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EDITORIAL How G2K retailers are using technology to drive post-pandemic growth

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With shopping habits permanently changed by the pandemic, retailers need to look at new tactics to drive growth. It also has changed what they buy and what they cook, eat, wear and look to for entertainment.

Recent research by Nielsen IQ finds that, while many more people are going to stick at online shopping now that stores are open, it also finds that the way they use the web is also informing how they then go to stores.

And stores are responding – but not in any one way, but by adapting and evolving existing strategies, as well as adopting new ones, often driven by technology.

World-famous toy seller Hamley’s opted to totally replatform to handle the rapidly increasing online sales the company saw in 2020 and into 2021 as the pandemic played out.

While more shoppers used the site while stores were shut, that has continued into the post-lockdown. The new site and new platform are there to handle this shift. The challenge for Hamley’s has been to service two audiences with one site: discovery led child browsers and a more functional purchase based site for the parents.

The retailer also talks about another, less well-discussed issue: suppliers. While the store has reopened, supply, fulfilment and merchandising are all still feeling impacts of the lockdown. Online here too has helped smooth out these humps.

Heritage kitchen appliance brand Swan has also had to switch to ecommerce to drive its sales in the lockdown and has continued to reap the success of this move by also looking at how better to sell on marketplaces – not least OnBuy.

The move has clearly been welcomed by shoppers, with B2C sales up by 500% in the past 12 months and sales through partnerships with pure play online marketplaces growing by more than 60%.

Fashion company rag&bone, meanwhile, has turned to triggered messaging to bring shoppers in – both to its site and its stores – where shoppers get targeted texts of emails based on their browsing behaviour.

The strategy has seen the company triggered emails generate a 7.2% rise in total digital revenues, while it also uses text messaging to offer an even more personal outreach to shoppers,

Online florist Bloom&Wild, along with online pharmacy Pharamcy2U have both looked to augment their already blossoming (sorry) online businesses with improved delivery. Bloom&Wild has engaged SaaS warehouser SnapFulfil to manage its warehouse and logistics, while Pharmacy2U has signed a deal with Royal Mail to drive next day delivery.

Altogether, SME retailers are grasping the nettle of the post-pandemic, omni-channel retail environment to drive growth. For many the start of the pandemic was a cliff-edge moment. As time has gone on, those that have adapted to the new online ways of shopping have seen some good growth. They have also discovered some new strategies and are busily implementing them. Interesting times lie ahead.

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