Lately I've found myself spending extra time reading up on current events, trying to make sense of them using context from the past. We are all looking to understand what the future world will look like.
I came across this commentary from McKinsey entitled "The New Normal," which, as it turns out, was written in 2009 on the heels of the financial crisis. Author Ian Davis wrote, "The business landscape has changed fundamentally; tomorrow's environment will be different, but no less rich in possibilities for those who are prepared." That has never been more true than today.
My industry, retail, was experiencing turbulence well before the pandemic hit. A confluence of factors — globalization, fast fashion and new distribution channels, to name a few — have been rocking our world for years. The hard truth is we were too slow to change on our own.
I am no psychic. But when this is all over, there will be major revisions to the way we conduct B2B retail business, and that is not a bad thing. To that end, here are three predictions I'll make for how retail will revise itself.
Our buying model and habits will shift
Shows and fashion weeks are critical to retailers and brands for the networking value and tactile experience they provide. But in recent years, there have become too many of them. How can we talk about reducing our carbon footprint when we spend weeks and even months of the year traveling around the world?
With the global lockdown, many JOOR clients have told me they had no idea virtual showrooms were so robust. Business is continuing and deals are being transacted, using rich imagery and seamless online payments. High-value shows will persist, we will all attend and they will be as fabulous as ever. And an amazing amount of wholesale business can be transacted online — just as is being done today.
Channels will continue to blur
This was already happening. Last decade, we saw a gold rush to pure-play online retail. But it soon became apparent that acquisition costs per customer were too high, so these new retailers built their own brick-and-mortar presence or began to sell through wholesale. Meanwhile, the traditional retailers were scrambling to create digital stores. Sadly, many businesses in our industry won't emerge from the pandemic. The ones that do will succeed on the back of a well-developed omnichannel strategy.
Wholesale is going to get with the digital age
When I came to JOOR in 2017, I called up former colleagues from my days as a buyer in the late 1990s. I was keen to hear what technology they were using to transact their wholesale businesses. And I was appalled to hear that the tools were still the same ones I had used 20 years prior. How was this even possible? With all the hype over online commerce and enhanced shopping experiences, we completely ignored the wholesale channel.
As an industry, we weren't investing how we do business among ourselves. That has cost us not just efficiency but also intelligence. Which forecasts could have hit the mark with rich historical data? What styles and trends were missed, resulting in lost revenue? We'll never know. The necessity of conducting business virtually has provided a wake-up call to brands and retailers: It's time to invest in technology for themselves as well as for their consumers. And that's a good thing.
We don't need the new normal — we need a retail revision. The future is rich with possibilities.
This article was initially published on Forbes. You can view the article here.