AWS for Industries

AWS Retail Series: Advice from our APN Partners on navigating the pandemic

COVID-19 has turned consumer behavior on its head, forcing retailers to reimagine the customer journey, rethink business operations, and double down on innovation. To help guide retailers as they navigate the challenges and opportunities associated with COVID-19, we reached out to our Retail Competency Partners to get an understanding of what they’ve learned during the pandemic. Here’s what they said:

COVID-19 is unlike any other financial crisis we’ve experienced and will require new approaches for long-term success.

  • “The difference between all previous financial crises and COVID-19 is that traditional financial crises can hit hard but their lifecycle is well researched, and you know more or less what to expect. COVID-19 is totally different. While COVID-19 still has plenty of implicit impacts, uncertainty is enormously higher than ever before. Look at implementing technologies like In-store Computer Vision that are not only capable of fighting immediate implications of social distancing, wearing masks, and providing a safer environment for customers and employees, but also supports resistance against uncertainty in the medium- and long-term.” – Valentyn Kropov, Vice President, Global Retail, Client Success Leader, SoftServe
  • “After the financial crisis of 2008-2009, it took about four years for retailers to recover from the discounting and promotional expectations they set with consumers from having to clear out a glut of inventory. COVID’s impact on consumer price sensitivity could easily be deeper and longer. We’ve seen retailers try to avoid the need for deep discounts through aggressive omnichannel activities (pulling inventory out of stores) and by considering strategies like Pack and Hold (pack up unsold inventory and use it next year), but if too many retailers just decide to clear it all out no matter the consequences, the whole industry could be feeling the impact on consumers for years to come.” – Nikki Baird, VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
  • “As the economic recession takes hold, consumers are expected to shift towards value and discount channels—increasingly seeking deals and distinguishing products by price over brand. As pricing dynamics play a crucial role in a recession and recovery period, Trax customers are looking at how technology can help them track and analyze real-time pricing to enable more proactive price management for the coming months.” – David Gottlieb, Managing Director Americas, Trax
  • “Retailers and other businesses across the world should now embrace that we are in a ‘never normal’ world. Being prepared for uncertainty, such as continued disruptions from COVID-19, Brexit, trade wars, new market entrants, or changing customer preferences must be part of company core competencies.” – Sandra Moran, Chief Marketing Officer at LLamasoft

As consumer behaviors change, digital channels have become vital to retailers’ success. Getting smart on customer behavior, data collection, analysis, and automation is more important than ever.

  • “The crisis has upended customer priorities, preferences, and behaviors that will likely continue post-pandemic. Investing in understanding new customer behaviors formed during COVID-19 and relying on data and analytics to make quick decisions across the 4Ps—product, price, place, and promotion—will enable retailers to ride the crisis wave and emerge successful. Whether it is to reactivate customers, retain first-time customers, or attract new ones, AI and analytics will be retail industry’s weapon to build great customer experiences during the crisis and beyond.” – Raj Badarinath, CMO, Manthan-RichRelevance
  • “Retailers that embraced digital early saw growth of up to 50 percent. The challenge they now face is to consolidate and solidify their expanded customer base—and new customer habits—while continuing to innovate around ordering, delivery, pick up, and drive-through. Now, as all retailers are embracing digital, marketing optimization is more critical than ever. Accurate measurement, smart insights, and real-time ROI reporting help marketers make every ad dollar maximally productive.” – Susan Kuo, COO & Co-Founder, Singular
  • “Cut through the noise. Personalization has been around for a bit, but customers are more likely to notice when a retail experience isn’t tailored to them. Now more than ever, you need to drive a personalized 1–1 experience for your customers across product recommendations, email content, and social ads.” – Tom Summerfield, Retail Director, Peak
  • “Post COVID-19, regaining and driving customer loyalty is more important than ever. Consumers have become ‘Retail Butterflies’ going to whoever has the products they want. Customer-centric selling needs to be a focus; upselling to loyal customers (for example, upselling at click and collect locations in store) and encouraging loyal customers to recommend retailers with rewards. Understanding how customers interact with you (both in physical and virtual selling locations) will help maintain loyalty and drive revenue.” – Hannah Green, Head of Retail, Daemon Solutions

For many retailers, connecting with customers during a pandemic will require a shift to more empathetic marketing that conveys authenticity and establishes trust.

  • “Historically, retailers that have committed to marketing during economic downturns have come out stronger during the recovery. Retail marketers should continue engaging with their customers, but try and have empathy in their marketing, use marketing to establish trust with the brand, and most importantly be authentic. You don’t have to remind your users that they’re in a pandemic—everyone knows that. Instead, focus on their needs. A good example is sharing recipes about immune boosting foods or 10-minute healthy dinners for the family.” – Raviteja Dodda, Founder and CEO at MoEngage Inc.
  • “As retailers are keenly aware, COVID-19 has not only altered buyer behavior, it has also fundamentally shifted buyers’ motivations to purchase. To survive and thrive post-COVID-19, retailers now need to focus on three key initiatives: 1) Communicate with your buyers transparently and empathetically, leaving behind marketing speak to which they are all but immune; 2) Personalized campaigns need to be replaced by individualized messages and experiences based on real-time analytics and buyers’ past behavior, not just a static user profile; and 3) Migrate away from point solutions. Strengthen your martech stack to leverage the power and scalability of a full and feature-complete omnichannel platform.” – Sunil Thomas, Cofounder and CEO, CleverTap

Retailers are learning that agility is paramount to success.

  • “No one can really predict how shopping behaviors will change post-COVID-19. If there is anything we have learned with absolute certainty, it is the need to maintain an agile delivery and fulfillment strategy, operations and technical implementation. Retailers need to be agile with their resource allocation and utilize resources, stores, warehouses, and staff in different capacities, rapidly scaling up and optimizing based on changing market needs. Stores with less foot traffic can become mini fulfillment centers while in-store staff can be repurposed for logistic and order fulfillment operations.” – Guy Bloch, CEO, Bringg
  • “As safety concerns shift more retail sales online, it may be time to assess which stores should reopen at all. For those that do open, historical data might not be a valuable guide to set expectations for store performance in the near term. Better to use real-time data to understand where people are shopping, how far they are willing to travel from home, and what they are buying. These will likely drive decisions about which stores to reopen and what role each store should play in the portfolio.” – Habeeb Dihu, Cloud and CIO Advisory Services Leader – Retail and Consumer Products, Deloitte

If COVID-19 has taught the industry one thing, it’s that we must continue plan for the unexpected even after the pandemic. Data has become more important than ever, particularly in marketing and supply chain optimization, and building unique in-store and online experiences is paramount to success. Our APN Partner community is working closely with retailers across all segments to help accelerate their cloud innovation journeys in all areas, whether that’s AI/ML capabilities or projects that drive digital transformation in order to recover revenue, and in core enterprise migrations to quickly realize cost savings. Visit the AWS Retail Competency Partners site to learn more.

Tom Litchford

Tom Litchford

Tom Litchford is Head of Worldwide Retail and Wholesale Distribution at AWS. He leads AWS‘s industry strategy and guides the leadership team for marketing and sales enablement, channel development, and the solution offerings required to address customers’ business needs. Named a Top Retail Influencer by Rethink Retail, Litchford has 40 years of experience in systems engineering, sales, product management and marketing of technology business solutions for the retail and hospitality industries, and has held leadership positions at NCR Corporation and Microsoft. Prior to joining AWS in 2017, Litchford served as VP of Retail Technologies at the National Retail Federation, where he oversaw the organization’s cybersecurity program, the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) programs and its technology communities, including the invite-only CIO Council, Women in Retail IT, IT Security Council and the Tech Council.

Jennifer Beckett

Jennifer Beckett

Jennifer Beckett is the Global Retail Partner Leader at AWS where she focuses on building and growing the retail partner ecosystem. Prior to AWS, Jennifer spent over 25 years enabling CPGs and retailers to improve through data-driven collaborative processes across supply chain, category management and trade promotion management. Jennifer is a member of the Consumer Goods Forum SC Pillar, NRF Associate Members Council and EnsembleIQ’s Executive Council. She holds a Supply Chain Management degree from Michigan State University and received her MBA at Loyola Marymount University in International Marketing.