Skip to main content
  • Blog
  • Industries
  • How Retailers Can Navigate a Recession by Optimizing their Customer Journey

How Retailers Can Navigate a Recession by Optimizing their Customer Journey

May 26, 2023

ret-man-working-at-a-hardware-store - article banner

There’s been considerable speculation about a U.S. recession—whether we’re already in one or about to go through one. Last year, experts and business leaders had reason to be worried about the volatility in the market, even as the economy still grew by a rate of 2.9%. This year, there has been considerable upheaval amongst businesses and consumers who are tightening their purse strings in anticipation of what might be on the horizon. 

The impact of a recession on the retail industry is especially dramatic. When a recession hits, consumers spend less. They worry more about paying for the basics—groceries, gas, health care—and pull back from buying luxury or non-essential goods like furniture and home electronics. Meanwhile, retail inventory collects dust and profit dips. This prompts retailers to spend less, too, often reducing the investments they make in their own business, such as technology. 

Though it seems counterintuitive, a recession is not the time to reduce technology investments; it’s the time to increase them. 

Updated technology solutions help retailers stay the course and remain competitive at a time when many are likely to fall behind. Retailers can use technology to reach more customers through more channels, right at the moment they’re ready to purchase. The right solutions also enable retailers to quickly adapt to changing customer expectations, and make necessary operational improvements. When used to fuel an omnichannel strategy, technology can be a retailer’s best economic weapon.

Bottom line: Retailing in a recession doesn’t have to be about restriction or reduction. Read on to learn how you can successfully navigate a market downturn with a data-driven retail management solution that optimizes the customer journey while enabling an omnichannel strategy. 

1. How the Customer Journey and Omnichannel are Connected

Omnichannel retail was born out of technological innovation. As brick-and-mortar stores ceded ground to eCommerce, retailers needed to attract and retain customers both in-store and anywhere they existed online, while also adapting and responding to a host of evolving customer demands.

Omnichannel goes hand-in-hand with the customer journey, It addressing the many places and ways that the retailer and customer can interact, both digitally and in person—from the customer’s initial discovery of the store or brand, to point of sale (POS), to post-purchase. An omnichannel retail strategy helps ensure that each step of the journey and each touchpoint is seamless and relevant across all channels, leading your customers toward the purchase and helping them transact the sale at the moment they are ready.

From the perspective of the customer, omnichannel enables a consistent, convenient, and frictionless experience—wherever and whenever they shop—that meets their needs and expectations. One example of a popular omnichannel feature today is “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS). Over a third of American shoppers now regularly expect and rely on BOPIS.

From the perspective of your business, omnichannel doesn’t just extend your reach and influence toward customers. It also provides a comprehensive view of operations across channels and store locations, from the marketing, POS, payment, and delivery functions to staffing and inventory management. It gives you a birds-eye view of your entire business so you can unlock new opportunities for efficiency and cost savings.

Without a consistent omnichannel presence across your physical store, mobile apps, eCommerce platform, website and blog, social media and review sites, and even phone, text, and email outreach, you run the risk of losing sales—amplifying the impact of the recession.

2. True Omnichannel Requires Technology

To enable a true omnichannel strategy, you need technology. Omnichannel technology unifies the entire customer journey by connecting—in real time—all customer- and purchase-related information across all steps, touchpoints, and channels. The information is then easily visible and accessible in one centralized location.  

With this data, you can find new ways to optimize the customer journey and respond to customer demands, such as offering BOPIS and curbside pickup, expanding payment options, and streamlining dispatch and delivery. The data can also help you increase web and mobile traffic, price your merchandise more competitively, strategically manage labor and inventory, and capture more sales, even when the economy is floundering. 

The challenge, though, is that during a recession, saving money is almost always a priority. Reducing what you spend on technology can feel like a sensible move, but doing so also reduces the likelihood that you’ll be in front of your customer at the exact moment they’re ready to buy. Those missed opportunities amount to lost revenue. And that’s the last thing your business needs when times are tight.

If you want to increase revenue in a downturn, you need to be, well, omnipresent.

3. 5 Ways Omnichannel Technology Can Recession-Proof Your Business

Omnichannel technology—specifically, a comprehensive retail management solution—can help your business survive and even thrive during a recession, by helping you reach and support your customers everywhere. Here’s how.

  1. Reach more customers with more channels. Today’s customers want choices, especially when it comes to where they buy. A retail management solution gives you the foundation you need to increase the number and variety of places—digital and physical—where customers can find, engage with, and buy from you. For example, a recent survey showed that almost half (49%) of retailers with a presence on an online marketplace said it increased exposure to their brand. 

Reaching customers with the channels they use makes your business more relevant and convenient, even to those who are discerning about the purchases they make with their carefully allocated dollars. 

  1. Drive sales by reaching customers when they’re ready to buy. In a time of economic uncertainty, you need more paths to revenue, not less. With more channels comes more opportunities to learn about your customers, so you can get in front of them with the right message, merchandise, and services when they’re most likely to buy. Meeting the moment with a retail management solution can contribute to a much-needed boost in profit.
  2. Optimize how, when, and where your labor force works. Making smarter staffing decisions during a recession is one way to be cost-conscious without impacting customer service. With a retail management solution, you can make your staff more flexible and mobile through POS devices, reducing the need for employees to physically be at the registers and giving them more room to work on other tasks throughout the store. 

You can schedule fewer employees at a time, maximize staffing during peak shopping times, and give customers the added convenience of being able to make an on-the-spot purchase,  wherever they encounter an employee. 

  1. Make data-driven inventory decisions. A retail management solution with integrated POS and inventory capabilities allows you to track inventory at multiple sites with much greater precision and predictability. You can identify the items customers really want, and when and where they want them, so you can move away from what isn’t selling, avoid overstock, and put more resources toward items that are flying off the shelves.
  2. Keep inventory turning and avoid potential supply chain issues. Efficient inventory management is critical during a recession, as is simplifying the means to move your inventory. Easy eCommerce, POS product recommendations, quick checkouts, contactless payment, and even handling back-office tasks like stocking, dispatch, and shipping with more accuracy and efficiency keep goods flowing. 

4. Navigate the Next Recession with Epicor Retail Management

Epicor’s cloud-based retail management system (RMS) provides the tools you need for omnichannel retail in 2023. With Epicor, you can meet the demands of your customers and earn their loyalty. Through a variety of connected apps, you can optimize the customer journey by researching and giving pricing information on the spot, conducting sales in the aisles, running effective eCommerce, and streamlining payment and delivery processes, among other essential tasks.  

Powerful data analysis capabilities allow you to gather information about customer behavior across channels and store locations and gain real-time visibility into business operations.  You can see what’s working and what isn’t, so you can make strategic decisions that lead to necessary improvements—maybe that means building an online store, managing inventory more effectively, strengthening customer service, or offering desirable conveniences like curbside pickup.  

No matter what the market might be doing, Epicor RMS can help your retail business grow, increase profitability, and gain a competitive advantage during a time when most companies are backsliding. 

5. Stay on Track, Rain or Shine

Market downturns are tough on everyone, especially retailers. The temptation is to tighten your belt and spend less, even if that means reducing your investment in technology solutions. But this instinct doesn’t always map to reality: Technology is often the exact answer you need when a recession is looming. 

When you know how to connect the customer journey using omnichannel technology, you can analyze your retail business far more effectively. You’ll get the information you need to make better decisions around marketing, merchandising, pricing, labor, logistics, and inventory so you can reach more customers, drive more sales, and stay afloat in troubled waters.

To learn more about why omnichannel technology is so important to retailers and the customer journey, under any market conditions, download our Omnichannel Retailer eBook today.

Download Now