Retail Apocalypse? Not Yet!

The number of COVID-19 cases is growing worldwide, and unfortunately, the forecasts remain unpromising. Therefore, representatives across different industries are readjusting their businesses to meet these new conditions. They are implementing new business processes and transforming current ones. Having experience in the development of software solutions for retail, we decided to take a look at the industry and analyze how it reacts to the new conditions and which the solutions being implemented.


COVID-19: A Push for Retail?


Retail is among those industries that need to make decisions quickly, redistribute expenses, and introduce new services to maintain market positions. Worldwide, traffic to supermarket sites grew by 60.7% since the beginning of the year. This hints that consumers still need food, personal hygiene products, household chemicals, and clothing. Because of the lockdown, consumers revised their habits - discovered online purchases, and changed the purchase frequency. We understand this as a powerful push for retailers to launch digital services, for example, placing and paying for orders through an application or a website, pick-up, delivery services, etc.


Retail Digital Updates: Special Offers


Special offers are triggers that allow customers to buy a product at a better price and motivates them to make additional purchases. All retail stores launch promotions, so the same experience is expected during online shopping by providing special offers and discounts. Customers start online shopping by checking the page of special offers because this is where they may find the products they need. But some stores refuse listing their promos on a separate page. In our opinion, it is a mistake, because the business potentially loses profit.


Pleasant little things in the form of presents that you may get by ordering a certain amount can increase customer loyalty, especially when a buyer sees it early on a website. Of course, this does not apply to the store’s special offers page, but it is still an idea that is worth considering.


Retail Digital Updates: the Flypage


The online presence of supermarkets is a growing trend, while also a current must-have, which gives businesses the opportunity to expand their sales channels and audience. Business owners who have been planning to implement digital solutions should use this time to recognize the pandemic as an opportunity to turn plans into reality. For example, a network of Polish convenience stores called Żabka, executed online grocery shopping and pick-up service very quickly. You can place an order using the official Zappka application, and pick it up at the nearest store, where the pick-up option is available. We would recommend some improvements to their service - expand the product information by adding an item description and increase the number of pictures.

Essential elements of any flypage. Icons made by photo3idea_studio from www.flaticon.com

People tend to forget to add items to the shopping list, so it would be reasonable to add blocks like “Frequently bought together” or “Similar products” at the bottom of the flypage. Even if the customer has a good memory, the presence of such blocks may motivate him to make an impulse purchase. All products are categorized, so the retailer can show the customer products from the same subcategories. For example, if a customer is about to purchase Coca-Cola and the system could show him Pepsi in the "Similar products" block of the page. Based on our experience developing microservice clustering modules, we would conclude offering a product selection for the "Similar products" block in clusters to be logical.


Retail Digital Updates: the Shopping cart


The online shopping carts look very similar - there is a list of selected products, their quantity, and prices, as well as the total amount of the order. But we noticed that not all online supermarkets have the option to use loyalty cards, vouchers, gift certificates, etc. Many people use them while shopping in regular offline stores and would like to do so on the website or in the application. It would be smart to integrate a module responsible for the processing of loyalty cards, vouchers, and certificates in the shopping cart where the customers check all the products they’re about to purchase. Having this option will strengthen customer loyalty with the retailer increase sales for products and gift certificates.


Retail Digital Updates: the Checkout Process


Everyone is familiar with online payments, and it is difficult to imagine online shopping without such an option. Customers want to pay for their orders immediately after its confirmation and preferably without adding unnecessary steps. They expect the same from websites and web-based supermarket applications. Local, small retailers have just begun to discover the complex business process of online shopping. Hence, customers often still have to pay in the store when picking up their online orders. For example, the aforementioned Żabka still works that way, which causes some inconvenience. The integration of a payment module will solve this issue. It will process online payment and save, with the user's permission, the card data, so there will be no need to enter them when shopping next time. It will be necessary to significantly transform the entire business process that will also increase both loyalty and the number of regular customers for businesses.

Online shopping process. Icons made by iconixar from www.flaticon.com

Retail Digital Updates: the Pick-up Process


The pick-up service minimizes contacts between people in the COVID-19 era. The international retail chain Tesco, offers its customers a two-hour time slot within which they can pick up their orders. It is very convenient and allows customers to plan their everyday affairs. When choosing the pick-up option, the customers receive their orders in the supermarket parking lot. By the way, it would be useful to send customers notifications reminding that them to pick up the order at the selected time. The Polish online supermarket Frisco.pl, delivers customer orders to coolomats - refrigerators that resemble mailboxes - a very advantageous and caring decision, which keeps the products fresh.


We analyzed the local retail chains in Ukraine and Poland, and also evaluated large international ones, such as Tesco and Auchan, and concluded that, in general, retail was able to correctly respond to the new conditions of the game. Those stores that previously worked only offline developed at least the option to order products by phone, and most launched the whole online ordering process from beginning to end. It suggests that the industry is flexible enough and ready for transformations. To summarize useful ideas of the digital transformation of retail:

  • Module for processing loyalty cards, coupons, and certificates;

  • Blocks “Frequently bought together ” or “Similar products”;

  • Gifts for purchase for a certain amount;

  • Recipes with a list of needed ingredients;

  • Shopping list with the ability to share;

  • Collection of feedback after the order, which will improve the quality of services and, if necessary, change, modify processes.

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