Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


In the previous year, when the Novel Coronavirus attacked the human race, it also changed the world’s future most radically. Lifestyles and rulebooks of entire nations changed overnight. Consumer needs shifted and so did the channels of purchase.

The global economy first stood still, then started responding to the changing scenario and gradually, with the restoration of a “new normal”, green shoots of recovery became visible. Indian economy was deeply impacted by the pandemic and the consumer confidence had reached record lows in the second quarter of 2020. However, the third quarter restored some hope.

A Deloitte report revealed that the consumer sentiment was showing strong signs of recovery just before the festive season kicked in. The findings proved to be right when the festive months of October and November, saw people visiting retail stores and indulging in festive shopping. Domestic travel too picked up in the last quarter of 2020 and the auto industry experienced record sales in October.

Image source: Demystifying the Indian consumer behavior report

However, despite consumer spending picking up, the challenges for the consumer and retail industry are far from over. Consumers are increasingly transitioning towards e-commerce and digital platforms – a trend that is expected to gain permanency and transform the landscape of consumer and retail market.

In this new scenario, resorting to traditional approaches for attracting consumers will not work. Drawing from the survey findings, Deloitte report suggests the following five actions for the consumer and retail sector to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

Reorganizing priorities

To rebuild a new growth trajectory, the companies need to realign and reboot their business models and adapt to the unfolding changes more swiftly by being agile.

Explore new hiring models

The work culture of the “new normal” is quite different from the traditional models. Many companies have shifted to permanent work from home models to curb real estate and administration costs amid the economic slowdown. Organizations are also exploring new methods of hiring and working by recruiting freelancers or workers on contract-basis, in order to lower fixed-costs and burdens.

Ensure customers’ safety and advertize the measures taken

Be it a hotel, a flight, a retail store or salon – customers are still scared to enter spaces that are exposed to multiple people. All consumer-facing businesses must give utmost priority to customer safety. Hotels and flights have definite mechanisms in place that ensure maximum safety to consumers – the same needs to be replicated by all businesses. Equally important is advertising about such measures and letting people know that their business premises are safe for visiting.

Embrace the omni-channel approach

Consumers are increasingly gravitating to the digital space for purchasing and exploring products. Several Deloitte surveys show that e-commerce share in the overall channel-mix in retail will rise further in the coming years. However, consumers still want to visit stores, once in a while to feel a fabric or listen to the actual sound system before buying a product.

Studies show that this trend will continue in the future years, and hence, to serve this new breed of customers, retailers must adopt a “phygital” that is, physical+digital model, where online or digital presence is complemented by physical stores. Effective use of omni-channel approach can accelerate business recovery considerably and also position companies to achieve better growth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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