lot of uncertainty from the consumer. It is often a matter of time or capacity that these activities are left out.

Especially now that the sale is largely shifting to online, it is important to pay a lot of attention to this. Pure players such as Amazon, Zalando and Coolblue have these things in order, which gives a considerable competitive advantage.

Why not use the store staff to enrich this product content? They know most products and also know on the basis of which criteria consumers weigh their purchase. As a result, the staff knows well which aspects should be emphasized online.

3. Have shop assistants give remote advice
Many store employees are normally not allowed to use the internet during working hours. But now is the time to celebrate the reins in this area. As mentioned above, it is a lot more difficult for consumers to get a complete picture of the product via the laptop or smartphone than in a physical store. Dimensions, fits, technical specifications all properties

For example, offer the possibility to give purchase advice via video chat via Instagram or Facebook. In many cases, staff will have more experience with this than the average manager in the office. Of course it does not hurt to give a few basic rules in terms of addressing and language.

4. Pay attention to new online buyers
Also people who normally prefer to go to a physical store will now buy more online. Among them, there will also be plenty who barely order online. This is largely due to uncertainty. This can be, as mentioned above, uncertainty about the product itself, but also about everything that is going on around an online purchase. How much does it cost to have the product delivered at home? How can I pay? Is my data secure? How can I return the order? Which shipper does this shop use? All questions to which the answer is likely to be found somewhere on the site. But it is important for this group that all these fears, uncertainties and doubts are removed. So make sure that the delivery, payment and return process is really visible and clearly explained on the site. One way to convince this group is to give an old-fashioned discount. A 10% discount combined with free shipping when someone first places an online order works wonders. 

5. Review your online proposition
Now that the turnover for many retailers has largely shifted to online, it is also time to take a closer look at the total online proposition. Where as a retailer you previously got away with a lesser online proposition because the turnover nevertheless came through the stores, you are now in fact acting on a market of Pure players. Multi-brand retailers in particular will have to take a good look at how competitive they actually are. Recent research by Kega showed that the differences between online providers, including omnichannel retailers, are very large.

These differences were not only in the price of a product but also, for example, in shipping and return costs, shipping and return period and payment options. It was often more attractive for consumers to order a product from one of the major platforms than from the brand or the retailer. Single brand retailers also need to take a good look at their proposition. The competition offers similar products and is just a click away. Also do not assume that your loyal, regular customer does not know the ease of ordering from Wehkamp, ​​Bol.com, Amazon or Coolblue.

Even without looking at the competition, it might be wise to adjust your proposition anyway. For example, by extending the return period to 120 or 365 days, you will prevent even more pressure on the e-commerce organization in the short term.

Do you want to spar on this article to optimally use your omnichannel organization at the moment? Then we would be happy to help you, please contact Stefan de Jong.


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