Weathering the Storm

New Gartner report outlines opportunities in the post-COVID world.

COVID-19 continues to resonate on an international scale, forcing tectonic shifts in civil and economic life. Everything has changed: from our social interactions to the methods we use to teach our kids to the way we work and consume. Retail has been hit particularly hard. The decline of brick and mortar has accelerated, with malls closing, venerable stores and brands folding, and once-bustling downtown shopping areas hollowing out.

But we believe a new report from Gartner confirms another economic facet to the pandemic. It’s not really destroying retail—brands are still purveying products and consumers are still buying them, out of both necessity and desire. But the pandemic is creating a new retail ecosystem—one dominated by ecommerce. 

Astound finds the report, Identifying Digital Opportunities During and After the Pandemic to confirm that the enterprises that prosper post-COVID will share certain qualities. First and foremost, they will upgrade and expand their digital capabilities. But that’s not enough: they will also objectively evaluate the new retail landscape and forge digital strategies that are specific to their customer bases, market positions, and long-term company goals. 

The Gartner report is rich in recommendations to help retailers and brands make the necessary transitions, addressing everything from conceptual frameworks to evaluating digital initiatives, predicting outcomes, implementing marketing and loyalty programs, and adjusting ecommerce strategies through every stage of the pandemic, from immediate in-crisis response to long-term planning for our new reality. 

At Astound Commerce, our mission is predicated on two fundamentals that we believe are confirmed by the Gartner report. First: ecommerce is the future of retail. And second: any effective ecommerce solution is a bespoke solution.

Each brand, each retailer, has unique goals and faces unique challenges that can’t be addressed by a single formula. Effective ecommerce initiatives are built on astute evaluation of individual situations, the development of powerful, flexible platforms, and end-to-end support from the solution partner. None of that comes out of a box. It must be created, implemented, tested, and updated by people who are both masters of digital technology and leaders in market analysis and data aggregation. 

As the Gartner report affirms, the new realities created by the pandemic are sinking in with retailers and brand managers. There is a growing acceptance that future retail commerce will be defined to greater or lesser degree by the word “remote”—both for enterprises and consumers. Increasingly, commerce between businesses and their customers will be conducted online, and it’s clear that the office of tomorrow is likely to be a home office.

The smart money is already seizing the opportunities that we feel Gartner outlines. As Carlyle Group Managing Director and Head of Global Research Jason Thomas observed recently in a CNBC interview, most of the startup and growth capital now in play is going to digital platforms. 

For businesses, the greatest challenge lies in integrating all the components of the new “remoteness” into a functional, resilient business plan. That involves hard decisions on growth, cost structure, supply chain management, and workforce. Timelines must also be taken into account: ecommerce action plans implemented during the pandemic are likely to be very different from post-pandemic strategies. The Gartner report provides guidelines for designing such business models, including suggestions for digitally optimizing every strategic step. 

Revamping business plans at such a scale is, of course, daunting—but the coronavirus has made it necessary. The brick-and-mortar sector has been teetering on the precipice for years, and COVID-19 shoved it past the tipping point. Yes, there will always be physical retail outlets, meaning companies need a hybrid approach, one that accommodates both digital and physical options. But the inescapable fact remains: ecommerce is and will be dominant.

Moreover, success in adapting to this new reality will depend in large part on the expertise and reliability of your ecommerce partner. With 20 years of experience, 1,200 ecommerce specialists distributed in 15 countries, and 3,000 completed projects, Astound Commerce is uniquely positioned to help companies launch or upgrade their digital programs, ensuring they’re ready for the post-COVID world—no matter what shape it takes.

Gartner, Identifying Digital Opportunities During and After the Pandemic, Hung LeHong, Tomas Nielsen, Daniel Sun, Stephen Smith, 2 June 2020

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Vanessa Cartwright

Vanessa Cartwright is chief client success officer at Astound Commerce.