How should companies respond to the new norms of post-pandemic shopping?
[Photo] 5xRuby Software Development Co-Founder Mu-Fan Teng
Compared to other countries, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions imposed by Taiwan have been much shorter in duration, but the lack of timely response for businesses has led to bankruptcies and closing-down of various traditional retail stores and restaurants. Many businesses are still waiting for a return to “normality”. Unfortunately, we have witnessed the closing of a century-old Japanese store, which had stayed open even during wars. Some famous restaurants in Taiwan, despite provision of online delivery service during the pandemic, also closed due to expensive rent. Companies should be aware that this is not the time to simply wait for the environment to improve. In this regard, 5xRuby software development co-founder Mu-Fan Teng said that the challenges have only just begun. Companies need to “initiate searches” for opportunities to overcome difficulties. Teng offers the following two recommendations:
1. Traditional Retail Businesses: Sustainable Profitability is the Key
Revenue streams being blocked by the pandemic are indeed the main challenges facing businesses. Teng reminds everyone that even though the Internet can allow consumers to make purchases easily, companies must think about their brands long-term. “Digital transformation” should not be a hasty decision made due to the pandemic. The world has undergone various transformations, and consumer buying habits continue to change over time. The only constant is the necessity to establish a method of “sustainable profit” for their brands.
Nowadays, many third-party e-commerce platforms are available for businesses. Companies must evaluate the strength and weaknesses of their own products, and decide on the most suitable sales channels. For example, some physical shops offer customers the option to order online and pickup at stores to establish more flexible operations. Other businesses added online sales channels for the short-term to supplement incomes during the pandemic period. These are all measures for coping with the current environment. Regardless of the method, traditional retail businesses should establish avenues for profit that are effectively ready to handle various unexpected situations.
2. Businesses with Existing E-Commerce Platforms: Strengthen the Checkout and Logistics Systems
E-commerce platform operators or businesses that have already adopted a third-party e-commerce platform will likely dodge the wave of closures experienced by physical stores. Among the problems still to be addressed, however, is strengthening the checkout function. “Checkout systems” on an e-commerce platform are the first to be affected when there are a large volume of transactions. And, in the event of a checkout crash, consumers will leave right away. When traffic volumes surge, system demands also increase. The probability of a crash can be reduced with an implementation of professional “automated load distribution”.
Secondly, the logistics management mechanism must be strengthened. During the pandemic, we have all seen large e-commerce networks face the challenges of logistics congestion and delayed shipments, which lead to consumer dissatisfaction. Faced with a massive amount of orders, a comprehensive logistics mechanism must be set up in the backend. Where possible, manual labor should be replaced with system operations for a more precise logistic management SOP. Immediately after the pandemic outbreak, some e-commerce businesses developed their own logistic management systems to ensure smooth operations. This is very much related to their basic IT infrastructure. Teng described the problem using an analogy: “Continuing to build on top of an unstable and weak foundation will not resolve fundamental issues.” It’s necessary to update the system regularly, so that new development is possible in response to emergencies.
When brands establish their own online shopping platforms in response to the new post-pandemic normc, consumers will also enjoy a myriad of choices. Companies that do not build brand loyalty among consumers are likely to lose many orders, such as when the ship-date is increasingly delayed. Consumers are likely to lose confidence in the brand when they are unable to obtain a clear reply. Furthermore, without introductions from the sales staff at a physical store, it is essential to provide excellent online customer service and product introductions to consumers. Faced with this new norm, companies need to quickly find a way to survive, while presenting their very best to customers!