We are starting to see the first COVID-19 lockdowns being relaxed in Europe and the US. It’s the clearest sign yet that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the world may return to some sort of normality. We don’t know what that will look like yet or what the future holds. There are a number of scenarios, mostly based upon whether the virus returns or is fading out for good, which Divante CEO Tom Karwatka discussed in his in-depth analysis of different prognoses

Each industry has been affected differently by the unprecedented situation we have experienced in 2020. Some have been on their knees as doors have closed, others have thrived and seen a spike in demand. The recovery of each industry will also be different after the crisis.


At a glance:

  • Each industry is affected by the COVID-19 crisis differently. And each will now return at a different rate
  • The end of the first European lockdowns are a tentative sign that the situation is improving
  • eCommerce and digital solutions are now the most common factor for long-term success

We’re going to take a look at five different sectors to briefly show how the pandemic has affected business and what recovery might look like if this is the end of the main wave of the virus.

Restaurants 

The restaurant industry has been hardest hit as a result of the virus, experiencing a 50% drop in market value from 31 Jan to 20 March 2020 [1]. This looks extremely bleak but it’s not new. A fall 2009 survey, conducted by Booz & Company [2], showed that ‘food away from home’ was the most common area in which households cut expenditure in the last global economic crisis, with 58% of respondents saying they spent less on eating out.

We also need to consider a little more context. Restaurants are generally in the top 6 least stable new businesses. 60% fail in the first year and 80% fail within 5 years [3]. In spite of this, the total number of eateries continues to grow every year. In New York, for example, the total number of restaurants still grew by about 500 each year, rising from around 25,000 in 2013 to 27,000 in 2017 [4]. 

So, restaurants have always been an optimist’s domain… and they have always been prone to closure. It’s a volatile business but one that is incredibly resilient. Regardless of the current situation, restaurants will rebound more quickly than other domains because that is what they have always done. 

How can eCommerce help with the rebound?

Whether it is a small business or a big chain, the ability to continue business in any potential return of the coronavirus will be vital. McDonald’s already partners with local delivery services like Uber Eats in many places and the crisis has seen other large players start home delivery. Setting up an eCommerce to maintain a business in times of lockdown and keep volumes of orders up as other social restrictions apply is going to be the difference-maker for restaurant chains. 

Measuring customer satisfaction is also important. As a different form of service becomes the new norm, businesses need to check that the eCommerce and delivery services they offer are better than those of competitors (many of whom are already moving away from crisis management into enhanced customer service as they adapt to the situation). Mystery dining companies and leveraging loyalty programs to check that remote service is on the right level—with great rewards offered to repeat customers—will be important.

Pharmacy

The pharmacy sector has understandably seen a massive boom during the crisis, with a more than 60% increase in consumption during the outbreak in China. This is predicted to drop post-crisis but still remain about 30% above pre-coronavirus market levels [5]. People will shift from sick care (seeking remedies for illness) to self-care (taking measures to prevent illness) to well care (investing in themselves for the greater good). This will account for the continued high sales volume as new customer behaviors will mean new types of products and purchases.

In general, the pharmacy market is a traditional domain that is notoriously difficult to digitize. As discussed in our recent article, it faces unique regulatory challenges and caters mainly to an older customer set who prefer in-store shopping. However, the strain on the supply chain and on brick-and-mortar pharmacies has made digitization after the crisis an absolute necessity. A way needs to be found to sensibly approach regulation while providing online sales channels.

How can eCommerce help?

The challenge for the pharmacy industry is to finally digitize; this is especially true if a second wave of the virus occurs. At Divante, we are already working on several pure eCommerce solutions, as well as other supporting technologies in the area. The first of these is an entirely new ecosystem for medical and pharmaceutical products, designed in our Divante Innovation Laboratory. It is called Pharmacy of the Future and we’ll be revealing more on our Dribbble profile soon. For now, here’s a teaser:

Fashion

Our article on the fashion industry looked at how being locked out of the high street was forcing brands to innovate and how COVID-19 has highlighted the need for every retailer to have an online channel. 

The fate of brands within fashion retailers depends largely on what scenario plays out in the future. As discussed in our previous article, if China recovers faster than the West and takes the global leadership position, we may see struggling famous European brands being acquired by Chinese companies. 

There have been huge losses as consumers prioritize spending on essential products and have no reason for new clothes. On the other hand, the long-term effect on fashion and luxury retail may not be as bad as some have predicted. UK fashion retailer Next was forced to close its website just hours after reopening; incredible demand meant they reached the capacity of orders they can handle in a single day during the crisis by 8:30 AM [6]. And French heritage brand Hermès achieved 2.7 M USD in a single day upon reopening in Guangzhou, China—a figure that is believed to be the highest daily haul for a single boutique [7]. For all the talk of not returning to normal, there are small signs that consumerism is far from dead. 

How can eCommerce help?

Fashion retailers have reacted during the crisis by adapting offline experiences to online channels using low-budget solutions such as video fashion shows and sales representatives consulting with clients using chat services. They have also invested in cutting edge technology like 3D fitting rooms and AR try-ons These are not utilized by the public at large but will be as the technology they leverage becomes more widespread. Good retailers will continue to explore and expand all of these solutions. They all bring value, so there is no need to cut them off as soon as stores re-open and return to business as usual.

Most fashion retailers already have good online stores but the increased use of eCommerce over recent months means that being good is no longer good enough. Customers now have more choice online and are expecting mobile shopping experiences that match or exceed their expectations of what they can get in-store. UX and UI have become vital elements of delivering these experiences, as have PWA sites that allow users to browse and make purchases even when offline. You need a store that looks brilliant and works well, which means taking a headless approach such as that delivered by Vue Storefront to quickly build a store that meets modern standards and more.

Did you know that the fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions? Some say the COVID-19 crisis will have a profound impact on our relationships with our planet and lead to the rise of a circular economy to break such habits.  

Read more in the post from Kaja Grzybowska.

Industry & B2B

The need to restart the engines of the economy must be balanced against a prudent approach to restricting any spread or return of the virus. Amazon is a prime example of a company struggling to work efficiently while maintaining social distancing: first being criticized by employees who say it is impossible to guard personal space in warehouses and then later firing employees who don’t follow the rules. It’s an issue that will be replicated as building sites, factories, and distribution centers open up again. 

However, the greater challenge for producers of traditional B2B products like heavy machinery and industrial equipment/innovations is on the sales site. International sales are often a massive revenue stream but it is clear that production will be working much earlier than borders are fully open for business. 

The other main channel for sales and networking is trade fairs, which are unlikely to be on anyone’s calendar in the near future. Organizers have taken a large hit by having to cancel events in the first half of 2020 and will not be scheduling new fayres unless they are 100% sure they will go ahead. And even if organizers are willing, government restrictions on mass events may not allow them to proceed.

So, industry and traditional B2B sectors may open up soon but their activities will be severely hindered by the loss of traditional sales activities.

How can eCommerce help?

The only answer to a lack of physical meetings is online contact and the creation of virtual experiences that allow salespeople to better describe and present products to potential customers. One big breakthrough that comes from the Divante Innovation Lab in this area is our PIMSTAR solution, which integrates AR into existing PIM platforms. It lets companies quickly improve sales pitches by using their existing 3D models in sales catalogs and online presentations. 

Supermarkets 

Our recent article on the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on supermarkets looked at how the sector has reacted to the situation. The FMCG sector grew 4% during the early stage of the crisis and has maintained that level [8]. This may not be stunning growth but, when we consider that only half a dozen sectors have seen market value gains—and the average result is a loss of 25%—it is a significant number. 

Post-crisis, we will see a change in customer behavior. 37% of survey respondents in China said they would visit supermarkets more often than before. However, online channels are set to increase as 42% of consumers said they will buy more frequently from e-commerce platforms and only 8% said will buy less frequently [8]. With major online players like Amazon joining the FMCG market, we can finally expect to see a major long-term shift towards eGrocery.

How can eCommerce help?

This is a tipping point for home delivery and online sales. All retailers need to have a great online presence and sales channel, especially in case there is a second wave of the virus. 

Loyalty programs are becoming more important than ever, as highlighted in the 2020 Loyalty Trends report. People have seen how essential their local supermarkets are and have a new-found gratitude for the front-line retail workers who have seen them through the hardest part of the crisis. Supermarkets need to extend and deepen that relationship through loyalty programs that offer rewards of genuine value but also allow supermarkets to analyze and adapt to any change in customer behavior post-crisis.  

Conclusion

The way any industry is affected by the crisis does not correlate to how it will perform in the future. Some areas that are worst affected now will recover fast; others that are doing well in the midst of the crisis will not be able to convert that into long-term success without hard work. What’s more, every business faces its own unique operational challenges and one size does not fit all. If we then consider that there are four possible scenarios for the world in the coming months, which will have significantly different impacts upon business, it becomes impossible to say what will happen for sure.

In fact, the one thing that seems to be clear is that digital transformation and eCommerce solutions will offer some kind of advantage to businesses in every industry, regardless of what the future holds.

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Sources:
[1], [5], [8] www.kantar.com/Inspiration/Coronavirus/Measuring-the-impact-of-the-coronavirus-on-Chinas-consumption
[2] Booz & Company, 2009, survey of customer spending 
[3] https://www.failory.com/blog/startup-failure-rate
[4] www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180412/BLOGS01/180419940/burdens-abound-but-nyc-restaurants-numbers-are-growing
[6] www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/14/next-shuts-website-for-the-day-only-hours-after-reopening-coronavirus
[7] www.robbreport.com/style/accessories/a-newly-reopened-chinese-hermes-store-earned-2-7-million-in-a-day-2912999/

Tim Clayton

Tim Clayton, Senior Copywriter, has provided content and editorial services for some of the world's leading eCommerce platforms and software agencies. Previously of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Also a hobbyist author of unambitious fiction. | LinkedIn

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