by Garrett Albanese, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Triad
The seismic disruption to the global economy by the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt long after the quarantining of citizens is lifted. In the U.S. alone, 3 million unemployment claims were filed in one week, a historic record, while the major business indexes ride a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Clearly, this is not business as usual.
The retail industry stands at the forefront of being buffeted by the cruel winds of the pandemic. According to eMarketer research issued as the crisis was deepening, three out of four Americans said they would avoid shopping centers, while one out of three said they plan to avoid any shopping experience of any kind. The rush to online and digital shopping has been immediate: 33 percent of people have turned to digital platforms to purchase their groceries, of which approximately 41 percent were first time adopters, according to Bloomberg News. Retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target have simultaneously seen a drastic increase in visits to their websites as consumers research product availability and shift behavior to buying online, with a record-breaking 779 million visits the week of March 9-15, according to comScore. (That number has probably grown since).
Since we are all in uncharted waters, now is the time to serve consumers desperate for any help they can get to maintain as normal a life as possible. Make it harder for them, and you’ll likely lose them for life. Help them out, and you may just win their loyalty—no easy feat in a world of near-limitless choices for consumers (when times are normal). Here are a few vital steps retailers and brands should take to ensure they can successfully navigate this huge increase in shopper demand.
1. Close Communication With Category Managers is Critical
Retailer supply chains are being tested, both in-store and online. It is important to increase the frequency of communication with category managers to understand inventory replenishment limitations, as well as implement a plan for the channels that your product can be made available.
2. Expand Retailer Partnerships
Many retailers are sold out of necessities and that inventory may not be replenishable for a couple of weeks. Lack of inventory has forced consumers to search larger click-to-collect partners and ecommerce websites to purchase their groceries, leaving these platforms out of stock or with limited supply. More than ever, channels like drug, value and convenience are where people are finding and buying their necessities.
Consider alternative and emerging environments for additional ways to quickly address product demand:
- Regional click-to-collect partners: Publix, H-E-B, Albertsons, Stop & Shop, 7- 11, Circle K, Staples
- Emerging ecommerce platforms: Instacart, Fresh Direct, Pea Pod, Shipt, goPuff
3. Make Changes to the Media Mix
Before the pandemic hit, many retailers had in their media budgets executions like in-store promotions, efforts that now need to be re-allocated as a result of cancellations and consumer avoidance. This is a good time to re-evaluate your overall communication strategy; consider shifting to retailer-centric and digital solutions to address the growing need consumers have for information on inventory availability.
4. Communicate Where Your Products Can Be Found
Consumers have been challenged recently when they find retailer shelves empty of the items they need (toilet paper, anyone?). Brands have a unique opportunity to minimize the friction between consumers and retailers to help both during this trying time. Personalization and data-driven communication are more important than ever to immediately address customer needs.
- Consider new approaches that leverage data and retail signals to enhance the performance of media and creative to drive awareness for your products based on where consumers traditionally shop, and lead them to the relevant retailer environments for the information needed to find those products.
Some retailers, including Walmart, are in better shape than others, since they are selling the products consumers are looking for. Walmart, for example, plans to hire 150,000 more workers to keep up with consumer demand it’s experiencing. But that’s the exception. The rest are all trying to navigate this new normal and maintain business levels as best as they can. Here’s to everyone staying safe and healthy during these drastically different business times.