This is the time for an entire ecosystem to come together to address the changing needs and behavioral patterns of a new generation of consumers.
February and March 2020 saw us at a point of uncertainty, a situation where many of us were unsure as to the right path to take. The COVID-19 pandemic was intensifying and for us, industry events, customer meetings and business as usual were restricted. For our customers, the fallout was even larger, as retail stores in country after country were being closed.
In the months that followed, we have been actively supporting the lockdown efforts of the local authorities in our markets of operation: offices have been closed, social distancing rules followed, and sanitizing support provided. I am proud to say that we were able to pivot to a completely virtual setup seamlessly, maintaining services to our customers with absolutely no disruption.
But for some retailers, this digital transformation isn’t nearly as easy to implement. The plight of clothing giant Primark is familiar to most of us: it went from £650m in sales a month to nothing as the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close in Europe and the US. The chain, which was founded in 1969, does not have an online store or offer click-and-collect services for its products. Amazon, in comparison, has hired more than 175,000 workers since March to meet a huge increase in demand for shipments.
Many industry observers and participants are today saying that post-lockdown, the migration towards e-commerce will persist and retail is never going to be the same again. Regardless of sub-sector, retailers must migrate to a more digital offering, providing consumers with an enhanced online experience that puts their changing preferences of their customers first. It is no exaggeration to say that their very survival depends on it.
Many sectors have been driven to address their online offering over the past few years in natural response to the effect of the internet on shopper demands. For home and kitchen retailers, however, the right approach has been more difficult to interpret. The in-store experience has remained central to the purchase of many home and kitchen items, which has resulted in varied investment in online offerings as a result. Digital transformation has been a fixture on the agenda for home and kitchen retailers for several years now, who have reviewed and implemented strategies to varying degrees of urgency.
That has all changed within a few short weeks.
Previous resistance from consumers to buying décor online has eroded; as early as March, websites selling home furnishings saw a sharp increase in visits to a collective 1.7 billion. Before COVID-19, the home décor market was anticipated to grow by $83.2 billion during 2020-2024, but with digital revenue in this sector now up by 51%, it’s likely this statistic will be higher. The trend is there for all to see: consumers in their thousands are embracing digital channels to design their home and kitchen spaces.
In recent global consumer sentiment research, 59% of consumers worldwide said they had high levels of interaction with physical stores before COVID-19, compared with less than a quarter (24%) today. And with half of consumers not expecting to resume shopping in brick-and-mortar stores for “some time” or “a long time” post-lockdown, the data suggests, and many industry analysts agree, that the migration towards e-commerce will continue.
Hence, the need of the hour is not digital transformation. It is accelerated digital transformation.
An optimized online offering is essential
But digital transformation for home and kitchen retailers isn’t just about putting your product catalog online. Consumers do not purchase home and kitchen items in the same way as they do consumables. They need to have an online experience that is correspondingly unique.
Another factor to consider is that even when lockdowns ease, there are likely to be restrictions in the number of customers who might be allowed into a store at any one time. Customers might be less willing to come into the store or engage with sales staff for consultations. They need to be given a better omnichannel experience and allowed to go further in the purchase journey autonomously, before visiting the store for validation.
This task is easier said than done. IT departments at every organization are under enormous pressure to deliver, and have been working on overdrive for months. Mistakes and cut corners are inevitable in these circumstances. To compound the issue, there are far more demands on IT than the budgets to bring them to reality.
We recognize these issues.
That’s why we’ve made it our mission to enable home and kitchen retailers to not only shift to e-commerce to protect the bottom line and increase business resilience, but also to get that transition right first time. We’re committed to helping you put the customer experience front and center in your digital transformation strategies.
Every aspect of our operations reflects this ethos. Our platform is cloud-based and cost-effective, and can be up and running quickly. We use open web systems to make integration with legacy infrastructure easy. And our team of experts is here to offer you installation, troubleshooting and operations support at any time.
I firmly believe that a reliable partner can not only help you execute your digital transformation agenda. They can help refine and enhance it, based on best practices and wide industry experience.
This is the time for an entire ecosystem to come together to address the changing needs and behavioral patterns of a new generation of consumers. Digital transformation is more effective if done in collaboration with experts. And it is digital transformation that will determine the winners and losers in a post-COVID-19 world.
My very best wishes to you all.