India has roughly 15 lakh modern retail stores that generate close to Rs 4.74 lakh crore worth business and employs 60 lakh, people, approximately.
In a recent interview, Kumar Rajgopalan, chief executive, Retailers Association of India (RAI said -“About 40% of the six million employees working in India’s modern, rather than traditional, retail sector could likely lose their jobs in the next four months if the government does not intervene.”
The expected impact of COVID-19 as of now is hard to ascertain. The situation across countries continues to change almost daily. But one thing is clear: the new coronavirus will have both short- and long-term influences on retail (and the world in general).
The severity of the impact of COVID-19 on the retail sector is still majorly unknown. Yet the storm has set in and is said to have both short and long-term influences on retail.
The entire trajectory of the impact of COVID-19 can be divided into three phases:
According to a recent survey conducted by the Retailers Association of India (RAI), the retail industry is staring at huge layoffs and food retailers might experience an 80-100% reduction in sales due to the corona virus-induced lockdown. The survey also noted that small retailers might slash 30% of their manpower while mid-sized retailers may shed 12% and large retailers close to 5%. Many retailers have started introducing smart shopping carts and self- checkout options to achieve new benchmarks of convenient shopping experience. Contactless payment methods online cash transfers, mobile wallets, single touch payments, payment through scanning code, etc. have shown an exponential increase in the country.
The non-food retail business has come to a standstill in the COVID-19 inducted lockdown amounting to zero revenue. More than 95% of non-food retailers have closed their shops and have reported zero revenue amidst lockdown. In the next six months, the retailers can expect to earn only 40% of last year’s revenues.
Most food retailers also sell non-essential goods in the same or different stores. In the next six months, food retailers can expect to earn 56% of last year’s revenues.
Emkay Global says- Covid-19 disruption seems to be wide and deep, and unlike the demonetization, impact on consumer incomes appears significant with the hit on daily wagers and pay cuts across companies. Consumer demand, which was already slowing down before this disruption, is likely to weaken further, thereby reducing our growth forecasts.”
The survey suggests that it will take at least six months for 70% of retailers to recover the losses. For the rest it can take more than a year.
It will be a while before COVID-19 succumbs but until that happens retailers and brands need to bring there A-game to beat the virus and bring their business back to life. Here are a few marketing strategies worth considering:
This is the perfect opportunity to make your in-store customers embrace digital channels. Leverage the in-store database to reach out to customers and make them aware of your offerings online with marketing messages such as ‘Your favourites and now available online.’
Give them some incentive for indulging with your brand digitally by providing loyalty benefits and launching replenishment campaigns to remind customers of items they purchased previously.
Treat your website as the entrance to your store and remind your customers what it feels like to be in a store again. Give them the digital experience of being in a store.
Make the website easy to navigate and, make use of geo-targeting models and web pop-ups to send timely updates to customers about timings, store closings, safety, etc.
Push notifications are a great way to engage with your customers as most of them are spending an ample amount of time on their mobiles right now. Keep a close eye on the customer’s wishlist and send them relevant notifications to pique their interest in purchasing again.
Establishing a social media presence is unavoidable at these times. Retailers must make their businesses social to stay relevant and on top of the customer’s mind. Retailers can post about current trends, what’s new. how they are maintaining safety standards during COVID-19 on their social media handles.
Retailers must send e-mails in the form of newsletters, product updates, etc. To interact with their existing or potential clients. They must launch subscription programs, give loyalty benefits and gift cards, and send tips and tricks to their customers.
People are constantly searching for solutions. Offer them valuable and insightful information in the form of blogs, videos, anecdotes to keep them hooked to your brand.
Using Google My Business Posts is an effective way to update your customers with the latest information ranging from your operational hours to gift-card purchases.
Retailers must use AI to their advantage by providing personalized experiences to customers. Robots are becoming immensely popular for performing many tasks in the retail sector such as customer handling, warehousing, logistics, inventory management, etc. They not only increase productivity but also achieve zero logistic defects.
With the change in consumer demands and expectations due to COVID-19, retailers need to keep up with their customers to gain a competitive advantage. They need to be proactive and tap the potential of mass digitization. They must use out-of-the-box retail formats and Millennial methods to achieve enhanced customer value. Moreover, they have to invest funds wisely towards building brand loyalty by customizing experiences
The future holds a very promising and fulfilling time for all the retailers around the globe if they implement digital strategies and improvise constantly.