4 Challenges Omnichannel Retailers Must Address to Adapt to COVID-19 Outbreak

April 27, 2020
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Many of the challenges facing retailers today started with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, but it is still too early to say where the ripple effects of those challenges will end. To weather this storm, retailers will need to adapt in order to make the most of the opportunities they have to meet consumers’ changing needs.

For many retailers, an omnichannel approach promises to be the key to getting through this difficult period, because it enables consumers to shop conveniently (and, when done right, enjoyably) without violating the restrictions being implemented to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But by itself, an omnichannel approach will not solve all of the problems retailers now face. Successfully navigating this crisis will also require these companies to address some other major challenges confronting both them and their customers.

To help omnichannel retailers adapt to this dynamic business environment, here is a look at four of the top challenges they must address, along with some strategies that can make a powerful difference:

Challenge #1: Customer fears and concerns

There’s no way around the fact that this is a scary time for shoppers. Besides the obvious fears that they or their loved ones could be infected by the coronavirus, there are widespread concerns regarding the disease’s economic consequences. In the U.S., some 26.5 million people have applied for unemployment benefits since the crisis began, and there is little certainty of what to expect either from COVID-19 itself or from its financial fallout going forward (to say nothing of the impact of social isolation on consumers’ daily lives).

That certainly does not make consumers amenable to the types of marketing messages that would resonate with them under more normal circumstances. Instead, it is especially important to show empathy, conveying that you know what your customers are going through and you’re here to help. It may also be helpful to publicly communicate some of the specific steps you are taking to ensure the safety of your employees and customers.

Finally, it is worth considering offering discounts during this challenging period. Not only does marking down your items give you a chance to expand your customer base at a time when many consumers are spending conservatively, but it can show that you have your customers’ best interests at heart.

Challenge #2: Consumers’ changing product priorities

As the sales numbers from this year have proven, the coronavirus outbreak is causing a significant shift in consumers’ shopping priorities. This is not just a matter of how much money shoppers are spending online and how much they are spending at brick-and-mortar establishments. It’s also a matter of which products they’re choosing to spend their money on.

On the one hand, job losses have left many consumers concerned for their financial future, which could cause them to balk at making a purchase that just weeks ago would have hardly warranted a second thought. But at the same time, problems within the supply chain have made it difficult for consumers to buy certain products online quickly. That difficulty has fueled concern over product shortages, which in turn has led to panic-buying of certain essential items.

As a result, some types of products have been seen a sales boom, while others – especially those that are not widely considered essential and that do not have a special appeal to shoppers stuck at home – have seen their sales plummet.

The key to managing that kind of complicated situation is listening to those who have the answers – not only consumers, but also customer-facing employees well positioned to gauge changes in consumer sentiment.

Challenge #3: Unreliable product supply and delivery

One of the recent challenges for a wide variety of retailers selling products online has been the difficulty of obtaining and delivering products in a timely way. In part, this is because many industries have seen their supply chains disrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions designed to slow the spread of the disease. In part, this challenge has been a result of the rapid rise in product demand, which has caught many companies by surprise. And in part, it is because of the difficulty of delivering purchased products quickly and reliably in light of the restrictions put in place in many parts of the world.

Obviously, companies looking to provide an excellent customer experience should do everything in their power to ensure that customers receive their products without delay. But when this is not possible, the key to maintaining a positive experience is providing an abundance of information, promptly notifying the shopper of any expected delay, and providing a reliable estimate of when their product will arrive.

This way, you can turn an unfortunate and frustrating situation into an opportunity to strengthen a customer relationship.

Challenge #4: The novelty of eCommerce for many consumers

Although eCommerce has been on the rise for many years, the coronavirus outbreak has accelerated that climb by pushing many consumers to suddenly begin shopping online out of necessity. As a result, many retailers have seen an influx of first-time online shoppers.

What does that mean for your online store? First, this reality makes it especially important to make a good first impression. After all, consumers who are today turning to eCommerce for the first time may tomorrow become your loyal customers – or, if they have a poor experience now, they may not.

And second, having so many new shoppers makes it critical to offer a customer experience that does not assume users are tech-savvy or even familiar with the basics of online shopping. To offer a customer experience that will foster loyalty among these eCommerce novices, you will need to make sure that experience is friendly, intuitive, and anxiety-reducing. By providing a warm welcome to ease these new customers into the world of online shopping, you can maximize your chances of both making a sale today and encouraging them to come back to your online store again tomorrow.

That makes this a particularly important time to prevent Customer Journey Hijacking – a widespread problem in which a consumer’s online shopping experience is disrupted by injected ads, most of which are designed to promote products sold by competing online stores. Not only do injected ads decrease companies’ overall online conversion rates by between 1.5% and 5%, but they also threaten brand loyalty. And today, with so many new online shoppers suddenly getting a feel for the landscape of eCommerce, those ads threaten to send consumers from your online store straight into the arms of your competitors – quite possibly costing you what could have been long-lasting, profitable customer relationships.

An omnichannel approach to retail is a good start

As retailers strive to adapt in order to make it through this challenging and dynamic period, an omnichannel approach empowers them to pursue their sales goals despite restrictions that have been enacted in many parts of the world, while offering their customers convenience and flexibility.

But on its own, having an omnichannel approach is not enough to let a retailer fully adapt to this rapidly changing environment. While the changes that retailers are seeing are largely rooted in the COVID-19 outbreak, they now affect many aspects of both their own capabilities and consumers’ attitudes towards eCommerce.

How will those attitudes shift once the outbreak is (largely) behind us? That remains to be seen, but it is clear that retailers will need to glean important lessons from the difficulties of this crisis and apply them in the future.

In the meantime, as retailers continue working hard to keep themselves and their teams from falling victim to the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, we at Namogoo are temporarily allowing them to block injected ads in real-time at no cost. Not only does our Customer Hijacking Prevention solution offer them an immediate increase in their online conversion rates, but it enables them to improve their customer experience at this critical point in the world of online shopping. And because our cloud-based technology can be set up remotely, these companies can start enjoying its benefits quickly – improving their ability to make the most of every sales opportunity, both during the current crisis and in the period of adjustment that will follow.


To start blocking injected ads and increasing your online conversion rate at no risk, request cost-free access to Namogoo’s Customer Hijacking Prevention solution.

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