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Rebuilding retail after the pandemic

To help retailers understand the new normal, Zebra Technologies has identified the pandemic-related industry changes as the 3 Waves. This outlines the recovery process of most retailers, spanning the immediate changes that ensured stability in the early days and the longer-term, strategic changes that will become institutionalized.

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Photo by Kaique Rocha from Unsplash.com

The pandemic has caused a noticeable change in consumer behavior, which in turn necessitates a corresponding change in every retailer’s business processes. As the Philippines reopens its economy, businesses are reassessing their strategies and recovery plans differently. In fact, about 45% of business owners are hesitant to resume their operations, according to a survey by the World Bank, National Economic and Development Authority and Department of Finance.

Retailers are used to reacting to evolving market demands, and they understand that the pandemic’s impact on the industry is likely to be long-lasting, even after a vaccine is found. To help retailers understand the new normal, Zebra Technologies has identified the pandemic-related industry changes as the 3 Waves. This outlines the recovery process of most retailers, spanning the immediate changes that ensured stability in the early days and the longer-term, strategic changes that will become institutionalized.

WAVE 1: MAINTAINING BUSINESS STABILITY

Wave 1 started when global economies began to shut down in early March 2020, and many retailers were forced to stop operations in response to quarantine protocols. Many had to cut back on costs to stay afloat. Those that kept their operations had to optimize resources and labor hours while ensuring employee health and safety.

When panic buying started to strain supply chains in the early months of the lockdown, retailers realized that conventional demand planning models no longer worked. They had to find new ways to meet consumer needs without compromising their employees’ safety or incurring greater costs.

Retailers immediately started investing in technologies that could give them a crystal-clear picture of what was happening within their four walls and their supply chains. Many retailers increased their use of mobile computing and scanning solutions, helping boost their capacity to replenish orders, speed up end-to-end fulfillment and accommodate customers’ basic needs and wants both in-store and online.

Based on the collective feedback from retail leaders and store associates, the biggest lessons during Wave 1 were the importance of:

1.  Real-time operational visibility

Retailers should invest in technologies that improve their capacity and speed in managing their inventory to cope with the demand, while providing them with real-time visibility across the supply chain at the same time.

According to Zebra’s APAC Shopper Study, 88% of retailers agree that maintaining real-time inventory visibility is a significant challenge. And up to 85% say their companies need better inventory management tools to ensure accuracy.

Having access to data on operations in real time will help retailers to address consumer needs immediately and avoid either under- or over-inventory situations. This enables retailers to ensure operational efficiency and business resilience even amid pandemic constraints.

2. Distributing actionable intelligence to store associates and supply chain partners

In any given day, especially during the pandemic, store employees and supply chain partners face challenges in assisting customers. Retailers must provide them with the right tools to attend to customers’ needs by swiftly locating inventory within their stores and knowing how much inventory is left so they can get it replenished. This prevents loss of sales and translates to greater customer satisfaction thereby improving business outcomes.

This is where prescriptive analytics, intelligent automation, wearables and handheld mobile computers become exceptionally handy.

3. Overcommunicating with customers, especially when you aren’t going to be able to deliver what they want on time or at all

When stay-at-home orders were issued, many consumers had to stop going to physical stores and relied solely on online shopping for their groceries and other essentials. Being unable to see store shelves, consumers had to rely on real-time stock inventory information presented on the website or mobile app to know whether an item was available.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen during the Enhanced Community Quarantine, 27% of Filipino consumers switched brands in certain categories because the products from their preferred brands were out of stock. In such cases, the lack of communication about what is available and the inability to provide alternatives to consumers created frustration among consumers. This compromised their trust in the retailers’ capability to meet their demands and needs.

4. Prioritizing worker and customer safety above all else and compensating associates for the risks they’re taking on the front lines

Some retailers provided financial aid to their employees to help them during the pandemic. But beyond the monetary assistance, store associates are more inclined to come to work and give their 100% when they feel they are being taken care of and are physically protected. Employees expected and appreciated efforts by retailers to maintain strict social distancing and sanitization measures, especially during the early months of the quarantine when paranoia about the virus was so high. These measures included frequent disinfection of shared scanning and mobile devices and the investment in “personal” protective wearables. 

WAVE 2: A NEW RETAIL NORMAL

As operations started to stabilize, essential retailers were able to focus on institutionalizing new ways to engage customers with online and in-store experiences. Retail leaders made efforts to get people in and out of stores as quickly as possible. They ensured physical distancing through several measures, such as limiting the number of people allowed in the store at any given time, setting up directional flow lines and installing dividers to prevent contact. Temperature checks, regular disinfection and other cleaning regiments helped provide a safe environment for both shoppers and store associates. 

Even when the pandemic quiets down, retailers will still take precautions to maximize the health and safety of both customers and employees in stores, corporate offices and warehouses. Services such as “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) with curbside pickup options, contactless purchases and increased integration between digital and physical experiences will become the standard means of engaging with customers.

WAVE 3: LONG-TERM TRANSFORMATION

At some level, the long-term transformation in Wave 3 should occur simultaneously with Wave 2. The pandemic is accelerating retail digitization by several years. As retailers prioritize new technologies and solutions to ride the tide of increased online shopping, such new approaches will be part of efforts to ensure retail business viability moving forward.

Retailers have no choice but to accelerate planned efforts to increase product sourcing diversity, leverage intelligent automation and scale e-commerce fulfillment capabilities. As such, businesses should consider prioritizing increased product sourcing diversity, intelligent automation and optimizing last-mile delivery to achieve greater resiliency and backend efficiency.

When demand for certain non-discretionary products spiked as news around COVID-19 broke, Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry imposed limitations on the purchase of basic commodities to prevent supply shortage. Many retailers, however, have not yet diversified their product sources to a point where backend shortages remain “invisible.”  This reinforces the need for product sourcing diversification to ensure enough supply. 

The combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics can bring data-driven approaches to supplier quality, merchandising, distribution, and logistics and fulfillment, giving retail leaders the insights necessary to maximize value capture. Instead of reacting to external forces and rapid changes in consumer behavior, intelligent automation creates opportunities to operate more proactively.

As the pandemic emphasizes the need to improve e-commerce and logistics capabilities, retailers are realizing the need to enable and optimize last-mile delivery to satisfy customer expectations, reduce marginal costs and improve overall efficiencies. To optimize last-mile delivery, retailers can provide flexible delivery options based on delivery method and location, create a collaborative network with suppliers to maximize visibility on the backend, leverage brick-and-mortar stores as fulfillment centers and use technology to maximize the value of delivery routes. All these will help ensure a safer and more efficient business flow that minimizes the impact of the pandemic while positioning the business for future success.

The pandemic has stressed the need for retailers to reassess their business processes and study the importance of innovation. Understanding the industry and choosing the right combination of solutions will assure business continuity for retailers, and service reliability for their customers. Retailers that can strengthen their digital capabilities and ensure a better online shopping experience will gain end-user trust and encourage more online transactions. This translates to greater business success not just during the pandemic-recovery phase but also in the future.

Strategies

Tips to achieve healthy headspaces for a productive workplace

Eastern Communications, one of the premier telecommunications companies in the Philippines, believes that enterprises need to support their employees to help ensure productivity while mitigating the effects of isolation and uncertainty.

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The world’s response to COVID-19 has resulted in the most rapid transformation of the workplace. Working remotely is a challenging setup in the quarantine economy, as employees struggle to balance work and personal life. Moreover, uncertainty and isolation during the pandemic have caused various physical and mental health problems among employees. 

Eastern Communications, one of the premier telecommunications companies in the Philippines, believes that enterprises need to support their employees to help ensure productivity while mitigating the effects of isolation and uncertainty. In a recent webinar entitled “Leap Forward” hosted by Eastern Communications, key opinion leaders gathered to discuss ways on how productivity can be boosted in today’s work from home setup. 

Prioritize employee well-being

Cat Trivino, MindNation Chief Marketing Officer, shared that companies that make the well-being of their employees a top priority not only create a healthier workplace but also produce a happier and more productive workforce.

According to Premier Value Provider’s Employee Mental Health survey in 2020, the highest levels of critical stress (31%), anxiety (47%), and depression (46%) were recorded during May 2020 and this was most prevalent among the younger workforce. 

“Normalize conversations around mental health and overall wellbeing, as well as advocate self-care. Seeking help during this time is important because we get to put to practice that empathy that the world so badly needs, and you need to practice that with your team. Make sure that they feel that openness and that trust to talk about these things,” she added.

A mentally healthy workforce in general will not only improve productivity but also boost employee morale and retention. 

Utilize digital tools for seamless and easy collaboration

Part of helping employees when it comes to their well-being is also giving them convenient yet efficient ways to collaborate while working from home. According to Diana Montes, Eastern Communications’ Strategic Manager, facilitating seamless communication and easy collaboration in the workplace can decrease stress levels.

Based on her experience, integrated tools like cloud-based solutions help in the effectiveness and well-being of a workforce. They also maximize the use of these collaboration apps by staying connected even for non-work-related activities.

“Here at Eastern, we’re quite grateful that even before the pandemic hit, our systems for productivity and collaboration were readily in place. So essentially, we just transferred physical meetings, discussions, and consultations virtually,” she said.

Montes also recommends using a project management tool or planner app to monitor the progress and overall productivity of the entire team on a certain project. Everyone involved has visibility and this way they can prioritize projects that need more assistance.  

“I also receive reports about the amount of time I spend using these collaboration tools and it gives me a notion of when to take on more work or slow down. This helps very much since like I said, sometimes we just lose sight of how much work we’ve already been doing at a particular period,” she added. 

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of developing an overall strategy that puts employees’ well-being first. Through Eastern Communications’ Leap Forward series, businesses are able to learn digital solutions and strategies from experts that will ensure business continuity while supporting the health and morale of the team.

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Strategies

In a negotiation, how tough should your first offer be?

New research shows the first offer can have a significant impact on the eventual outcome, and if you try to drive too hard a bargain, it could backfire.

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In a negotiation, how tough should your first offer be? New research shows the first offer can have a significant impact on the eventual outcome, and if you try to drive too hard a bargain, it could backfire.

Whether you’re buying a house, a car, or second-hand furniture, it’s likely you will need to negotiate the price, so being able to negotiate effectively could save you significant cash.

Behavioral economist Professor Lionel Page from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) said opening offers in real-world negotiations are sometimes intended to signal the “toughness” of the buyer – but whether this strategy actually works was not known.

“This experiment allowed us to study whether and how the level of the opening offer influences the beliefs of buyers and sellers, their actions and the final bargaining outcome,” said Professor Page.

The researchers conducted the experiment using a bargaining game where players exchanged offers for a split of $10. The aim was to mimic the start of a typical negotiation process.

They found that the success or failure of a negotiation depended not only on the final offer on the table but also on the emerging dynamics of the bargaining process.

“The intermediary offers made during a negotiation can be interpreted as suggesting either kind and compromising intentions, or unkind and uncompromising ones,” said Professor Page.

“And the perception of these intentions can, in turn, influence the final outcome. Low offers are perceived as disrespectful, so players react negatively and can be spiteful in their counter-offers.

“In a substantial number of cases, the responder chose a ‘‘punishing’’ counter-offer that was lower than what he believed was the buyer’s minimum acceptable amount,” he said.

This means it is not the best strategy to always be as tough as possible in a negotiation.

Previously there has been two conflicting views on first offers in negotiations, said Professor Page.

One view is that a low opening offer works as an “anchor” that moves the final offer in the direction of the first offer.

The second is that a more reasonable initial offer achieves a better outcome because it doesn’t sour the atmosphere and endanger the agreement.

Professor Page said their study showed support for both these ideas.

“We found that there is a small window where an offer is lower than an equal split, but not so low that it triggers negative emotions. It was viewed as ‘fair game’ to start the negotiation at this point.”

So in summary to strike a good bargain your opening offer needs to be not too hard, or you risk a spiteful counter-offer, but not too soft either, or you might be taken for a ride.

The study: Driving a hard bargain is a balancing act: how social preferences constrain the negotiation process, by Professor Lionel Page and Dr Yola Engler was recently published in the journal Theory and Decision.

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Strategies

5 Practical ways to keep your finances safer online

Kaspersky’s fresh data for Q2 2021 showed a 60% increase in mobile banking Trojan attacks blocked in the region versus same period last year.

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Photo by Blake Wisz from Unsplash.com

Kaspersky reveals its Q2 2021 mobile threat report for Southeast Asia (SEA) where it has monitored a 60% uptick in the number of attacks using malicious mobile bankers detected and blocked in the region. 

Mobile banking Trojans – or bankers – are used by cybercriminals to steal funds directly from mobile bank accounts. These malicious programs typically look like legitimate financial apps, but when a victim enters their security credentials to try to access their bank account, the attackers gain access to that private information.

Overall, since the beginning of 2021, Kaspersky products have foiled 708 incidents across six countries in SEA. This is already 50% of the total number of mobile bankers blocked in 2020 which was 1,408.

Indonesia and Vietnam logged the most number of incidents during the first half of the year. However, globally, the two countries are not among the top 10 countries affected by this threat. Vietnam is only 27th and Indonesia is 31st as of June this year.

The five countries with the most number of mobile banking Trojan detections in Q2 2021 are Russia, Japan, Turkey, Germany, and France.

*Mobile banking Trojans attacks detected from users of Kaspersky mobile security solutions in the country

While the number of mobile banking Trojan attacks in SEA remains low, 367 incidents from April to June 2021 versus 230 detections during the same period last year, the continuing pandemic continues to force users to start using mobile payment systems.

“We are almost at the second year of the pandemic which has fast tracked the mobile payment adoption in the region at a breakneck speed. During the beginning of this health crisis, our survey already showed that the majority of internet users here have shifted finance-related activities online, like shopping (64%) and banking (47%),” comments Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

The same survey revealed that seven in 10 (69%) are worried about conducting financial transactions online and 42% of the respondents admitted to being afraid about someone accessing their financial details through their devices.

In addition, another Kaspersky report titled “Making Sense of Our Place in the Digital Reputation Economy” discovered that the majority (76%) of 861 respondents from SEA confirmed their intent to keep their money-related data away from the internet. The sentiment is highest among Baby Boomers (85%), followed by Gen X (81%), and Millennials (75%).

“Clearly, there is an awareness about the threats present when we do banking and payment transactions through our mobile phones. But there is still a gap between knowing and acting on it. So to help users from SEA embrace the power of their smartphone and also keep their finances safe, we suggest some practical tips but also encourage everyone to please look into using security solutions as a safety net in case they accidentally clicked a malicious link or downloaded a rogue mobile banking application,” adds Yeo.

Here are some practical tips from Kaspersky which you can do to beef up your money’s safety online:

1. Get a temporary credit card

Cyber criminals have developed incredibly sophisticated techniques and malware that can sometimes thwart your best efforts for safe online shopping. As another level of security for safe online shopping, you can use a temporary credit card to make online purchases, in lieu of your regular credit card. Ask your credit card company if you can be issued a temporary credit card number.

Just remember to avoid using these types of credit cards for any purchases that require auto-renewal or regular payments.

If a temporary credit card is not possible, an alternative is to use a credit card with a low credit limit.

2. Dedicate a computer to online banking and shopping

If you have more than one computer, it may be wise to dedicate one for online banking and shopping only. By avoiding using the computer for any other Internet browsing, downloading, checking email, social networking, and other online activities, you effectively create a ‘clean’ computer that is totally free of computer viruses and any other infections. For added security for safe online shopping, install Google Chrome, with forced HTTPS. This ensures you are visiting only secure websites.

3. Use a dedicated email address

Create an email address that you will use only for online shopping. This will severely limit the amount of spam messages you receive and significantly reduce the risk of opening potentially malicious emails that are disguised as sales promotions or other notifications.

4. Manage and protect your online passwords

Using strong passwords and using a different password for each online account is one of the most important things you can do for safe online shopping. We know it can be difficult to remember so many different passwords, especially when they are composed of numerous letters, numbers, and special characters. But you can use a password manager to aid you in keeping strong passwords for multiple accounts.

5. Use a VPN

If you absolutely must shop online while using public Wi-Fi, first install a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN will encrypt all data that is transferred between your computer or mobile device and the VPN server, preventing hackers from hijacking and viewing any sensitive data you input.

In the Philippines, Kaspersky endpoint solutions like Kaspersky Total Security (KTS) that have a password manager and  VPN features is currently included in its 9.9 promos in Shopee and Lazada.  Filipino customers can enjoy up to 50% discount.

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