For COVID-19 updates, visit the official government website www.sacoronavirus.co.za for free.

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The retail industry contributes 6% of the global economy, amounting to $23trl in 2019 and projected to grow to $30trl by 2023.The global economy has been forced to transform and find new ways of operating due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There are clear signs on how the rapid spread of the virus has impacted consumer behaviours, demand and supply of products/services, retail stores and how they operate as well the supply chain processes linked to the delivery of products and services to consumers. Each aspect of the value chain has been forced to rethink its contribution to the ecosystem.

Consumer spending has shifted to stocking up on food and essential items during the lockdown period. Consumer buying behaviours have also started shifting to engaging with retailers via Omni channels driven by the fear to mitigate the risk of infection while in the retail stores. Retailers have also been forced to expedite their e-commerce platforms to cater for the rapid demand from consumers to purchase goods and services in a safe environment.

The use of technology in adapting to the changing retail landscape has become ever more prominent as retailers find ways to keep their customers loyal during this crisis. The ability to allow customers to consume products and services anytime and anywhere will be largely driven by the platforms available to drive seamless engagement between retailers and consumers. Online publications like Marketing Land, have already reported an 8.8% YoY increase in online sales as consumers stay away from brick and mortar establishments. Furthermore, as we start seeing the relaxation of the lockdown measures, customers will need reassurance that returning to the retail stores is safe. The role technology plays is paramount i.e. thermal screening, social distancing, monitoring PPE etc. 

Local reaction

In South Africa, the response to the spread of the virus was driven primarily by stricter control of interactions within society, which resulted in the government instituting strict measures of limiting movement. This resulted in many organisations being forced to relocate their staff to their homes and providing tools to enable them to remain productive and connected. The spared organisations were those classified as essential services that had to remain operational to provide essential services to the communities they served.

Retailers had to quickly find ways to serve their customers whilst adhering to regulations like social distancing. The more forward-thinking retailers expedited and refined their strategies to serve customers by providing various options such as click and collect, click and deliver etc.

It is evident from the research being gathered during this crisis that many organisations will be negatively impacted. Some may cease to exist and other may need to find new business models to survive.  Research has also shown that organisations that survive disruption have the following traits:

  1. Existing, agile operational efficiencies: A firm analysis and revision of people, processes and technologies and ensuring the operational strategy include the right people, with the right skills and the best tools to enable optimal output during periods of crisis.
  2. Continuous investment in customer relationships: Businesses that survive any storm thrive on the relationships established and maintained with customers/suppliers/manufacturers during the crisis period. The ability to also adapt service offerings during the crisis period.
  3. Agile decision-making – making use of customer, supplier data to make swift decisions that improve customer experience and drive efficiencies by digitizing the value chain.

Lerato Motsoeneng, Managing Executive for Retail and Logistics, Vodacom Business said: “Through the implementation of our smart IoT solutions, Vodacom helps businesses in the supply chain industry survive and stay on par with global standards. Whether they’re using our Payment Connectivity solution or our Connected Cabinets offering- which provides a real-time view of stock levels, retail enterprises can gear up and reach greater heights of the ‘next business normal’ of retail with technology that delivers smarter insights and better operational decision-making.”

As South Africa and the global environment navigates through the varied risk-adjustments of the Covid-19 lockdown period, these regulations will transform the retail and logistics value chain. Beyond reopening and exercising health and safety mandates to help avert the spread of the virus, retailers will be forced to rethink how they service and retain their customers, how they communicate value to increasingly tight pockets, as well as how they ensure efficient output and maintain their bottom line.

How can Vodacom Business help?

Vodacom Business has enterprise solutions to enable organisations in the retail industry to go beyond and remain sustainable post-Covid -19. We can devise bespoke offerings that meet your demand.

For more information on how Vodacom Business pioneers digital transformation in the retail industry and provides solutions as a partner to business, kindly visit Vodacom Business online

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