In this op-ed, Kelly Lynch shares three key areas where retailers should pivot their operations and supply chains to weather the crisis

The outbreak and spread of the Coronavirus is one of the most serious and challenging developments that the retail industry—let alone the world—has had to face in a very long time. And with stocks in flux, and many brands posting only modest successes during Q4 at best, the entire retail industry is in the process of determining what the best way is to manage customer concerns without having their KPIs suffer too much.

With that in mind, here are three key areas retailers should have in mind when it comes to delivering the best possible customer experience and maintaining success while the global response to the Coronavirus continues.

Consumer Facing Management

To successfully navigate this outbreak, retailers need to think about how they can best restore consumer confidence and meet changing consumer buying patterns as the virus potentially spreads. This includes making sure that their online infrastructure is strong enough to cope with an influx of online orders in affected areas, making delivery strategy changes, and just simply providing customers with clear, concise information about any changes that may impact the buying experience. This type of dependable approach will provide a little additional peace of mind for shoppers while management and containment efforts against the virus continue.

Sourcing and Production Shifts

In addition to micro-level strategies, retailers need to also think about altering any pertinent overarching strategies that may boost consumer confidence as well. And one of the most important top-level areas that retailers should be examining is where their products are sourced from and produced.

Many of the products consumers purchase today in the United States are produced in countries that are currently at the center of the Coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, to increase consumer confidence, retailers need to consider shifting some—if not all—of their production to less affected areas. This is obviously very difficult to accomplish given companies need short lead times and must own or have partner facilities in multiple countries. However, those retailers that can reshuffle their supply chains successfully likely stand the best chance of weathering this storm.

Tightening Operations

Due to a shift in consumer confidence and the performance of the markets, now is the time for retailers to tighten their operations.  Cancel orders that are extraneous and unnecessary and bring assortments and allocations to a minimum.  Retailers who win are going to be the ones who can quickly downshift their orders and operations and upshift when the markets recover.  Using data science to uncover the true needs of local markets will help make the process of tightening operations clearer.

It goes without saying that the threat of Coronavirus needs to be taken seriously. By focusing on these key areas above, retailers can deliver both additional peace of mind to consumers and also an experience that is as “hiccup-free” as possible.

Kelly Lynch is Retail Solutions Manager at ActiveViam, where she guides clients through software solutions for business.