How to emerge from the pandemic with a digital growth plan - Retail Council of Canada
Digital Retail & Technology

How to emerge from the pandemic with a digital growth plan

June 8, 2021

This article is provided by Reshift Media, a Canadian-based digital marketing and development organization specializing in retail businesses

Increased consumer engagement has led to an explosion of growth in the digital sphere during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers need to emerge from the pandemic with a strong plan to successfully address the new demands of consumers while continuing to offer a seamless buying experience.

Post-pandemic recommendations were discussed in the third and final day of webinars hosted by the Retail Council of Canada and Reshift Media. Led by Steve Buors, CEO & Co-Founder of Reshift Media, this webinar touched on several recommendations for retailers and included a panel discussion with speakers Trinh Tham, Chief Marketing Officer at Harry Rosen, and Kim Hamm, President & CEO of Dogtopia Canada. To watch the webinar, click here.

Recommendation #1: Put customer convenience first

Mobile use is higher than ever, which is why it is important for companies to not only take it seriously but to also recognize that consumers now expect a great mobile experience. This includes ensuring that every product or piece of content offered to customers can be accessed via their phone, and that it displays correctly on a mobile device. One of the main reasons why consumers will look elsewhere for a product comes down to availability. If a company does not offer all of their products conveniently on mobile, they risk having consumers go elsewhere.

Mobile speed also plays a role in the buying convenience, especially since patience levels are low when it comes to accessing content online. If a company’s webpage takes more than a few seconds to load, users will likely give up.  

Consumers now expect the convenience of mobile transactions, and that’s not going away. Making transactions on mobile also adds to the convenience factor that many consumers are expecting now and will continue to expect in the future. Buors said, “Don’t think that you can take your foot off the gas once COVID is over. You should be accelerating.”

Merging online with offline is another important component in retailers’ digital growth plans. Thinking of ways to make engaging digital experiences both at home and in-store is a great way to ensure customer interest and loyalty. Virtual fitting rooms and interactive shelf displays are just some ways to integrate the online and offline experiences that can benefit both the customer and retailer.

Recommendation #2: It’s all about data

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) companies have seen a jump in overall sales during the pandemic, and data is their secret weapon. First-party data provides a competitive advantage in various retail sectors because it provides the opportunity to gather insight organically, without third-party assistance. Coming up with a plan to generate more data about customers will assist in long-term gains. Ways to do this include loyalty programs, incentives/offers, personalization/customization, newsletters, eCommerce and delivery.

Planning on what to do once you receive that data is also important. Creating more personalized experiences, developing new products, improving marketing effectiveness, and identifying and adjusting changes in customer behaviour are essential once the data is gathered.

Recommendation #3: Rethink your marketing

Retailer should not expect a return to “normal” when the pandemic is over. It is important to acknowledge the real changes in consumer behaviour that have occurred during this time, and recognize that there is no going back to the way things once were. Adjusting external media and messaging to match these new habits is key.

A major trend that has emerged since the pandemic is a focus on buying local, as a lot of consumers are more conscious of where their products are coming from. Retailers should ensure their marketing caters to this by optimizing for popular “near me” searches, as well as localizing social media and search advertising.

Recommendation #4: Set business priorities post-pandemic

The panel discussion segment of the webinar focused on implementing changes to ensure long-term growth. At Harry Rosen, Tham is hoping for a return to a pre-pandemic sales and activity. However, she said they are planning for a variety of scenarios. “Pivoting is going to have to continue for leaders because we don’t really know what lies ahead of us.”

Strategic post-pandemic initiatives at Harry Rosen include bolstering production, improving the customer experience, and making some back-end tech changes to ensure a better user experience. Tham said the pandemic forced them to prioritize seamless in-store and digital experiences. “One of the things we haven’t wasted [and] that we’ve taken the opportunity to really accelerate [in] is digital transformation. While we’re all investing and paying a lot of attention to the digital space, being eComm and on the marketing side of everything, we are also thinking about how to not waste that time and about how to also improve our brick-and-mortar experience in parallel with that digital experience, so that you don’t end up out of the pandemic with a really wonderful digital experience and the same experience you had prior to the pandemic in brick-and-mortar.”

Dogtopia’s Hamm echoed the importance of pivoting. “The pet care sector is booming right now, and it’s about thinking of new ways that we can creatively foster that emotional connection that we used to really leverage in-store and now being able to simulate that and nurture those relationships through a digital experience.”

Recommendation #5: Re-evaluate the customer journey

Tham said they have recently implemented a change to their customer journeys in preparation for coming out of the pandemic. Since more people are spending time online, whether consuming digital media or engaging with apps on their mobile phones, Harry Rosen has re-mapped the customer journey to ensure their offerings still appeal to the wants and needs of consumers.

Hamm said that enhancing the customer experience through the entire life cycle is also a focus at Dogtopia. Improvements to their mobile app ensures they are giving their pet parents the opportunity to engage in a seamless experience while also offering an emotional connection to the brand. For example, pet parents using the app to check in on pups via webcams has been very effective, and in the future, they hope to offer eCommerce opportunities such as buying treats for their pups on the app.

Recommendation #6: Look to the future

Prioritizing customer convenience, data and technology, and changes to marketing and external messaging are essential to retailers’ success.

Tham advised, “As leaders, stay positive for your team even on the days it’s hard to do so, and continue to be the voice of the customer and not lose sight of that.” Hamm echoed that message, adding that it’s important to focus on what your brand promises and how you can make life easier for customers. “We hear so much about pivoting, and there’s a lot of anxiety: ‘Am I doing enough, and how do I need to reinvent my business?’ I think it’s important not to get caught up in too much of that. At some point you need to have an execution plan, you need to be agile and [know] how to adapt, but also stay focused on some key initiatives on a quarterly basis. Don’t plan too far in advance [because] things are still adapting and changing very quickly.”

The pandemic has forever changed the way retailers operate. Adapting to consumers’ increased digital consumption and reimagining the customer journey is essential to stay relevant in an evolving market.

About Reshift Media

Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leading-edge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit to learn more.