As the coronavirus outbreak becomes worse, the government has begun taking urgent steps to reduce the impact, from restricting trade to stopping all unnecessary travel across the country. This will have a significant impact on everyone in society, not least retailers. For retailers to survive this incredibly disruptive time it is critical that the retailers that have an online offering and are able to operate with social distancing measures in their warehouses and adopt a business as usual approach.

The power of digital can allow retailers to continue selling to customers without having to leave their home. With mobile apps being a go-to route to engage with customers that are either in isolation or are facing closed stores, many retailers and brands are experiencing dramatic online growth, compensating for some of the decline in in-store traffic. We are seeing situations in other countries where the management of an online store is more akin to peak period trading behaviour where the performance of the site, the relevance of promotions, and the assurance of timely deliveries are all critically important.

Consumers no longer find shopping through mobiles/tablets difficult. This may be because the demographic has changed, and that the pandemic is encouraging people that may once have preferred the social experience of visiting shops, to shop online through websites and apps. But for some customers, the urge to interact with in-store team members plays a huge role in their shopping experience. To allow customers to interact with stylists online, Annoushka has integrated HERO, allowing it to mimic the in-store experience in real time to customers, no matter where they are located in the world. The functionality also permits customers to connect with their chosen in-store team member via chat, text or video – allowing retailers to create a familiar, reliable experience for customers through the use of digital.

Digital sales will be more critical and hugely significant as a percentage of sales for retailers, even post-pandemic. Once the pandemic begins to clear, people will be relieved to have the freedom to experience a physical shopping experience again. Yet these same people will also have more experience, confidence and assurance of what they can achieve online and will therefore be open to new ways of shopping, through mobile apps, websites and video.

Retailers need to capitalise on their digital capabilities to drive their brand values, product proposition and ensure they invest in scalable, personalised and intuitive digital shopping capabilities. To weather the storms of change and to reach the widest possible consumer market from the convenience of their phone, it is critical retailers and brands adapt, and do so with speed.

James Lutchmaya is managing director for Australia and New Zealand at Tryzens