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Steering retail to other side of pandemic

This month, columnist David Orgel discusses the new late-stage and post-pandemic imperatives for retailers, including a need for disruptive retail experiences and unique industry partnerships.

Food and drug retailers became masters of adapting their strategies to pandemic realities. Now they have to be ready for what comes next. 

New imperatives will include disruptive retail experiences and unique industry partnerships. 

The pandemic is still a moving target, of course, with varied impacts depending on geographies. However, society is opening up and big changes are already underway. Here are a few ways retailers can move forward with flexibility and confidence.

Leverage Unique Partnerships
There are opportunities for timely, out-of-the-box partnerships. Looking outside of retail, consider the recent travel industry collaboration between Tripadvisor and Lysol — that is, Lysol’s parent company Reckitt. 

Tripadvisor, the travel guidance platform, is helping to promote a variety of Lysol disinfection and sanitation kits (my personal favorite is “Restroom Rescue”) to tourism and hospitality businesses, along with accompanying science-based information on best disinfection protocols.  

It’s a smart initiative that addresses this precise moment for the hard-hit travel sector. Tripadvisor correctly points out that safety and cleanliness are critical factors for consumers returning to dining and traveling. 

The retail sector has its own opportunities to benefit from meaningful alliances, and these can focus on taking pandemic-era strategies to the next level. 

A case in point is Uber’s recent expansion of prescription delivery with ScriptDrop — a move that will enable pharmacies to make use of Uber’s driver network for delivering prescriptions. 

Build Disruptive Experiences
Speaking of unique partnerships, it’s hard to top the collaboration now being expanded between Albertsons and Google. The goal is to meld Albertsons’ broad reach with Google’s customer-centric disruptive innovation as outlined in a March 30, 2021  article in Chain Store Age, DSN’s sister publication.

Planned strategies include shoppable maps with hyperlocal features, artificial intelligence-powered conversational commerce and predictive grocery list building through Google Cloud.

It’s very early days for this alliance, but it will be fascinating to track the deliverables as they emerge. 

Most retailers don’t have the resources and scale of Albertsons and Google, but they can still innovate and disrupt if they pick their spots. 

See Hybrid as the New Reality
Hybrid is the new reality. People will sometimes be working from home, and other times from an office. They will shop in physical stores and also online — all the while choosing different ways to receive items, from delivery to curbside pickup. Retailers need to cater to new lifestyles in order to reach people where they are. This phenomenon will continue well past the pandemic and require retailers to track customer journeys by week, day and even time of day. The new hybrid world impacts many industries and retail needs to be on top of this. 
Expect New Competition 
The waning of the pandemic will be marked by a resurgence of restaurants, bringing more competition for “share of stomach.” Food retailers encountering more competition may look to enhance meal solutions and foodservice strategies. 

In fact, there will be more competition from many quarters as society opens up and people become more mobile. Competition makes companies and industries better and signals a healthy economy.

Retail is up to all these challenges. If it means that retailers need to step up their games and improvise for new realities, so be it. Isn’t that what retailers have been doing throughout the pandemic anyway? They will again need to pivot for a changing landscape. 

About the Author

David Orgel

David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries.

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