What Challenges Lie Ahead for Post-COVID Retail?


Laura Anne Danaraj | May 20, 2022

Loek Berendsen, Global Platform Strategy Leader at IKEACredit: Courtesy

As markets gradually return to normal, how will the retail landscape change and what should brands consider to keep apace? Loek Berendsen, Global Platform Strategy Leader at IKEA shares his thoughts on the matter ahead of the upcoming eTail Asia 2022 conference.

While digital transformation was always at the forefront of brands’ minds, it was not until the pandemic struck in 2020 that it became a real priority. In the absence of offline retail channels, brands focused on building up their online touch points in order to continue engaging with and converting consumers.

Today, as markets throughout the world gradually begin to declare COVID-19 as an endemic, life is slowly returning to normal for the most part. Brands are starting to turn their attention back to physical retail – which is set to become stronger, says Loek Berendsen, Global Platform Strategy Leader at IKEA.

Now with effective online infrastructures that they built up out of necessity during COVID-19, brands are more well placed to develop omnichannel strategies than they have ever been. “The digital movement is also going to the stores, and these digital solutions complement store associates and create additional ways of servicing customers and selling products. This creates an overall better customer and employee experience,” he adds.

In your opinion, how has the concept of omnichannel evolved over the last two years?

The omnichannel movement started with last mile delivery options, ordering online and picking up in store as the obvious example. Two years later, it is much broader and CEOs understand the possibilities, and accept new perspectives on customer experience. Omnichannel builds bridges, based on technology between your systems, between online and offline, between internal departments, removing silos. Omnichannel is about making life easier for customers and employees.

How can retailers leverage digital tools and platforms to learn and predict the needs and behaviours of customers to optimise its products and services?

There are many solutions to understand, analyse and predict customer behaviour even in an omnichannel world. For example, measuring net promoter score (NPS) across all these touchpoints. You are able to build a full 360 view on the customer happiness across all your sales and service channels. More importantly, you are able to see previous conversations and questions.

How can retailers provide immersive experiences that drive traffic and sales?

Personalisation is key. Omnichannel supports this in many forms and ways. Customers love new digital ways of interaction and connecting with their beloved brands, and these platforms give brands the opportunity to collect valuable personal information and preferences from customers and create better user profiles – which in turn, allows them to provide better products and services.

What’s next for augmented reality in retail?

More brands will use augmented reality. Consumers can discover if a new dress or shoes looks good on them; if that new chair fits in their living room together with their couch; if their suitcase is allowed as a carry-on during their flight with their favourite airline. There are boundless possibilities. Especially in an omnichannel world, where customers shop online and remotely, they need to understand if items fit. It prevents returns, and people make better decisions before ordering these products.

As brands diversify their sales channels, how should they ensure brand image and experience consistency across third-party platforms and brand-owned channels?

Stick to consistency. Ensure your tone of voice is the same everywhere; make sure pictures are consistent and reflect your brand. Take ownership of your products – especially on third-party platforms, build brand pages and engage with customers as much as possible in after sales and also during customer questions.

What leadership lessons have you learnt during the pandemic?

Taking care of your people is key. We’re not robots or AI. We need to talk and share – share happiness, and challenges. Working remotely is the future, but human connection makes the difference.

What will you be sharing at eTail Asia?

I will be talking more about omnichannel, experience-centricity, how to deal with the challenging changes from stores to e-commerce, and from e-commerce partly back to stores, and how brands can stay relevant and connected with customers.

What are the key topics you are keen to listen to and why is eTail a must not miss event?

Understanding trends in the Asia region, connecting with local leaders, learning about customer experiences and more importantly, customer expectations.

The retail landscape is changing, and how can brands diversify and adapt to stay relevant? Find out more at eTail Asia 2022, where Loek Berendsen will be discussing this topic in detail with Chad Samson, Senior Retail Designer at Foot Locker, APAC and Mike Ghasemi, Founder, Retail, Hospitality & Travel Chief Analyst of Mike Ghasemi Research on a panel discussion about the essential emerging tech.

7 - 9 June, 2022

Resorts World Convention Centre, Singapore

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AR/VR | Omnichannel | Technology