ChannelAdvisor managing director, APAC, Simon Clarkson discusses the four key things businesses need to do to remain agile in the current environment.

From the bushfires to COVID-19, the first half of 2020 has been an immense challenge for Australian retail.

In June, the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters that a recession was inevitable after the Australian Bureau of Statistics released national accounts showing gross domestic product fell 0.3% in the quarter.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to fall more than 10% in the June quarter, representing the biggest fall on record.

So, how do Australian retailers weather the storm ahead?

1. Supply and Demand

We know that pandemic-related spending on goods in anticipation of lockdown led to a substantial increase in certain categories.

This supply and demand shock was difficult for retailers to navigate.

Some products sold so well that warehouses were left empty and the opposite also occurred, with excess stock in normally fast-moving categories.

There was also the added difficulty of closed borders, which impacted imports and exports.

It’s vital now more than ever for retailers to utilise their data.

Brands and retailers can no longer rely on last year’s numbers to predict what’s next. Whether it’s work-from-home related products, educational resources, clothes or essential supplies, it’s vital to have a real-time view of what your customer wants.

2. Not Business as Usual

Online retail saw the largest month-on-month growth in the history of NAB’s online retail sales index issued in April this year.

With regulations in place, consumers who may have otherwise been unfamiliar with e-commerce were forced to change their shopping behaviour, and for those used to the digital space, their reliance on online was only strengthened.

In 2019 it was forecast that 12% of consumer spending would be conducted online by 2021, yet with the seismic shift brought about by COVID-19, Australia Post stated that online hit 12% of total retail for the month of March 2020.

Yet despite the positive statistics (including a reported 80% year-on-year growth in the eight weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the WHO) and the easing of lockdown measures, a return to business-as-usual shopping may be a long time away.

In fact, some experts predict that it will take years for retail to recover.

Consumer buying behaviour had already undergone immense change, and COVID-19 just reshaped the purchasing cycle even further.

So while a recession may be announced shortly, growth in the online space is certain.

There is no denying the challenges ahead, but the opportunities in e-commerce are significant.

3. Stay Agile

We’ve seen brands make difficult decisions in order to boost their online strategies.

The owner of Zara, for example, announced the closure of as many as 1,200 stores globally.

As one of the world’s largest clothing retailers, it was not immune from being hit hard by the pandemic, with sales down 44% between 1 February and 30 April.

Yet online sales rose by 50% year-on-year during the quarter, and were up 95% year-on-year in April.

Online needs to be a major focus for your brand.

4. The New Consumer

It’s vital to show up on as many channels as possible.

You need to be where your consumer is. Again, this is where real-time data is vital.

Consumers are turning to social media for inspiration, they’re scrolling their phone constantly, and then searching online via websites and marketplaces.

What’s important to them? Stock availability? How fast can it arrive at their door? Click-and-collect options?

The supply chain is critical here: demand forecasting is essential as well as ensuring you have an outlet where you can sell excess stock to shoppers looking for a bargain.

While lockdown measures are easing, we know that the actual retail landscape has been forever altered.

Consumer buying patterns are shifting and retailers and brands that embrace this now will be in a better position to succeed.

With the right strategy and a focus on digital presence, retail can thrive.

ChannelAdvisor helps brands and retailers worldwide improve their online performance by expanding sales channels, connecting with consumers around the world, optimising their operations for peak performance and providing actionable analytics to improve competitiveness. For more information and insights, visit


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