Sucharita Kodali, VP, Principal Analyst

Show Notes:

Let’s start with the good news: There was no retail apocalypse. Challenges? Yes. Difficulties? Many. But, as VP and Principal Analyst Sucharita Kodali explains, retailers engaged in rapid transformation during the pandemic. This nimble response, combined with support from the CARES Act and similar initiatives, helped avoid a worst-case scenario. In fact, retail sales only declined for two months during the pandemic in the US.

While the V-shaped recovery is cause for celebration, the work is far from over. Consumer behaviors that developed during the pandemic — such as a penchant for curbside pickup — aren’t going anywhere. Kodali urges retailers to invest in customer listening. The pandemic proved just how quickly customers’ needs and wants change. Without careful attunement, retailers can miss big opportunities for growth or critical problems that need addressing.

This isn’t a question of increasing data collection. In fact, many customer insights and experience teams are overwhelmed by the amount of data at their disposal. The key — and the place where investment is sorely needed — is in separating the signal from the noise. Retailers often don’t do enough data analysis and jump to wrong conclusions that lead to wasted spend and annoyed customers.

For example, Kodali explains, many retailers think that shoppers choose Amazon because of its fast shipping and try to compete by building their own fast shipping capabilities. Yet research shows that fast shipping isn’t one of the top reasons shoppers like Amazon. Rather than get caught up in this guessing game, focus on finding out what your customers like about you and double down on that. Owning your niche will become even more critical as the pandemic has pushed more consumers online, increasing the number of brands you’re competing with.

For more data on how the pandemic has changed retail and what the future will hold, listen to the full episode.