In just a few months, the pandemic has brought about years of change in the way companies in all regions and sectors do business. The pace of the pre-coronavirus world was already somewhat fast; however, the luxury of time now seems to have disappeared entirely.
Businesses that once mapped digital strategy in phases of several years have taken initiatives to combat the crisis in a matter of days and weeks. However, some firms are already in danger, while others have to restructure their approaches and develop different coping mechanisms fundamentally. The retail industry, in particular, has been severely affected since the government imposed strict restrictions on public mobility, resulting in limited face-to-face service at stores.
According to a CB Insights report, 40 bankruptcies have been declared in retail from 2015 through March 2018, with 21 in 2017 alone. During the ongoing pandemic, the numbers have escalated way beyond. Retailers will be dealing with the pandemic's impact regardless of how long the actual health crisis remains. Hence, with the retail industry more fragile than ever, retailers in the country must evolve in order to succeed in the next few years.
Amidst these life-changing issues, the silver lining is the falling barriers to improvisation and experimentation that have risen among customers, markets, and businesses, including the retail sector. Under the unique circumstances, retailers who wish to remain in the industry and drive positive results should consider embracing technology while there is time.
The unprecedented growth of digitisation and technology, despite the ongoing situation, demonstrates that consumers continue to seek opportunities for using online marketplaces. There has been a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour from physical to digital means of buying, selling, and paying. This shows that the retail sector of Bangladesh is capable of flourishing in the grip of a revolution powered by digital technology.
The digital transformation for the retail sector does not begin, end, or limit to a specific function such as owning a website. In reality, retailers must make fundamental changes to their supply chains, operations, customer relationship process, and many more. It involves fully exploiting the advantages of the current situation and technology to drastically improve the quality of service, efficiency, delivery systems, and customer satisfaction. In addition, it is imperative that retailers modernise their IT system, ways of optimising operations and provide end-to-end customer experiences at a faster rate to drive consistent progress and retention.
As the use of technology spreads drastically, more and more people participate in the digital economy around the globe. Innovation and technology hand-in-hand in a digital ecosystem can catalyse digital transformation and recast the relationship between customers, workers, and employers. In a pandemic stricken world, modernising the retail sector with the help of technology will help us pursue continued socio-economic growth. The expansion of digital retailers in the economy will create several opportunities for both the company and consumers while fundamentally restructuring business models in a sustainable manner. Furthermore, it will also change society as a whole with businesses and even competitions supporting one another.
Bearing this in mind, many companies and business entities in the country have started taking sustainable measures to contribute and support the retail industry. Daraz, for instance, has been a forerunner for continuous modernisation and digital transformation in this sector. Over the past year, we have taken numerous initiatives to keep businesses engaged and running in the digital economy despite the circumstances. From initiating major campaigns, providing transparent communication mediums with customers to building warehouses, and increasing the number of collection points, we have always tried to positively impact the customers and the retail industry of the country.
In a 1959 speech, John F. Kennedy had famously said, "The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognise the opportunity." Although today, it is usually recognised as an incorrect interpretation of the Chinese letters, the former President's insight about a crisis may be more important than ever. Our country's strength lies in its growing economy, increasing digital adoption, and core technological capabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity to create a robust digital ecosystem by modernising the retail sector. Supported by an expanding innovation and entrepreneurship environment, there has never been a better time to strive towards constant economic growth.
The writer is the Chief Commercial Officer, Daraz Bangladesh Limited