At long last, over 30 states have begun to ease or eliminate shelter in place restrictions. This means your operations will begin to rev-up again, and there are many experts and advisors providing recommendations on what to do next.
You may have had the opportunity to participate in Parker Avery’s recent Reconstructing Retail webinar series—we hope you found value in them and more importantly, relevancy to your own current situation. In our most recent session, “Beginning the Journey: Emerging from COVID-19,” we discussed several points regarding triaging your situation, planning your immediate next steps (and your mid and long-term activities), and reconstructing your business.
The latter pillar of our recommendations posed a call to action for companies to not just review but more so, take the opportunity to reimagine their business. For certain, with all that’s required just to get your doors back open, this is a daunting task. Coupled with some of the key tenets discussed in the triage and plan pillars, it presents a radical departure from the pre-COVID-19 way of working for most companies. Let’s revisit these key points and outline why embracing them is so critical for brands and retailers to regain their footing and subsequently thrive in the face of adversity.
Nobody was prepared for the gravity of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. Companies were forced into a rapid-fire assess/decide/act mode unlike any they had likely ever encountered. Yet, companies endured, and some even thrived during these turbulent times. We all hope and pray that another event of this magnitude never occurs again. But in many cases, the circumstances uncovered the very best of organizations, and these characteristics should not be put back ‘into the drawer.’ Rather, leading companies need to operationalize these skills and put them to good use as we all emerge from the pandemic.
The frenetic pace of the past two months has been exhausting, but early-mover advantage goes to companies that institutionalize these skills into their daily operations. Simply put, there are benefits to those companies that have fine-tuned their ability to quickly analyze new information, solicit input from key functional leaders, and make conclusive decisions. Similarly, the successful companies have been and will continue to be action-oriented with an increased sense of urgency.
Planning immediate actions and incorporating them with mid and long-term needs is still important. But leading companies will create an agile and flexible model that allows them to analyze new needs and prioritize them against on-going activities, current events, and other previous plans. The days of leaving plans locked-in once developed are gone, and this approach is no longer advisable. Being nimble and spinning-up new efforts and/or altering in-progress initiatives, though more challenging, will separate the future winners from the losers.
While speed and an intensified sense of urgency are traits of the future leading companies, building a governance framework to ensure these necessary events are occurring on a regular and consistent basis will be another competency front-runners must demonstrate. Thegovernance will ensure the assess/decide/act model regularly prioritizes and addresses key risks. It will also ensure key decisions are communicated to the necessary stakeholders. Without proper governance, the speed of external change and your company’s rapid reaction activities could lead to internal chaos.
We are now at a critical inflection point in the history of our industry. Every enterprise has a choice of how to respond—they can revert to pre-COVID-19 operations, and hope to get back to where they were, or more likely, where they were striving to be. For certain, that is the logical and safe next step. But I titled this blog, “Fortune Favors the Bold” for a reason: those companies with the courage to think beyond the now, and to project their future selves, to innovate, and find ways to delight their current and future customers will separate themselves from the pack. These industry leaders will develop the muscle memory to rapidly test and learn with innovative product and service ideas. They may fail along the way, but they will assuredly be amongst the group of highly successful companies that will blaze a trail and set the bar high for all others.
You may be asking yourself, “How can my company do this? We have never been trailblazers.” You may not have the model of Google, Apple, or Amazon, but nobody knows your business and your customers better than you. Leveraging the intimate knowledge of your business, insights of where your customers’ wants and needs are heading, and your team’s passion to seize the opportunity to leapfrog other companies, will enable you to innovate. As we’ve advised our clients and colleagues many times over the past few weeks: Be bold. Be “in the arena” to determine your company’s fate rather than on the sidelines hoping your competition does not pass you by. Apply what you and others have learned over the past two months: rapid decision making, a “test and learn” approach, an understanding that not all ideas are going to be winners, and yet some may bring surprisingly positive results—and the resilience to withstand the setbacks and forge ahead. Harness these learnings and the passion and capabilities of your team and you CAN achieve your audacious goals.
The state of your digital capabilities is going to be a key determinant of how quickly you can pivot to embrace new, innovative operations. If we’ve learned one thing during this pandemic, it’s that the pace at which you’ve been ‘traveling’ on this digital trek must be accelerated. But where should you focus your efforts? The specific areas in which to be courageous include omnichannel fulfillment, as demonstrated by companies, like Michael’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Kendra Scott, who quickly implemented capabilities such as home delivery, curbside pick-up, and ship-from-store. Rethinking how and where customer returns should occur, as well as other shopping options, such as cashless in-store payment and contactless curbside delivery, will enhance your customers’ omnichannel shopping experience options. Another key digital focal area is improved data and analytical tools. Retailers and consumer brands must consider the criticality of accurate and timely data as well as related analytics in helping drive improved decision-making; but this must be done now. Applied to your new business objectives, analytics will enable speed to insights, versus analytics without business focus, which is not meaningful. Some example analytics priorities that will be important in the near term include forecasting and sensing demand, supporting omnichannel fulfillment, and determining how to deploy inventory across various distribution points, including stores.
Further, improvements in the go-to-market development process, via digitization efforts including voice-of-the-customer crowdsourcing and digital sampling, will greatly improve the effectiveness of your assortment and the speed with which products can be brought to market. These are just a few ideas, but as noted, the digital journey must be accelerated and targeted at enhancing the customer experience.
Parker Avery believes so much in the characteristics and approach described above that we have developed a set of services focused on helping leading brands and retailers cycle though the triage, plan, reconstruct (or reimagine) steps – quickly and effectively. We bring a hands-on, action-oriented engagement model that will ensure your teams have a partner who is in the “war room” with you. Our teams not only help establish the approach and the command and control governance required, we roll-up our sleeves and assist in getting “stuff” done. We offer innovative, pragmatic ideas and recommendations that can assist in the ideation efforts required to envision the future of your business model.