How OKRs can help struggling retailers

How OKRs can help struggling retailers

Amid the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, we explore how OKRs can help struggling retailers to rapidly adapt to changes.

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on businesses across all industries.The retail industry is no exception, especially with regard to traditionally offline retail businesses. With fewer consumers hitting the high-street in favour of shopping online, those with a limited online presence are feeling the pressure.

There are numerous ways you can overcome the COVID challenges as a struggling retailer. But where do you begin? How do you prioritise what to do first? What about risk?

Many of our clients have asked us the same questions. So here we’ll discuss how OKRs can help struggling retailers, especially amid the COVID-19 challenges you’re facing.

Adapting to change

Never before have so many businesses been this uncertain about their future. In retail specifically, consumer behaviour has changed multiple times during the pandemic. 

From the early days of panic buying and self isolation, to more recent changes that focus on supporting local retailers and buying ethically - it’s difficult for retail businesses to keep up.

One of the biggest transitions we’ve seen in retail is the seismic shift to online shopping. Many workers are now working from home, so they may opt to buy online purely from a convenience perspective. Others may be nervous about venturing to the high street due to the risk of infection, so they’ll go online in a bid to stay safe. Equally, leisure habits have changed dramatically, with a big decrease in travel and hospitality affecting how and what people consume. 

“While purchases are currently centred on the most basic needs, people are shopping more consciously, buying local and are embracing digital commerce.”


Shopping at a market with a facemask on

How can retailers respond?

The obvious answer to this question is for retailers to upgrade their online offering, become more productive, less expensive and respond to their customers’ ever changing needs. But this is easier said than done!

If your company has been hit hard by COVID-19, you may be unsure about how to achieve quick wins that attract consumers without too much risk and spend.

This is where OKRs can help

Having a clear vision, and then communicating it to the whole company has been crucial to the spectacular rise of many of the world's biggest companies. It’s particularly useful at a time where businesses need quick results with minimal risk, because it relies on the fail-fast principles of Agile software development environments, coupled with a solid and measurable framework.

Using OKRs effectively means setting goals within your team and testing out small-scale Initiatives to achieve them. It also means sharing knowledge and visibility across the organisation so stakeholders are in the loop, progress is clear, failure happens quickly (and with minimal impact) and the entire business moves forward towards a shared goal.

How retailers can benefit from using OKRs

  1. React to change and pivot at short notice
  2. Base decisions on real data
  3. Inform your entire company of the goals they need to work towards
  4. Clearly show progress towards those goals
  5. Experiment in smaller and less risky ways

Consumers’ needs are changing quickly and dramatically. From one week to the next, a sudden forced lockdown can cause buyers to change their habits overnight. Uncertainty can result in decreased spending, and government restrictions can make it difficult for you to target customers in the way you usually would. 

It’s difficult for you to prepare for the next big change, so many retailers are understandably reluctant to plan too far into the future. But you still need a plan.

Using OKRs isn’t a free pass to move your goalposts every other week, but it does give you flexibility to change tack slightly if consumers’ needs change. 

With an OKRs framework in place, you’ll have confidence that your teams will be able to understand the context of any changes, be clear on the goals and work collaboratively to achieve them.

How to manage OKRs

The best way to manage your OKRs is from a single source that everyone in your organisation can access. 

Our OKR software is designed to be used by numerous people at the same time, across varying technical abilities. In other words - it’s easy to use but backed by cutting-edge technology that makes your experience as seamless as possible.

Online shopping on a laptop at home

How OKRs can be used in a real pandemic scenario

Here’s an example of how COVID-19 can impact you as a retailer:

  1. The government has announced a national lockdown to begin the following day
  2. As a retailer, you’ll know that this means reduced footfall and increased pressure on your online offering
  3. If your current company goals are focused heavily on physical consumers, you may need to temporarily halt any projects aimed at increasing footfall or targeting in-store buyers
  4. Instead, you may wish to invest in more online ad spend, enhance your commerce experience on the website and conduct a survey to assess the retail appetite of your existing audience.

Using an OKRs approach to deal with this, you’ll begin by updating your company goals and suggesting a few short-term Initiatives to secure your consumer base amid the sudden changes. To do this, you may hold a meeting with your leadership team and any relevant stakeholders. Then, you’ll task your leadership team and people managers with discussing these changes with their individual teams.

The teams might brainstorm some ways of achieving the company’s short-term goals with some quick wins. These will be your team Objectives. Within each Objective, the team will come up with a few key results that will need to be achieved to make the objectives a reality.

These key results will require some quick-fire tests or ‘Initiatives’ to assess which actions will have the best chance of success.

For example, if a team is focused on the company goal of enhancing your commerce experience on the website, they’ll begin by setting up to three Objectives related to this goal.

Let’s say the first Objective is to offer a discount that will incentivise buyers to use your ecommerce site. You’ll need to set some key results that will show whether you’ve achieved this objective.

  • Encourage consumers to shop online with us
Key Results
  1. 100 discount codes used by end of November
  2. 10% increase in conversion rate on e-commerce site
  3. Maintain revenue projection for November

How are you going to achieve these Key Results? With some simple, low risk tests or ‘Initiatives’:

  • Perhaps you’ll conduct a quick survey with your existing users to understand what percentage would choose your site if they were offered a discount. 
  • You might build a quick prototype of the ‘add discount at checkout’ user journey to test out any use cases and identify any potential issues
  • Maybe you’ll select a small group of consumers to user test the final journey before you launch it to the public

By undertaking these quick Initiatives, you’ll gain a solid understanding of how feasible and successful they’re likely to be. This means that you’ll have a more solid offering to launch to the mass-market, you will have tested your hypothesis with real users and you’ll even have feedback to feed into your final offering.

In this way, you’ll have a much better chance of achieving the Objective that will ultimately support the wider company goal.

Looking at a dashboard on a laptop

Visibility beyond the team

What makes this process even more effective is the way that OKRs are shared across the company. Once each team has set their Objectives and Key Results, they’ll upload these into your OKR software. Anyone in the business can see these OKRs, including the progress against them in real-time.

If another team spots an opportunity to build on the existing work or provide insight based on their own objectives and experiences, they’ll be able to comment within the OKRs tool or set up a meeting with the relevant owner from that team.

OKRs aim to minimise the volume of unnecessary meetings within your company by giving everyone full transparency and real-time updates that answer any questions they have. This means that meetings happen only when they need to, but everyone stays in the loop - win win.

If you’re looking for a new approach, talk to us 

In the fast-paced world of retail, companies need to adapt, collaborate and achieve results quicker than ever before. Our OKR software is a proven means to help struggling retailers and businesses across all industries gain better alignment and achieve better results than competitors who rely on large-scale, high risk approaches.

Get in touch to arrange a free demo or to find out more!

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