Survive, Adapt, Thrive: Turning Action into Innovation
This month we’re sharing some of our insights into how we’ve helped our eCommerce clients work towards their business goals over the last year, despite the entire retail landscape changing dramatically. In the first post, we introduced the Survive, Adapt, Thrive model, and talked about how your experiences from the last year can actually help you be more nimble while working towards your business goals. Read it here if you missed it.
In this, the second post in the series, we’re taking a deeper dive into the Survive, Adapt, Thrive model – and sharing some real-world examples of how merchants can benefit from it.
Survival of the innovators
All companies face bumps in the road – although admittedly last year was an extreme example. Thriving despite challenges around us requires innovative solutions.
Look back at the changes you’ve made over the last year. Are there ways you can use them to your advantage? Are there areas now where you can do even better than you were doing before?
Turning necessity into an advantage
Last year, seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly home working became the norm. Initially many companies who hadn’t had that provision before found that transition a struggle – new technology, new ways of working, and new equipment all hitting at the same time was… well, it was a bit overwhelming.
But it became clear very quickly that there were a lot of benefits to this new setup. Many warned productivity levels would tank – but most firms found that they didn’t. In fact, in many cases, it had the opposite effect – employees found they had more flexibility, and they relished that. Happier employees means better work, higher staff retention, and higher productivity.
And as a result, we’re now seeing some companies reconsider their investment in large, open-plan offices – either by downsizing or in some cases, getting rid completely.
But home working isn’t the only example of necessity becoming an advantage.
Case Study: Next
Next already had a robust omnichannel offering that was popular with their customers, even before the pandemic. As well as in-store shopping, they offered home delivery and click + collect – while home delivery incurred a charge, click + collect from the store was offered for free, encouraging online customers to visit the store and reducing Next’s delivery costs.
How they survived: Throughout the pandemic, Next has been able to continue offering shoppers access to their favourite products via their online store at all times, and when able to, re-opened retail stores, either to offer in-store shopping or the click + collect service.
How they adapted: Next began to invest in standalone click + collect only kiosks in the car parks of some of their UK stores. During the pandemic, this was an excellent solution to the issue of social distancing reducing the capacity of their stores, but carries further benefits than this.
How they’ll thrive: With the addition of their new click + collect kiosks offering increased capacity for collections, while keeping the retail stores freed up for in-store shoppers – and reducing queue times in both locations – Next have found a solution that benefits both their business model and their customers. No wonder then, that during the pandemic, and despite their heavy high street presence affected by closures, Next saw sales dip just 0.5%.
The right place, the right time
One thing’s for sure – last year was an incredible year for eCommerce businesses. Suddenly consumers had no choice but to buy online – including many things they’d never needed to or thought about purchasing online before. Thoughtful gifts for their loved ones; cocktails to make at home; supplies for a newfound creative hobby; furniture and DIY supplies to fix that eyesore they spend so much more time looking at now they’re stuck indoors.
When people are looking for you online, you’re onto a winner. But what about when they can go outside again? Retaining those customers and offering a service that sticks with them is the key to thriving in 2021 – being part of the after for your customers is the challenge here.
Customer loyalty has been a challenge for much longer than eCommerce has been around – but lucky for us, we’ve got more tools, options, and clever ideas for that than ever.
Case Study: SNAG Tights
SNAG are an online-only specialist tights retailer with a cult following – known for their inclusive sizing and large range of sizes – rare in the hosiery world.
How they survived: SNAG only sold online prior to the pandemic, so didn’t have retail store overheads, but they ran into a new problem – lack of stock. While usually tights are a regular purchase, they could see people probably wouldn’t buy too many more pairs any time soon if they were staying home for months. To cover their overheads and keep going in the pandemic, they needed to sell a lot more tights than projected, but they didn’t have enough stock in the warehouse to sell, and due to supplier issues, there wasn’t any more coming in.
How they adapted: They tried something they never had done before – offered their customers the chance to pre-buy vouchers now, with the promise they would get a better deal on tights later. Whether it was the promise of a bargain, or the rallying cry of ‘support small business’ that was so widespread during 2020, their customers lapped it up – not only did they purchase in droves, but they shared the news far and wide, netting SNAG plenty of positive PR and undoubtedly new customers.
How they’ll thrive: What SNAG will do next remains to be seen – but they’ve proved their customers will go for a ‘buy now, get later’ model with their products. Perhaps they could leverage this by offering pre-orders on new designs or product ranges – helping to gauge demand, but also allowing them to increase their margins with better purchasing power.
Keeping positive momentum
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Many firms found their current workflows and systems weren’t fit for purpose after the pivot – how do you sell heavy products online when you don’t offer home delivery? How do you ship out double the orders with half the warehouse staff due to social distancing measures? What can you do when you’re out of stock of an item there’s unprecedented demand for (like toilet paper)?
Many of the changes in the way we live presented problems that merchants had never been seen before – much less prepared for. But the solutions firms found, in many cases, will continue to benefit their customers long after things return to a ‘relative normal’.
Join our workshop?
If you’d like to learn more about the tools and techniques we use to help our clients plan their business strategies and growth models, we’re running a series of invitation-only workshop events. Email email@example.com to request a space and date.