During the onset of economic consequences pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, a coalition of researchers at the University of Warwick initiated an online-based survey, targeting senior executives in the retail industry across the Americans, Asia, and Europe.
According to the survey, equally administered to more than 100 participants, researchers spotted human vulnerabilities across the supply chain, with many issues evident for retailers during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the respondents, the demand for particular products has surged while some products have declined to no demand at all. Given those circumstances, and others, some retail shops had to either shut down or adapt to the new cautionary measures publicized by public health officials.
One of the biggest alterations in retail triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic was a sudden shift from traditional shopping to online-based shopping, but limitations were still evident even in a digital shopping environment.
“The majority of retailers used inventory to buffer against the disruption of COVID-19,” the co-authors stated in a news release. “Supply chain processes and systems were effective, but more than half of retailers said a high degree of manual intervention was required to respond to the fluctuation in demand and supply.”
“Workforce issues were dominant issues for retailers with 59% of warehouse and 48% store operatives being affected by quarantine or illness. This often resulted in the closure of online operations and the need to recruit temporary staff,” researchers also found.
“Early indications in Asia show that customers have been most supportive of those retailers they deemed to have responded best to the crisis and we’d expect that pattern to follow across Europe and the US. A critical learning for retailers is the need to invest in creating supply chains with greater flexibility, visibility and automation.”
For retailers, the use of new technologies like artificial intelligence or machine learning could aid in inhibiting future disruption and boost customer support, researchers suggest.
“Here technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a key role in helping retailers navigate future disruption, whilst still meeting customers’ expectations.”