The retail sector had to adjust at record speed during the pandemic. Now is the time to streamline processes and thoroughly implement innovation.
"In 2020 and 2021, all online stores experienced massive growth because going to a store wasn't an option. Many who had previously had a solid physical presence suddenly had to make all their goods available digitally," says Erlend Sørby Johansen, team leader for Commerce at Pearl Group.
Sørby Johansen vividly remembers the restructuring that many customers were thrown into when the pandemic first hit. A lot had to fall into place at once; there were "arms and legs," and many in the retail sector had to rely on temporary solutions.
Even though Norway has reopened, the industry is once again in transition – this time, it's all about dealing with both a great demand online and in physical stores simultaneously. To better adjust to this new reality, Sørby Johansen recommends that his customers spend a little extra time implementing growth measures from the pandemic in a proper way.
"A lot of the innovation from this period is something you should take a step back from today to ensure that the company has proper processes around everything from logistics to finance. Now is the time to ensure that you have a planned-out process, from A to Z. The industry didn't exactly have time for this when they had to innovate in four weeks during the pandemic," says Sørby Johansen.
High rate of innovation
"Today, the retail trade has entered a new period where the focus is on the total package; whether you go to a physical store or online, or you call customer service, the customer meeting in the various channels is your face to the outside world. The most professional companies now focus on delivering equally well in all the channels where they have customer meetings," says Sørby Johansen.
The commerce expert acknowledges that the state of affairs is challenging for the retail industry.
"Balancing online and physical sales is a demanding job. The period of restructuring and cementing that many are in now is mainly about taking out synergies, standardizing processes introduced during the pandemic, and ensuring that your business has control and overview," says Sørby Johansen.
"If you do this well, you can get an excellent effect in all channels."
A sizable task
Sørby Johansen has a clear recommendation to all retail companies looking to take a step further after a hectic pandemic shutdown.
"If I were a retail company, I would start with the customer journey - where the customer meetings occur - and then work my way back. You should go up all these links and map them throughout the application landscape," says Sørby Johansen.
Those who have recently started offering home delivery from a physical store, for example, can start from the moment the customer first interacts with the store and then work backward to standardize the entire customer journey so that it becomes a good process for all customers.
"It's all about making relevant data available to the sales personnel and customers so that you can ensure a consistent experience across all channels," says Sørby Johansen.