Digitally-native brands helped propel ecommerce to the forefront and convert brick-and-mortar shoppers to online ones. Through incredibly easy user interfaces, clear brand messaging, and generous trial and return policies, these brands were able to persuade enough customers that online purchasing was easy and convenient. This worked for a while, but the value prop didn’t quite hold up as competition increased. Humans, at their core, crave personal interactions, which prompted these brands to open physical stores (though some had sworn they would never do so). 

However, the shuttering of almost all non-essential businesses across the U.S. due to COVID-19 reduced many of these brands into just another website amidst a sea of websites. Luckily, many are small and agile enough to quickly evolve. Here’s what digitally native brands can do to stay ahead: 

  • Talk to customers. Most brands know their top customers by name. They develop personal relationships with them and remember their hobbies and food preferences. Now is the time to reach out—not to sell something (that will come soon), but to open a transparent dialogue about what concerns customers have and how they can address them. Furloughs and layoffs from COVID have put founders of digitally-native brands in the customer service seat. This personalized approach to customer service has already proven to generate ideas for the future and create more valuable and loyal customers. 
  • Use technology to create a streamlined experience. Digitally native brands should apply the same principals they used to create great ecommerce experiences to their retail evolution. It should be just as intuitive for the customer to purchase from a store as it is from the brand’s website. This means looking at the technology that is currently in use and deciding where the friction lies. Brands that focus on updating the experience to be seamless across all channels are better poised to weather the pandemic and come out on top in the future.
  • Experiment. Many of these once-revolutionary brands stopped pushing the envelope as they grew quickly and gained loyal customer bases. Instead of focusing on enhancing the online shopping experience, specifically around customer service and communication, most brands focused on expanding their product categories and physical footprints. Physical retail might not be top-of-mind right now, but if the reopening response is any indication, customers are still interested in it. Digitally-native brands are in a better position to experiment and do something different with their retail and online stores—and now is the time to try it.

The pandemic has pushed brands and retailers reliant on physical retail and wholesale to their limits—causing many of them to falter. It has instantly changed consumers’ needs and behavior, inadvertently prompting a new retail revolution. Instead of sticking to an antiquated formula, now is the time for digitally-native brands to capitalize on their flexibility, talent and digital expertise to lead this change, write a new retail playbook, and use innovation to serve customers in an entirely new way.