The past year has proven to be quite the test for many organizations.  Not only was every bottom line impacted, but every step in the supply chain was put to the test for its foundation, structure soundness and resiliency.  The difference being, this test was one no one had studied for or been prepared to take!  Whether your sales dipped or were heightened, there was no algorithm or wise sage that could have indicated the ‘next best thing’ to do along this journey.

Retailers quickly came up with categorization of ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’.  Sections of stores were closed off for safety purposes, other brick and mortar stores were asked to close their doors for a length of time.  Online retailers paused incoming inventory to prioritize the processing of essential items.  The retail sector, sometimes slower to transform, was forced to alter almost all processes—to keep the shopper, employees and inventory in a less risky position.

Shoppers largely behaved differently in the ‘what’ and ‘where’ they were purchasing, fast fashion took a huge hit, while home comforts eventually started to become a spend.  Purchasing shifted from a balanced mix of Brick and Mortar & eCommerce to eCommerce out of necessity, and there aren’t many signs showing this will slow or re-balance. 

The sudden, unexpected shift to eCommerce put retailer technology and solution development in the spotlight.  The fleeting moments of wanting to fall back on existing technology or processes were a glimmer of hope at best.  In reality, every team realized that change had to happen, and it had to happen fast.  This considerable undertaking was witnessed not only by partners and spouses but in many cases with children and extended family watching in.  Others were isolated, with the only solace being video calls.  All this to say, each and every contributing member of a family and a team was putting their best on the table—but this time what ‘best’ looked like wasn’t the same as when we were going into the office everyday!

The need to adapt could not be met with the typical determination and perseverance.  Instead, each person was called to collectively extend grace, pick up where another left off, and set aside the desire to compete with a coworker.  No longer it was about who can do it better or faster, it more so became a matter of all hands on deck.  Largely basic principles needed to be leaned on to see us through.

The sudden, unexpected shift to eCommerce put retailer technology and solution development in the spotlight

The 5 principles to establish to keep moving forward no matter the circumstances:

1. Clarity. Establish clarity as soon as possible and remind others often regarding the ‘mission’ of your team, organization or individual role.  This mission should not depend on external circumstances to be relevant. 

2. Simplicity.  In all that you do, communication, development of processes, database building, no matter the task, keep it to its most simple.  Use straight forward language and envision what *actually* has to happen.  For example, if a new file needs to be sent between the vendor and the retailer, picture pre-tech when the file would be a piece of paper, and one person would hand it off to another.  Keeping it simple allows for every person to understand and be on board.  It also ensures any testing of technology can be done by any end user.

3. Communication (to/fro). What is and isn’t said makes a big difference.  Regardless of the association with being an introvert or an extrovert, find a way to communicate your thoughts and ideas in a way that can be digested by the team.   Listen for responses to your communication outward, and listen to those communicating ‘to’ you.  In times when everyone is learning together, it becomes important to hear and process each and everyone’s ideas.

4. Decide. After considering inputs, a decision MUST be made to move forward.  This happens at a high level, perhaps by a VP, but also needs to happen at a macro level by middle managers and finally at a micro level.  Each decision should be in line with the mission, the task to complete that mission and using the inputs from others.

5. Stay consistent. Stay consistent to the mission and decisions made.  Veering away from either end in confusion and demotivation of those that have taken marching orders. 

Using these 5 principles allow us to leverage the challenges we have faced during the pandemic to further build a solid foundation: organizationally and with the technology evolution.  The best part is, each can be individually used to improve, but together the principles allow for true, long term success.