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How To Grow Your Business After COVID-19

business

How To Grow Your Business After COVID-19

COVID-19 has upset economic forecasts and forced many companies worldwide to rethink their business strategy plan for the future. Finding success during this unprecedented time has been a painful process for many companies. Although the pandemic has brought new hurdles to businesses across the globe, it has also created loads of opportunities for retailers. A change in consumer behavior means more people are turning to online marketplaces for their shopping, which has redefined the position of ecommerce and online businesses in the retail sector. But this positive trend isn’t an assurance for future success. You need to develop a plan that intends the growth of your ecommerce business, in a post-pandemic context. Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Revise Your Current Marketing Strategy

Assess your current messaging process to establish whether you’re relaying the right message and positioning your business in the right way to succeed after the pandemic. This step will help you identify and get rid of marketing materials that don’t resonate with the current economic and social situation. Shun sending emails, updating on social media, or engaging in any marketing campaign that may seem insensitive.

Adjust your brand’s messaging to be in line with the unique needs and demands of your customers. Your message should show to both existing and potential customers the value they’ll get from buying your products or services. Offer appropriate, concise, and meaningful communication. Be sure to address the COVID-19 impacts, and the steps that you’re taking to bounce back big time. If you’re thinking about marketing your products to overseas consumers, consider entering a strategic partnership with a professional globalization partner.

2. Provide Unparalleled Digital Customer Experience

In a rapidly expanding ecommerce landscape where many sellers are providing the same products and services, offering better digital customer experience can set your business apart from your competitors. Some of the things that can help you deliver unrivaled digital customer experience include a smart and user-friendly interface, excellent support, efficient payment options, and the right technology infrastructure.

Poor networks and lack of strong data protection measures can easily damage an otherwise well-built customer experience. Websites and payment portals with poor loading speeds will drive customers away. Consumers will also avoid companies that are vulnerable to hacking and security breaches. So laying a solid foundational infrastructure for your ecommerce business can help it grow in leaps and bounds in the future.

3. Optimize Your Website and Incorporate Live Chat

Ensure your website is as responsive as possible and accessible on a wide array of devices. Enhance your website’s speed and ensure it’s extremely easy to use no matter the device the user is using to view it. Around 48 percent of people use mobile devices to search for product information and to shop. On top of that, 47 percent of digital shoppers prefer a site with a load speed of below two seconds. Avoid driving leads to competitors by creating a highly responsive and user-friendly site.

When a consumer is gathering product information while shopping, they expect answers to their questions right away. If they can’t get a quick response, they’re likely to move on to another online store. Live chat is almost equivalent to in-store customer service due to its ability to bring the advantages of human interactions. It adds a human touch to digital shopping. Most importantly, it can be done remotely.

4. Build Reliable and Diversified Supply Chains

The pandemic has demonstrated that the global economy relies extremely on supply chains, which are susceptible to disruption. With the increasing attention to digital customer experiences, ecommerce and online businesses must invest time and effort into consistently delivering products to consumers if they want to survive after COVID-19. Supply chain interruption can result in shipping and manufacturing setbacks if a company lacks a flexible plan to address ongoing demand.

In addition to investing in excellent network uptime, ecommerce businesses should look for multiple options for obtaining materials and labor. The best way to do this is nurturing relationships with a variety of suppliers, all of whom should have the capacity to comply with the intricate compliance requirements of different sectors. A globalization partner can also connect you with the best local vendors who’ll help you reliably deliver your products to your global customers.

5. Prepare for Capacity Growth

Invest in adequate technology infrastructures, such as servers and bandwidth, to help you deal with more ecommerce traffic. Do a thorough review of your past performances, revised marketing strategy, and latest ecommerce trends to gauge the amount of traffic you’re likely to attract. This information will be important in a proper estimation of demand and building the right capacity to exploit it.

Adopting cloud computing can help your business provide the best digital customer experience and react to ecommerce trends rapidly. It’s easy to upscale or downscale cloud computing capacity to handle growing demand quickly and effectively. For better control and flexibility, you can invest in a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

6. Be Transparent with Pricing and Consider Lowering Delivery Charges

Post-COVID-19, customer loyalty will be extremely crucial for your company. Consumers share their experiences, both positive and negative, on social media, and review sites. Negative reviews can have a major negative impact on your profits margin. Avoid concealing extra fees or details that may come as an undesirable surprise during the final stages of finalizing a purchase.  Be transparent from the initial stages to keep customers pleased and loyal.

A large number of regular online shoppers end up making more purchases when shipping is free or considerably low. Lowering or doing away with delivery charges could result in a significant uptick in sales. If your current profit margins can’t accommodate this, consider value addition. You can give a discounted delivery on purchases exceeding a specific value.

Conclusion

The high ecommerce demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to become permanent even after brick-mortar stores resume operation, especially if it follows the normal trends of online shopping habits. Companies that adapt quickly will stand a better chance at growing their businesses and expanding their profit margins by exploiting this great opportunity. The above 6 tips will help them grow their businesses even in post-pandemic circumstances.

retail

The Art of Successful Multi-Channeling in Retail Sector

Headlines seem to be nothing but doom and gloom for the retail industry. Footfall on the UK high street was down 40% in July. Thousands of staff have been laid off by companies many would have considered unbreakable. Major high street names are closing stores by the score, and many others have started administration procedures. And yet, in the worst retail crisis of a generation, there are those that see an opportunity for the future – and that opportunity is e-commerce. While it can be tempting to adopt a “wait until this is all over” attitude (particularly when it comes to investing in new projects when budgets are already tight) the businesses that are leading the field in these difficult times are those that are making the most of this time to rethink and reboot their online portfolio.

It’s clear that in the current climate it’s vital for any retailer to have their own online store, but with more than half of B2C e-commerce transactions taking place on marketplaces, any successful e-tail strategy will need to involve multi-channeling. But it’s not as simple as listing on as many marketplaces and possible and just expecting buyers to start appearing – in order to gain the most benefits, retailers need to dedicate as much time and effort to multi-channeling as they do with their own e-commerce store. This may seem like too much hard work, but when you look at the benefits of marketplaces you may want to re-evaluate your priorities.

No matter how high your website appears on Google rankings, if you don’t offer your products on marketplaces you may be missing out on potential customers. Based on a recent 2019 survey, up to 49% of users start their search for products on Amazon compared with just 22% on Google. Many of these go on to make their purchase straight away – even if they’ve never come across a brand before, the level off trust provided by the marketplace itself gives consumers the confidence to try brands that they may otherwise not have considered. Other users search for products on Amazon before researching brands off the platform and may often decide to purchase from the brand page directly, so this sense Amazon can also work as an extra marketing channel to raise awareness of your brand.

But despite its apparent monopoly over the e-commerce sector, it’s important to remember that Amazon may not be for everyone. Particularly in the fashion industry, many retailers believe selling on Amazon may cheapen their product image due to the fact that so many Amazon retailers are from the low cost, super-fast fashion sector. Which brings us to one of the most important parts of your e-commerce strategy – choosing the right marketplaces for you.

When sales are struggling it can be tempting to sign up to as many platforms as possible, to go for the most well-known sites or the largest potential audiences. However, this tactic will only result in spreading your portfolio too thin and it’s all too easy to neglect under-performing sites. More effective use of your time and effort is to first analyze which marketplaces are best for your brand. Think of them as a department store – your products might be a great fit for John Lewis, but you wouldn’t necessarily want them displayed in a Walmart. And vice versa – Walmart brands are unlikely to enjoy much success by stocking in John Lewis stores. There are also a number of niche marketplaces that might be a perfect fit for your brand and allow you to access your ideal audience without the excess competition of the major players. Research each platform, look at what type of brands use them, consider online reviews and check customer testimonials. Investigate their terms – are they compatible with your own? Do they offer advertising options and detailed analytics? Finally, if looking at the attractive expansion possibilities of the international market, bear in mind local legislation.

While it may be tempting to access the huge potential of the Chinese e-commerce scene (worth an estimated $1.94 trillion USD), export laws and duties are much more complicated (and regional rather than national in some cases), so unless you have a native Chinese speaking e-commerce expert on your team you may want to leave this on the back burner.

Once you’ve chosen your selected marketplaces it’s time to optimize your listings. Bear in mind that it shouldn’t be a case of simply copying and pasting the same product descriptions for every site – this can have a negative effect on your SEO and you’ll be competing against your own online store. While it’s time-consuming, it’s highly recommended to create SEO optimized product descriptions for each marketplace you use. Look at your top competitors – what keywords are they using? How are they pitching their product? Where can your products stand out from theirs? It’s not a case of simply listing as many keywords as you can, try to create an attractive product description that will entice potential customers, but also provide enough detailed information so that there are no unexpected surprises (this should also help you reduce the rate of returns).

Where possible, you may want to dedicate some of your marketing budgets to platform-specific advertising to make sure your products are seen first, particularly when you’re new and there is a lot of competition to deal with. Many of the larger marketplaces offer assistance in setting up campaigns to make sure that your advertising budget is well-targeted, so you may even see more success than with traditional SEM.

So you’ve set up your listings, created advertising campaigns and you’re waiting for orders to start flooding in. But that’s not the end of the story. Maintenance of your channels needs to be a top priority, and the ability to react quickly to trends is the key to success. You’re unlikely to create the perfect listing straight away, but by looking at trends and reviewing your search analytics you can make small amendments to increase visibility, bring more consumers to your products, and convert more sales.

Rather than attempting to improve all of your products at once, it may be worth testing an update on one or two products and checking it’s a success before moving onto the rest. You don’t want to waste time and energy updating your whole portfolio only to find that your update actually has a negative result! As with all marketing, it’s important to be open to trial and error and to stay abreast of changes in the market and how they may affect you.

With so much preparatory work involved, it may sometimes seem like an impossible task to keep your marketplace portfolio under control. But one of the benefits of working with marketplaces is that there are a number of time-saving services that they offer which can reduce your in-house logistics and offset the time you invest in your listings. Many of the major marketplaces offer warehousing and fulfillment options, while even low-cost marketplaces like eBay provide centralized shipping solutions that can take the hassle out of pricing, particularly for international orders. With logistics being one of the most time-consuming and costly parts of the e-commerce process, having access to some of the most advanced shipment and logistics solutions available can quickly improve your customer experience and protect your investment.

With an ever-growing proliferation of e-tail stores online, the centralized accessibility provided by marketplaces is gaining ever more traction and is estimated to grow to up to 65% of the e-commerce market by 2022. And with the simple set up and low investment required to start out, they provide an invaluable service to retailers of all types looking to expand their reach. The current crisis has adversely affected sales throughout the industry as never before, but perhaps we can use this lull to our advantage and give our retail businesses the opportunity to reach a wider audience than ever before?

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TradeGala – the B2B online marketplace has taken the user-friendly marketplace platform and reimagined it for the wholesale industry. Brands and retailers can now connect online with the same ease as ordering a weekly shop. TradeGala – the future of the wholesale fashion industry.

omni-channel

Omnichannel Technology – A Holistic Approach to Retail?

As brands and retailers struggle to stay afloat in the chaos caused by COVID-19, e-commerce has been a game-changer for some and a lifeline for many. Despite non-essential stores in the UK being granted the right to open their doors over a month ago, footfall continues to be disappointing, at just 50% of what it was a year ago. We clearly can’t rely on a bounce back to normal as many had once hoped. Coronavirus fears are likely to remain until there is a vaccine or a truly significant drop in infections, with some experts estimating that the worst effects of the crisis could continue well into the first quarter of 2021.

Many previously brick-and-mortar-only stores are now adding e-commerce options to their arsenal – the Shopify share price alone has more than doubled since February. However, despite a rush to digitalize, the fashion industry has been one of the hardest hit by the crisis – homeworkers are less likely to buy new clothes; special events, vacations and parties have been canceled; and apparel is often the first cutback consumers make when looking to save on costs. We may be able to survive by using e-commerce options, but in order to once more thrive perhaps, it’s time to start thinking about e-commerce, not as a separate digital version of our stores for the online customer, but as a vital part of all of our customers’ holistic online/offline experience. Consumer habits are changing, and if the high street is to survive, it will need to create an immersive experience that makes the customer’s life easy, whether online or off.

Which brings us to omni-channel retail. Most professionals in the e-commerce and retail sectors use this terminology to apply to the practice of listing products across various online marketplaces. But what if we think of it in another way? What if omni-channel or “all channels” referred to every point in which we are in contact with the customer across their retail journey? From a poster on the street to an advert on Facebook, a visit to our store or a comparison of prices online. Imagine a fully integrated experience in which the customer journey is seamless and pleasurable. In order to achieve this we need new technologies, but fortunately, it’s not a case of inventing the wheel. There are already a number of futuristic technologies that have been around for some time, although it’s only recently that their functionality in the future of retail is being truly explored. With TradeGala – the B2B online marketplace, B2B fashion is simplified for both brands and buyers, with a retail-like, user-friendly e-commerce platform that allows buyers to go from order to receipt in less than a week.

Augmented Reality

Just a year or so ago, the idea of trying on clothes, shoes or make-up “virtually” seemed like something out of a Blade Runner fantasy. And yet, we’re all familiar with the Snapchat filters which gave us instant cat ears or allowed us to see what we’d look like in 50 years’ time. The first of these filters came out over 5 years ago, so the technology is certainly not new – and now Snapchat itself has partnered with footwear giants such as Nike and Adidas to allow consumers to try on a pair of virtual shoes before they buy. Zeekit is another industry pioneer, creating a virtual dressing room experience that allows online shoppers to “try on” clothing from home, taking into consideration the specifications of the product along with the customer’s height and body type. Within the beauty industry, Sephora and MAC were some of the first to introduce the Virtual Mirror to selected stores, allowing clients to try out different shades of makeup via an interactive “mirror” before making a purchase. Considered by some to be a gimmick at the time, with recent concerns about hygiene in both beauty and fashion, AR technologies are likely to become a necessity moving forward into a more health-conscious future, both at home and in stores.

Mobile Integration

QR codes are becoming ever more present in our lives. Bars and restaurants are using them to allow customers to download menus or make orders without going to the bar, while in New Zealand stores must display unique QR codes with which customers can trace their movements as part of the COVID Tracking app. Some forward-thinking retailers are using the same technology to help bridge the online/offline experience – Lone Design Club in London has been experimenting with window shopping QR codes, allowing customers passing their store to scan the products in their display and order directly online before taking another step. Even as stores open, consumers are likely to be wary of crowds and queueing at tills, but this versatile technology offers them the chance to check the stock in-store before they enter, and even scan and pay for items via their phone, thus minimizing their time in-store and contact with assistants and other shoppers.

Squad shopping

Online video conferencing and chat has now become part of our everyday lives, not only at work but in order to stay in touch with friends and family while separated. It’s no longer unusual for friends to watch a film together online while hundreds of miles apart, or have dinner and drinks via Whatsapp. And, thanks to apps such Squadded, online retailers can now recreate the fun of shopping with friends online – with peer advice and encouragement being a tried and tested booster for both sales and customer satisfaction. Many big brands including Asos, Boohoo and Missguided have already adopted the technology, and Chinese consumers (often ahead of the crowd) have embraced the trend with social e-commerce sales in the first quarter of 2020 already eclipsing the whole of 2019.

Livestream Shopping

Another trend that has become hugely popular in China, livestream shopping is the QVC of social media, and it’s causing a stir as brands start to take notice. China’s leading live commerce platform, Taobao Live, has reported a 150% growth year on year over the past 3 years, and the Coronavirus lockdown has only increased its popularity. Popular influencers model products, answer questions & give their opinion while offers and limited stock alerts flash up on the screen, and eager viewers can go from like to purchase in a simple click. Influencer marketing is already big business, livestream retail is perhaps the next logical step in the customer journey.

Just a few years ago, most of these technologies would have seemed out of reach, accessible only to the biggest brands with the fattest wallets. But now, with social media platforms incorporating more and more online services into their portfolios, e-commerce SAS providers constantly upping their game, and app designers creating low-cost solutions at an alarming rate, retailers of all sizes can now jump on the omni-channel trend. E-commerce is the future of retail, but it may not be e-commerce as we know it. To paraphrase Squadded’s acute observation – Buying is the result, Shopping should be an experience.

fashion

Post-COVID-19: Slowing Down Fast Fashion and the Retail Sector

As brands and retailers scramble to adapt to the post-COVID-19 world, one thing is clear – the fast fashion trend that has dominated the sector as we know it is no longer sustainable.

The race to get ahead of the competition has ended up distorting fashion’s seasonality – whereas once the bi-annual fashion shows were held 4-5 months ahead of the upcoming season in order to allow brands and buyers time to create forward-orders and produce stock, these days retailers rush the latest trends from the catwalk to the stores within a question of days. It’s no longer unusual to see Summer dresses on the shelves in February and Winter coats in the stores before August is out. And yet consumers, bombarded with the latest fashion trends at all hours of the day via social media influencers and celebrities, want fashion they can wear now, not in months’ time. So in order to stay relevant, retailers are pressured to buy stock months in advance of when it’s needed, and then end up having to sell it off at sale prices just as it’s coming into season so they can introduce the never-ending round of latest trends.

This problem has confounded the industry for some time, but there seemed to be no way out of it – nobody wanted to be the first to “slow down.” And yet here we are, after months of enforced factory lock-downs and store closures, with an unexpected opportunity to rethink the way the industry works.

Gucci announced in late March that it would lead the way into a more mindful future, abandoning “the worn-out ritual of seasonalities” by reducing their number of yearly shows from five to just two. Other major brands were quick to follow suit, with a focus on less season-influenced and gender-exclusive collections, creating more fluid styles designed to last for months and years as opposed to the buy-wear-throwaway designs that have taken such a toll on our environment. It’s not just the brands themselves who are calling for change, consumers are becoming more aware of the impact the fashion industry has on our planet and demand for sustainable fashion has never been higher.

However, sustainable fashion production itself is still in its infancy and there are still a limited number of brands that are wholly dedicated to reducing the social and environmental impact of clothing production. But by changing the way retailers buy and sell their products we may see a real change in the reduction of waste before the product even reaches the consumer, and help end the practice of brands destroying unsold stock in order to maintain a fabricated “exclusivity.” It’s a case of changing the industry mindset, from fast fashion to fast provisioning, in which retailers can react quickly to new trends and only buy what they actually need. Those retailers who have embraced this new “test and repeat” model are among the few to have come out of the crisis with increased profits, as they were able to respond almost immediately to the changing demands of the consumer and weren’t stuck trying to offload months’ worth of dead stock to a public for whom it was no longer relevant.

For small retailers, the benefits are obvious – purchasing small amounts of stock regularly based on customer demand frees up storage space, reduces forward investment, and minimizes financial risk. Plus, they are still able to offer regular stock updates and variety which continues to be a major attraction in a social media influenced society with a notoriously short attention span.

Wholesale brands are looking for new ways to reach their buyers, offering livestock that can be delivered in a matter of days. With TradeGala – the B2B online marketplace, B2B fashion is simplified for both brands and buyers, with a retail-like, user-friendly e-commerce platform that allows buyers to go from order to receipt in less than a week.

The Coronavirus has forced an entire industry to stop, take stock of its problems,, and start looking for solutions. Amid the suffering and struggle that undoubtedly still lays ahead for the industry, this crisis offers us an unprecedented opportunity to change, hopefully for the better.

shopping

Impulsive Shopping and Post-Pandemic Consumer Behavior

Picture this. You are in the supermarket in your neighborhood queuing to pay and see some delicious and totally irresistible chocolates that you did not even think about buying but that now are something that has become essential. That is what in marketing is called “impulsive buying” and, for example in the case of supermarkets, it is their main source of benefits.

Let’s take it up a notch. Have you thought about how you can translate an Instagram or Facebook like into a sale? That’s called Influencer Marketing, and I’ll show you how to unleash this online technique by starting a conversation and ultimately driving sales and establishing impulsive shopping, whether this was your initial objective or not. Remember, one like, share or comment, might equal one sale.

The Internet and mobile devices, as instant tools, favor impulsive purchases. Different promotions present on your website can trigger unplanned purchases by Internet users. Imagine being able to have those displays that are in the boxes of the supermarkets integrated into the design and shopping experience of your online store… How much extra income could they bring you? The experience may surprise you.

Flash sales (Time-limited): Flash sales are time-limited sales that are very often used in e-commerce to encourage impulsive buying. Generated by an attractive offer but limited in time, the user has to make a quick decision if he does not want to miss this opportunity. It works very well, especially in specific seasons where people are willing to spend more money (Christmas, back to school, Halloween).

Free shipping: The hook is to set a minimum purchase price so that the shipping costs are free and, if the customer does not yet have that amount, offer low-cost products in the checkout process that achieve the minimum required quantity. If we use products that far exceed the minimum amount, it will not work, but if they are inexpensive and related to the purchase that has been made, success is practically guaranteed.

Stock level: Showing available stocks can, to some extent, favor impulsive buying. If the number of products in stock is low, the interested visitor will tend to buy their product for fear of not finding it again at the price proposed in your online store.

Give away discount coupons or free products (gift): On condition of making a purchase, of course. This type of tactic has been shown to also boost sales since the customer must buy in order to receive their gift.

Expiration date:  Discounts on these types of items range between 20 percent and 50 percent of their initial price. For example, if they are products that expire the next day, the price is usually cut in half, but if we talk about products that have weeks to expire, the discount stays between 20 percent and 30 percent. Stores free themselves of products that would end up in the garbage and without any benefit if not bought, while customers get a good deal for a product that they would either buy or just purchase to take advantage of that specific occasion.

After the pandemic

From toilet paper in the early pandemic to bleach and flour, during this crisis consumers have modified its consumption and its way of making the purchase. But what will the consumer be like after pandemic? It is evident that many consumers have had to test the online channel as a result of this crisis, and they have realized how comfortable and safe it is for them.

The confinement has made the segment of the population that least bought online, those over 55-60 years old, now the group that needs it the most, especially those over 70, who are the most vulnerable to the disease and those who, therefore, should be more confined and without the help of their families. Although the consumer preferred to buy some specific products in person; if consumers verify that the product they receive at home meets their expectations, it is very likely that after the crisis it will continue to do so.

On the same line of shifting consumer behavior, for instance, some of the most popular products today are related to protecting employees and separating consumers with employees, like speak-thru devices, trays and shelves, and sliding service windows.

Where do impulsive purchases predominate: in physical stores or on the internet?

Physical stores are the main claim to get a customer to buy without having thought about it before. This fact is partly logical because most impulsive products are food, clothing, drinks, and personal care products. If discounts and promotions are added to that, the mix is ​​perfect. Supermarkets, shopping malls, and convenience stores are the central places for this type of sales.

Furthermore, some stores go the extra mile by using techniques that play with your senses, by releasing exquisite coffee and fresh cookie smell to get you in, even if they’re not in the food business.

Online advertising is the least appreciated to generate buying impulses, but that does not mean that their tactics are useless: Brands that use digital platforms as the first approach and establish the first connection have the potential to reap the benefits when the time comes to make the final purchase in the store, according to a study by Geoblink. 69 percent of those surveyed stated having bought between one and five products spontaneously in the last week, while 26 percent admitted having made between six and ten purchases of this type.

The millennial generation is the one that buys the most on impulse: a small group of 7 percent have bought up to 11 items without foresight in the last week. The previous facts serve as a great opening remark of the aforementioned Influencer Marketing technique. If you got until this part of the story, it means that there’s impulsive buyer material within you.

Influencer Marketing is nothing more than getting the right people to talk about you, firstly triggering your target audience to talk about you, secondly prompting that audience talking to each other about you, and finally you and the audience listening to each other. When this two-way conversation is in place, it is very probable that some of your social media likes, whether on Instagram or Facebook, are in fact translating into sales in your physical or online store.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule on digital impulsive buying: the first, that those who already have a subscription to a platform like Amazon, which avoids having to go through several stages before buying, are better able to combat the impulsive factor. The second: when the object to buy is an electronic item. 55 percent of the participants chose the Internet as the preferred medium for the impulsive purchase of these items.

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Featured in the Best Online Shops 2020 – Newsweek, DK Hardware is one of the largest online home improvement retailers for a variety of hardware manufacturers all over the United States and Canada.

boohoo

The Boohoo’s Trade Ascendency – What Can we Learn?

The Coronavirus crisis has taken it’s fair share of victims in the world of retail, tolling the death knell for a whole slew of companies including Debenhams, Long Tall Sally, Cath Kidson, Warehouse and Oasis. And yet, recent news tells us all is not lost – Boohoo has stepped in and bought the online businesses of both Warehouse and Oasis for a bargain £5.25m. It’s no surprise that e-commerce based retailers have been less hard-hit than their high-street counterparts, but even so, the majority of e-tailers have reported losses during the crisis. Not so Boohoo. Despite a slight downturn when the crisis hit, sales shot back up in May and they closed the first quarter with a 45% sales increase on the previous year. So what is it that makes Boohoo so special?

Their secret it seems is in their provisioning – the “Test and Repeat” model. Rather than making major forward orders and holding large amounts of stock in their warehouse, they instead purchase small product runs, test them on the site, and then restock quickly the products that work well, discarding those that don’t. This has been vital during the COVID-19 crisis as it allowed Boohoo to switch their product range from party and club styles to loungewear and athleisure within a matter of days, adapting to their audience’s requirements without missing a beat. As the retail sector faces an uncertain future it’s worth considering whether this business model may be the solution for retailers everywhere, whatever their size.

The difficulty is sourcing products quickly enough to make it work. There’s no point in having a successful test-run of a certain product if, when the first batch sells out, your restock order from suppliers in China or India can take up to 2 months to arrive – by this point the bird will have well and truly flown. Boohoo combats this by stocking mainly UK based suppliers, and with imports affected by travel restrictions and breaks in the supply chain, sourcing products locally is, without doubt, the obvious solution (particularly with Brexit on the horizon). Some retailers may balk at the higher prices, but with lower risks and less deadstock, the benefits do seem to outweigh the increased costs.

The Coronavirus crisis has forced an entire industry to stop and think, literally. How can we change the way we work to face the challenges that have taken us all by surprise? Short-order provisioning may be a way for businesses to adapt to this new situation and respond to the rapid changes in consumer demand that are sure to continue over the coming months, however, this is likely to be a step outside of the comfort zone for many retailers who are used to ordering for season months in advance.

The good news is that there are simple options to help with the switch to the “Test and Repeat” model. TradeGala offers ready-to-ship stock from over 50 independent fashion brands covering womenswear, menswear, childrenswear, accessories, gifts and shoes. It’s simple to register and you can go from initial order to receipt of goods in just a few days. Whether or not the recent changes signal the future of the fashion retail industry, as with any business, adaptation is survival. Is your retail business ready for the “new normal”?

consumer

As Consumer Habits Change, How Can Businesses Keep Up?

American consumers don’t act and buy the way they did just a few short months ago – at least most of them don’t.

The pandemic and the need for social distancing led to an upsurge in online buying. Takeout and delivery replaced, at least temporarily, dining out. Many consumers, worried about the health risks of spending time in grocery stores, turned to services that would do their shopping for them.

Now, as the country tries to reopen and seek the next normal, businesses across the nation must figure out which of those consumer behaviors will become permanent, which were temporary, and whether any new ones yet unthought of might emerge.

“We live in a time when information can become outdated pretty quickly, and that’s become even more true because of COVID-19,” says Janét Aizenstros (www.janetaizenstros.com), a serial entrepreneur and the chairwoman and CEO of Ahava Digital, a company that ethically sources data on American consumers.

“The businesses that are going to succeed moving forward are those that grasp what consumers want and understand their changing habits.”

In contrast, those businesses that fail to understand what the latest consumer data is telling them, and are slow to adapt to the changes in consumer behavior, are going to be at risk, Aizenstros says.

She says going forward, businesses need to:

-Be prepared to pivot. Business leaders must be flexible. Many restaurants figured that out when the pandemic began, Aizenstros points out. Patrons could no longer dine-in, so the restaurants put an emphasis on takeout and delivery services. In the same way, each business will need to figure out how it can adapt and adjust its services or products to meet what customers want and need, she says.

-Gather reliable consumer data. With the internet, social media and numerous other sources, there is plenty of information available today about consumers, but not all of it is reliable. Make sure data comes from a quality source and that it reflects as much as possible the current thinking and behavior among consumers, Aizenstros says. “Businesses that fail to use reliable data and stay on top of the consumer trends,” she says, “will have a difficult time thriving as we go forward.”

-Take steps to make consumers feel comfortable. Even as people venture out more to dine in restaurants or shop in person, a Gallup survey shows they still plan to exercise caution. Businesses can help themselves by letting consumers know what steps they are taking to keep their stores, restaurants, and offices as safe as possible. “This is just another example of understanding and keeping up with what consumers want,” Aizenstros says.

Businesses have always had their plans and operations disrupted by both technological advancements and changing consumer habits. But rarely does consumer behavior evolve as quickly as it did in the early months of 2020 – and the changes didn’t always happen in easily predictable ways.

“Some areas such as home decor and fashion have done well recently,” Aizenstros says. “At the same time, we are seeing trends with businesses like J.C. Penney, Hertz and others struggling and filing for bankruptcy. It’s hard to keep up with consumer thinking unless your data is consistent, relevant and accurate. But if you understand what your customers want and work to give it to them, your business will have the opportunity to prosper.”

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Janét Aizenstros (www.janetaizenstros.com) is a serial entrepreneur and the chairwoman and CEO of Ahava Digital, which provides businesses and investors with ethically-sourced verified data about American consumers. Her background includes roles in finance at TD Canada Trust, Canon, and Brookfield LePage Johnson Controls, along with management consulting in a broad range of functions, such as supply chain operations, data analysis, and strategic thinking. She has a doctorate in metaphysical sciences with a specialization in conscious business ethics.

retailers

Fashion Retailers & Brands will need to Adapt As the Industry Emerges from the Pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the entire industry into crisis. Beyond its tragic human cost, the disruption inflicted on businesses has been unprecedented. Footfall has disappeared from the high street as people practice social distancing, while demand for non-essential products such as fashion has dwindled.

With international flights grounded and much of Europe and the United States on lockdown, boutiques are concerned about how they will shift this season’s summer dresses and beachwear. Likewise, small independent fashion brands are apprehensive about retail sell-through and how their stockist partners will be able to pay their invoices.

For many businesses, innovation will be key to getting through this extremely challenging time. The government has laid out plans to help businesses with schemes such as loans and grants. However, this type of aid will only stretch so far.

Some boutiques are taking drastic measures to reach their customers. Several closed their bricks-and-mortar stores early on, deciding to concentrate on their online offering to ride out the storm. Meanwhile, those retailers without an online presence have been thinking outside of the box. Some have locked their doors for one-to-one appointments while others are conducting telephone consultations on FaceTime and personal shopping sessions via WhatsApp.

But selling to customers is just one part of retailing. Buying for the store and its shoppers is just as critical for sustaining a profitable business. Trade shows, buying trips and fashion shows are a fundamental part of the chain – and we have already seen many cancellations since the outbreak began to take hold. Will the pandemic be over when brands re-open their order books for SS21?

Forward ordering is another concern for many small independent retailers right now. With sales of SS20 season stock now under threat, many are worried about AW20 orders written just weeks ago arriving in July and August. If they decide to cancel now, what happens if sales begin to pick up and they’re left with empty rails? Likewise, if they don’t cancel, will they end up with surplus stock that they can’t pay for?

For many, using budgets to buy in-season offers a straightforward solution. Because when the panic subsides and sales begin to pick up – which they inevitably will – ensuring that stores have the right stock in place for shoppers will once again be paramount.

B2B fashion marketplaces such as TradeGala will become increasingly important for retailers. Effectively removing the need to travel or visit trade shows and showrooms, buyers can browse multiple brands online and place orders directly. The brands on the site offer in-season delivery, meaning retailers can order what they need as and when they need it. Plus, it’s easy to check live stock at a glance so buyers can see exactly what’s available with just a few clicks – minimizing any concern surrounding supply chains.

For brands, TradeGala is offering free registration during this crisis period to offer time to prepare for when the market revives. The marketplace is also building its international following of buyers, allowing labels to reach buyers in markets that are less affected by the crisis to help minimize the drop in sales.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and the retail sector needs to adapt in order to survive. There is a challenging time ahead, but retailers and brands are working together in new and effective ways. More than ever before, it’s time to support each other. And if there’s one thing this industry is good at it’s triumphing over adversity.

retail

The Impact of COVID-19 on Online Retail

Online supply store DK Hardware examines how the pandemic is changing the habits and overall consumer behavior of online shoppers.

After more than a month of confinement, we all dream of the day when everything returns to how it was before, and we can resume our not so old habits. However, it is more realistic to think that COVID-19 has come to stay and that, after this first devastating wave, the entire population will have to remain extremely responsible and we will suffer the consequences of this pandemic for longer than we would like. We do not stop living one of those moments in history in which the foundations of our society are shaken and we experience profound changes that will prevent us from returning to the point where we were a few weeks ago.

This first month of confinement is forcing us to adopt new habits and customs that we will maintain once the state of alarm is lifted, customs that will leave consequences in multiple aspects of our lives. In this post we are going to focus on everything related to new buying habits, otherwise, it would be too long.

Change of Habits

One of the first pieces of news that hit us all hard was knowing that we could only step on the street to buy basic necessities. When we found out, we all ran to loot the supermarkets as if we had seen the four horsemen of the apocalypse arrive. Once the first moment of panic was over (fear is very powerful and completely irrational), we gradually adapted to the new situation and discovered that these small forays into the streets in search of food, medicine, within others, it was anything but pleasant: lines surrounding the supermarkets with people more than 1.5 meters dressed from top to bottom with gloves and masks, security measures to access the premises, lonely buyers fleeing from anyone who invades their personal space … measures completely justified and that we must respect, but that makes it almost traumatic to go shopping.

But this change does not stop here: during the last month, we did not know very well if the rest of online retailers dedicated to the sale of products that are not essential items would continue to operate normally. This uncertainty took its toll on this ecommerce, but once the doubt was cleared and, seeing that the orders were made and arrived relatively normally, we found the second great change in habits: buying everything that we need or want in online stores. Yes, even supplies for your home.

Has your bathroom shower window broken, and you cannot go to your usual store? You can buy it online. Have you been thinking about changing your kitchen’s plumbing system now that you’re spending more time at home? Well, you can buy it online. Companies like DK Hardware, one of the largest online home improvement retailers for a variety of hardware manufacturers all over the United States and Canada, have your back.

Think Global, Act Local

Online retail is there to satisfy your needs and now it has more prominence than ever. This situation is causing many SMEs and local businesses that saw that the online channel was only a complement or did not even consider working on that channel, have woken up from one day to the next and now consider it their priority (and if not I don’t know what they are waiting for). While many companies, both large and small, keep their productivity levels in check thanks to the option of telecommuting, many businesses are going digital so as not to be left behind and remain part of the game.

And After This, What?

The post-coronavirus world will be an even more digitized world in which the battle to get users to choose us will be even fiercer: let’s not forget that a large part of the population does not have the purchasing power it had before the pandemic and that the longer the confinement lengthens, the longer and more severe will be the economic crisis that the country is facing. In these circumstances, these factors will be key:

Price: The price war will continue to be something that online retail has to live with. The excessive stock in the warehouses together with a society that is going to look at the price with a magnifying glass, will force the stores to have competitive and attractive products.

Loyalty: With so many new players on the board, it will be more difficult to get your buyers to be loyal and make recurring purchases in the same store. Therefore, establishing a good loyalty strategy is going to be mandatory.

Omnichannel: It is more important than ever to attract and retain users, so we cannot forget the power of working multiple channels at the same time, building a powerful brand image and with the aim of being more in contact with our users: social networks, email marketing, SEO, SEM are some of the examples of channels that must be perfectly coordinated and that will work as one.

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Featured in the Best Online Shops 2020 – Newsweek, DK Hardware is one of the largest online home improvement retailers for a variety of hardware manufacturers all over the United States and Canada.

young workers

YOUNG WORKERS WILL BE THE LONG-TERM CASUALTIES OF COVID-19

They are the ones who will bear the brunt of the coronavirus recession.

A little more than a decade ago, millennial college students graduated into what was then the worst economy in decades. In the United States, the Great Recession wreaked long-term damage on young people, many of whom faced slim job prospects along with mountains of student debt. Compared to earlier generations, these young adults today have less wealth, more debt and are less likely to be financially secure.

Today’s youngest workers could have it even worse. Young workers – who make up a disproportionate share of workers in hospitality, food service, retail and other service industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic – are likely to shoulder the worst of the coming recession.

Young workers: first to feel the pain

Young workers have been among the first to feel the pain as the restaurant, retail, and hotel industries reel from the initial impacts of the pandemic. Marriott, for instance, has furloughed tens of thousands of employees. So, too, have Hilton and Hyatt. Many small businesses are forced to close shop or lay off most of their workforce. The National Restaurant Association reports that business dropped by nearly half among its members just in the first half of March.

Labor According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, workers between the ages of 20 and 24 account for nearly one-third of restaurant waitstaff, one-fourth of all retail cashiers, and one-fifth of all retail salesclerks. Young workers also occupy a large share of other entry-level service jobs in entertainment and hospitality, such as hotel and motel desk clerks (one-third), ushers and ticket-takers (one-fifth) and baggage handlers (one-sixth).

Young people also make up a disproportionate share of the low-wage workforce hardest hit by the pandemic, period, according to new research from the Brookings Institution. Scholars Martha Ross, Nicole Bateman, and Alec Friedhoff find that workers ages 18 to 24 comprise nearly one in four low-wage workers, with the most common occupations being retail, food service, and lower-level administrative support. Many of these young workers can ill afford any loss of income: Among the 13 percent who lack a college degree, the median hourly wage is just $8.55. Worse yet, one in five of these workers is the sole earner in their family; 14 percent are also caring for children.

NiNis worldwide

A new crop of “not in school, not working”

Even before the current crisis, many young people were already in dire economic circumstances. According to the Social Science Research Council, as many as 4.5 million young adults ages 16 to 24 were not in school nor working in 2017, the latest year for which data are available. No doubt this figure has already skyrocketed.

Unfortunately, unemployment might be only the start of young workers’ worries in the coming months.

The sudden closure of colleges and universities means that multiple cohorts of students are missing out on opportunities to lay the foundations of their future careers. “Job fairs and internships have been called off, as have debating competitions, graduate school admission tests and conferences that are essential opportunities to network and get jobs,” writes The Hechinger Report.

A different economy after COVID

Other hazards also loom in the future job market that could disadvantage younger workers. For instance, the pandemic may also accelerate the push to automation, as researchers Mark Muro, Robert Maxim and Jacob Whiton of the Brookings Institution argue, which would also hit younger workers the hardest. According to their analysis, as many of 49 percent of workers ages 16 to 24 are in jobs vulnerable to automation.

Moreover, the current massive disruptions in higher education and in business likely also mean that skills gaps will worsen as training programs are put on hold and businesses struggle simply to survive. Shortages of qualified workers will not only significantly hamper recovery efforts in the future but handicap current industries’ efforts to retool themselves to a radically changed environment.

Vulnerable young workers

Worldwide impacts for youth workers

The same story is playing out globally. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), young people are roughly twice as likely to be unemployed compared to adults. After the global recession in 2009, adult employment grew uninterrupted but the number of young people employed contracted by more than 15 percent. In 2018, 21.2 percent of global youth were neither employed nor in education and training.

The COVID-19 pandemic is inducing a global labor shock both because workers cannot carry out their jobs and may have lost their jobs, but also because consumer demand especially in services industries has fallen off and could be slow to return to previous levels. In a vicious cycle, billions in lost labor income will further suppress the consumption of goods and services. At the beginning of April, the ILO estimated global unemployment would rise between 5.3 million and 24.7 million, but with 22 million Americans alone filing for unemployment over the last four weeks, this estimate is already vastly inaccurate. The long-term damage to young workers’ prospects is incalculable.

What next?

Economies around the world are already responding with rescue packages aimed at blunting some of the economic hardship the pandemic is creating. But as the crisis wears on and, with luck, economies can begin to recover, the long-term plight of young workers will need much more attention.

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Anne Kim is a contributing editor to Washington Monthly and the author of Abandoned: America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection, forthcoming in 2020 from the New Press. Her writings on economic opportunity, social policy, and higher education have appeared in numerous national outlets, including the Washington Monthly, the Washington Post, Governing and Atlantic.com, among others. She is a veteran of the think tanks the Progressive Policy Institute and Third Way as well as of Capitol Hill, where she worked for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN). Anne has a law degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.