Commerce in the time of COVID-19

Kalyan Vajapeyajula

By Kalyan Vajapeyajula

On March 17, 2020

As people around the world are taking steps to protect themselves and hunker down for the next few weeks or months, retailers and manufacturers, both big and small, are wondering what the future holds for them and how best to weather this storm.

While there are no silver bullets that can offer immediate relief and market predictability, there are measures enterprises can take to help them now and for the future.

Adapt to the new normal

One trend that has already emerged and will continue to emerge is the way in which companies will aim to be nimble and pivot to the “new normal.” These entities will need to tap into not just their capabilities but also their creativity to recognize new ways in which to survive the new landscape.

As an example, luxury goods manufacturer and retailer LVMH has made the decision to use its perfume factories to produce hand sanitizer and distribute them free of charge to French health authorities. During the Prohibition, D. G. Yuengling & Son, the beer company, started making and selling ice cream, a product line that they continue to operate today.

Decisions like this are made possible only when organizations have a unified picture of their resources and capabilities. When different business units are run with siloed sets of data, it makes it hard for the whole company to make the right, coordinated pivot at crucial times.

Other trends that will emerge:

  • Retail is experiencing a massive hit and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The good news is that online shopping has picked up some of the drop in in-person shopping. According to data from Adobe Analytics, ecommerce purchases have spiked by as much as 800% during recent weeks. If you do not have a fully realized digital strategy by now, you need to develop one.
  • Disasters rarely come with advance warnings but chance favors those who prepare. Having a strong Master Data Management solution in place helped IKEA sell their products for the first time through third-party e-commerce platforms like Alibaba’s Tmall. This move increased Ikea’s online presence when they had to temporarily shutter their stores due to COVID-19 containment.
  • The name of the game now is “time to market.” Speed in putting your products in front of your customers is always a factor, but in that process, you cannot afford to ignore data quality either. A modern Product Information Management platform can transform your data into a strategic advantage.
  • Manufacturers will realize that direct-to-consumer (DTC) is not a mere talking point in their quarterly statements but needs to be a core part of their strategy.
  • Both retailers and manufacturers will see an acceleration in the adoption of technologies like AR and VR which let them improve their outreach to their customers and improve their customer experience.

Don’t forget the fundamentals of your data

As consumers shop from the safety of their homes, traditional factors like location and store layout will take a back seat. Instead, enterprises will recognize that they’re at the mercy of their Master Data. This in turn will bring a greater realization about the importance of best practices associated with onboarding, managing, and distributing their Master Data in order to increase their sales, decrease costs, and mitigate ongoing risks.

Managing these issues was always important. Especially now, there has probably never been a more urgent time to take stock of your data capabilities:

  • Are you able to onboard data from your suppliers fast enough to keep up with the demand from your consumers, while at the same time ensuring the quality of data is accurate? If your customers can’t find what they need from you because you have fallen behind, you can lose those customers very quickly.
  • Are you able to enrich your product data with images and descriptions – “germicidal,” “child-safe,” “organic,” “plastic-free” – that match what your customers are looking for? As you consider adding or expanding new product lines and extensions, are you stuck using manual processes exposing you to delays and errors?
  • And then, are you able to take your rich and clean data and send it through all the channels and to the endpoints it needs to go to in order to reach its intended audience? Is the messaging that you’re using on all your channels consistent? While the multi-channel strategy that you’ve been considering adopting is now the difference between surviving or not, a multi-channel strategy with poorly coordinated and inconsistent messaging can hurt your brand and cost you customers at this crucial time.

Looking ahead

Lastly, the optimistic view is that this potential recession, as hard as it might be to handle, will be short-lived. Once the economy bounces back, it should bounce back grandly. After overcoming COVID-19 through improved testing procedures, spread containment, and vaccine development – along with sound Fed policies and infusion of government assistance – retailers will open for business again and consumers will remerge from the safety of their homes demanding their favorite moisturizers, jeans, and guitars. The world that everyone will see six months from now will be different in small but significant ways. Businesses can prepare for that world today and take advantage of it.

How are you prepared for it?

For nearly 20 years, Riversand has helped the world’s largest and category-leading retailers, manufacturers and distributors, consumer goods, and energy companies get smart about the data that matters. If you’d like help diagnosing your potential data advantages for the next economic chapter post-COVID-19, let’s chat.

Kalyan Vajapeyajula is the Product Marketing Manager at Riversand Technologies where he demonstrates the value that PIM and MDM solutions can bring to customers of different verticals and at all stages of growth.

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