Following is a guest blog contributed by Art Goldman, chief financial officer of online retailer DK Hardware.

We began the final run of 2020 in a vastly different way than we imagined in January. Many of us are concerned with numbers, including going from red to black. We want to reach the end of the year without losses (or the fewest possible, at least) and settle on something like normality, even if it’s a new version thereof—including social distance and a mask that we are beginning to get used to.

But this pandemic aims to teach us that if we remain “inside the box” we will not be able to adapt, nor will we evolve. Profitability is important, of course, but what drives your business are people: customers and employees who can provide the same level of service or even better in a crisis. Sure, without customers there is no business, but also acknowledging what changed or what needs to be done to stay ahead, in regard to how you take care of people within the company, is instrumental for sustainable success. The new normal is just that: new. And facing the new is always a bit scary.

Faced With Uncertainty – More Observation

Outbreaks, waves, phases—chances are you’ve already gotten used to the idea that we are going to live with this pandemic for a while, including changes in direction and how it affects businesses and people. We have already seen some of these changes. How is our way of buying changing in the short and medium term? What consumer trends have we already glimpsed?

At DK Hardware, we engage daily with customers and learn from them. During the past seven months, we discovered that our clients are also in the midst of change, with the majority adapting to these unprecedented times whether by spending more time at home or by thinking about the future and saving money when possible. It is possible to group this shift in consumer behavior in the following common themes and trends.

More Digital: We already spent a lot of time with our mobile devices, but now we have learned to do more things on the internet. Buying online or taking an online training course are some of the things that many people did for the first-time during confinement.

Teleworking: Although teleworking is nothing new, companies and employees have learned that it is possible and that it has many advantages. Everything indicates that this type of work will be combined with face-to-face work to a greater extent than before the crisis.

Fear and Distrust: Fears of contagion and concern for health exist, but also distrust in the face of economic uncertainty.

Extra Saving: In the face of uncertainty, we will value our savings even more.

Additional Time at Home: Because of teleworking and certain fears, we now spend more time at home. This also makes us worry more about our homes.

Ecommerce Growth: Sales in the online channel were already growing. That’s nothing new. But confinement has accelerated this growth.

Consumption Polarization: Due to the economic crisis, the sale of both low-cost and luxury products grows.

Local Approach: Because we want to protect our economies, including of our cities and country, we take local approaches. We do this also because we trust more in what is close to us.

Let us make this into a portrait of the “average consumer.” Let’s call her Sara. Sara is now more home-based and more distrustful. She buys online more than before and she is more sensitive to price and committed to local. But remember that this is just a general portrait. We are not all Sara. In fact, we are all different. So ask yourself: What are your clients like and how is this crisis affecting them?

Another Step Toward Digital Transformation

The low level of digitization for many retailers has taken its toll during lockdowns. A a result, maybe one of your plans for the final stretch of 2020 includes investing in digital transformation.

If you ask me where the digital transformation of your store should begin, I will tell you: inside. Before thinking about digital marketing actions or LED screens for your storefront, think about how to be more efficient through technology and digital solutions. Think, for example, of barcodes and how they made it easier to identify each product and control stock. Think of solutions for saving time and even providing clearer information for your customer. These days that might include radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that promise to facilitate all inventory tasks and save costs for retailers. Think of the old cash registers and compare them with your enterprise resource planning software, or with the software of your store terminals. Now you can have data and know much more (and much faster) about your sales, your margins and your customers.

Think about these matters more in terms of transformation, more so than, say, just “going digital.” While you’re at it, think about your team, your daily work, and the aforementioned portrait of your new client. Only then can you find solutions (digital or not) that allow you to be more efficient and, in the medium term, more profitable.

Guest Blog

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