How to prevent the lockdown
from becoming a knockdown for retail Wim Decraene | April 27, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has dealt retail a solid uppercut, but putting everything on the defensive is never a good idea in the middle of a fight. "Today, shops and e-commerce can strengthen each other more than ever."

Small kitchen appliances are selling like hot cakes online at the moment, but anyone who sees this as proof that e-commerce can absorb all the blows of the COVID-19 crisis is wrong. As omnichannel specialist, Nayan, knows this all too well. The online sales of travel suitcases for instance has plummeted.

"If you know that the typical split between your offline and online sales is 80/20, the impact of this crisis is clear," says CEO Wim Decraene. “Imagine: pre-crisis your brand turned over 100,000 euros per month. During the lockdown period with shops closed, you are down to 20,000 euros. Even if you double your online revenue, you still have a 60% drop in your total sales. ”

The right channel for the right product

Betting everything on online sales does not compensate for all losses. Sustainable profit is obtained by finding the right balance between online and offline. “A good example can be seen in the way some pharmacists now guide their customers towards the appropriate channel for their purchase. Customers can go to the pharmacy for help and advice when making their first purchase, but for subsequent repeat purchases they are invited to place their order online. ”

All too often, brands have the misconception that one channel or the other is not for them, Decraene observes. “A furniture business will assert "We are active in the furniture sector, so online is not an option for us". It is a fair assumption that, if I want to buy a garden set, I probably want to see that product with my own eyes first. But that extra side table or seat cushion? I can perfectly happily purchase that online. Getting down to brass tacks, suppose after the lockdown there is a restriction on the number of people who can enter your store. You'd rather spend time advising a customer who comes to buy a full living room set than someone who needs a maintenance product, right? ”

Complementary unburdening

Even outside times of crisis, your online and offline offerings can reinforce each other, the omnichannel expert explains. “Evidence of this can be seen in the activities of one of our clients, a Belgian chocolate producer. They sell their products online to just about every state in the US, but do particularly well in New York and California. It is no coincidence that these are precisely the states where the brand has the most physical stores. ”

“Continuing with the chocolate theme (we have many chocolate brands among our clients), just before the lockdown was announced, many shops had just purchased their supply of Easter eggs. Those brands that had aligned their online and offline channels prior to this crisis, were able to benefit hugely when the crisis hit. As online orders could be picked up in the store or sent from the shop, this helped reduce store inventory and offered welcome relief to over-burdened eCommerce distribution centres.”

Building your business online and offline

It is risky to think of this crisis as pushing the pause button on your activities, Nayan reports. Shops will open in due course and, as a brand, you can only hope that your customers will not have forgotten about you. "Online tools such as a store finder or a 3D tour of your flagship stores filled with the new collection can encourage customers to rediscover your stores sooner rather than later."

On the other hand, brands can also take advantage of interesting initiatives necessitated by this crisis. “You can see, for example, how shop managers today post Instagram stories about their products from home or give fashion advice via Facebook Live. Why not offer those kinds of services permanently after the crisis? Shop assistants could, for example, take advantage of the quiet moments in the shop to boost the brand online. ”

Overcoming old hurdles

For those who are not yet online, Decraene has only one bit of advice: do it, and do it quickly. “If you don't have the knowledge to set up and manage your own webshop, outsource. After all, companies like ours are here to save you time and money. We also help brands make their products available online relatively quickly via marketplaces such as Bol.com or Amazon. ”

The conclusion? Do not let old stumbling blocks such as traditional commission models slow you down in your actions. “Use the crisis to overcome such barriers. Now is the time to bring together offline and online more quickly.”

Translated from interview De Standaard 27/04/2020