Who’d have thought when walking on the street someone wearing a mask and people keeping their distance from you would be the norm? There are a lot of things we didn’t expect. From the Australian bushfires, Prince Harry and Megan Markle stepping down as royals, to the Black Lives Matter protests and of course COVID-19’s infectious influence spreading across the world.
This year has also been one giant narrative of digital innovation and challenges that many are still feeling the repercussions of. Safe to say, our technical testing expertise has been very handy indeed in response to the constant pressure of businesses having to be at peak performance during the crisis.
So, as we head into 2021, this is the perfect time for a little bit of reflection and to look back at some of the key events of 2020 that, not only impacted the software and retail industry as a whole, but how our own company and its employees faced this year – usually with a computer in one hand and a strong mug of coffee in the other!
According to a report from Gartner HR Survey back in March, it revealed that 88% of organizations encouraged or required employees to work from home due to coronavirus. And at the height of lockdown, 60% of the UK’s population we’re working from home. With so many shifting to remote working, it gave video communications apps like Zoom worldwide popularity with 13 million users by April.
We also became a nation of entertainers, vloggers, Tik Toker’s, Snapchatters and quiz masters in an explosion of user-generated content flooding our feeds and to keep in touch with family and friends whilst stuck at home.
But, with the sudden surge of internet usage, everyone at some point or another experienced those pesky network outages, going down by 9.13% globally from a report by ThousandEyes. However, that wasn’t the only problem, as adjusting to this new way of working hasn’t been a smooth transition for some.
Our very own Darryl Kennedy back in May gave advice on how to stay productive and maintain a work-life balance via a Crowdcast on The Ministry of Testing website.
Looking back, do you think remote working will be the norm for most into the future?
More demand, not enough supply
The heat was turned up to the highest degree, and like a pressure cooker ready to boil over, businesses unfortunately fell short on keeping up with supply as demand kept rising. For example, the constraints on broadband usage led streaming services like Netflix to reduce the quality of their videos to help ease the constraints on bandwidth.
New behavioural buying patterns emerged, particularly early panic buying of essential items such as toiletries and other house-hold supplies. These peaked in demand by 70%, where other perishable foods increased more gradually into March. Hence, the “responsible retailer” role showed up, with Tesco participating in “Feed the Nation” to control the situation.
The pandemic also led to other weak points in the chain including:
- Labour shortages
- Transport restrictions
- Unfulfilled orders
- Inventory depletion
Despite this, a digital revolution was upon us and, as we’ve discussed many times in our previous blogs, a massive acceleration in big data, intelligent automation and AI has improved logistic, distribution and warehouse capacity tenfold!
The difference your business makes in optimising their IT systems and infrastructures is mind-blowing! We’ve continually witnessed ourselves with a couple of recent projects how beneficial automation and performance testing is for the survival and future of retail.
Speaking of technological advances, social distancing further highlighted the importance of contactless software and credit cards to keep shoppers as safe as possible once physical outlets were allowed to reopen back in June. After all, no amount of hand sanitizer could be enough to put consumer’s fears of the virus at ease, so retailers needed to come up with alternative out-of-the-box solutions quickly.
Examples of this include Lush’s ‘Lush Lens’ app to scan products for further information and pricing without people having to pick up a single product. Coca-Cola’s touchless vending machines using QR codes for people to purchase drinks work in a similar way, whilst The Perfume Shop invested in virtual assistance Go Instore technology to “empower customers within their purchasing journeys […], while adhering to government guidelines and keeping consumers safe and comfortable”.
However, an increase in contactless meant limits to spending were also put in place by the banking and financial industry for customers to adapt to this whole new way to shopping. For instance, Eric Leenders who is managing director of personal finance at UK Finance increased contactless limit to £45, whilst offering deferrals on credit card repayments.
Finally, as the end of December gets closer and closer, Christmas hasn’t been the only thing on most retailer’s minds. The deadline for Brexit continues to shake up the supply chain and create uncertainties on how trading will function once leaving the EU. One of the latest articles from The Guardian states: ‘Retailers are reporting week-on-week shipping cost increases of 25%, with carriers also slapping extra “congestion charges” on shipments to offset berthing delays and longer unloading times in the UK.’
NAO warns they’re could be some lengthy delays in January and February as border controls and business ready their operations around managing warehouses and transporting goods. The government’s outlines are yet to be decided, but that doesn’t mean retailers cannot prepare for what is to come. As always, we will be ready to assist in getting systems up and running as 2021 begins and beyond!
Bring on 2021!
2020 has had its many ups and downs as you can see, but now I think we all in need of a fresh start and that means making sure your software has the capability to exceed customer expectations as you walk into the new year like a boss! Feel free to book a slot in our diaries for an open chat about how we can help your business fly!
See you all in 2021!