Will Broome, CEO of retail tech pioneers Ubamarket, discusses the unprecedented industry co-operation and examines how technology can help mitigate the crisis and prevent future shortages.
Britain's supermarkets are no longer in a state of competition, but one of co-operation. The government has announced a relaxation of trading laws and competition regulations, in an attempt to allow supermarkets to collaborate and share resources to ensure that the public has access to essential food and goods amidst the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK.
Since Friday, supermarkets have been allowed to share distribution depots, delivery transportation, retail workers, and even data access, to give Britain's grocers the most ammunition possible to combat shortages during a time of wildly unpredictable consumer demand. The government is also temporarily lifting the plastic bag tax for online deliveries, in an effort to prevent cross-contamination from delivery crates.
This unprecedented move, which sees typically competitive and battling retailers share access to data and resources, represents the value that technology and data holds in today's retail landscape. A recent study by retail tech company Ubamarket showed that over half (52%) of UK shoppers are happy to offer their data to retailers provided they can save money - this suggests that if supermarkets are able to use tech solutions to connect with customers, for example through mobile apps, it will provide them with unparalleled access to data on consumer behaviour. This in turn will ultimately allow tech-equipped supermarkets to run their stores more efficiently and better negotiate unpredictable periods such as the one currently faced.
The competition regulations in place in our retail landscape are vital, as they push companies to innovate and offer the very best service to customers. However, despite the havoc that is being caused by the outbreak of the Coronavirus, I for one am very interested to see how supermarkets and grocers across the country will be able to come together, collaborate and share their market insights and resources for the greater good, now that these regulations have been relaxed.
One of the key challenges facing retailers at this moment in time is to mitigate the drastic increase in consumer demand for certain goods and contend with disruption in their supply chains, and it is clear that many supermarkets are struggling to distribute essential goods whilst ensuring that their remaining stock is not unnecessarily depleted.
The implementation of retail technology is one way that Britain's retailers could safeguard themselves against future cases of fluctuating demand and irregular consumer behaviour. With the help of retail-tech, supermarkets and stores can access far more in-depth and accurate consumer data, helping them to assess their behaviour, manage stock more efficiently and effectively, whilst being able to effectively communicate directly to the consumer base. By effectively using retail technology, retailers will be able to better prepare and deal with unpredictable consumer behaviour and spikes in demand, preventing such a drastic loss of stock which we see today.