Planning For Success After COVID-19: Channel Strategy

2021-06-02 |  Asha Arul

What’s changing?

When it comes to evaluating the lasting impact of COVID-19 on your distribution channels, it’s clear that the pandemic has accelerated changes that were already in motion. The physical limitations brought about by social distancing have necessitated full-scale digital adoption, requiring businesses to rapidly grow their digital products, services, and infrastructure – as well as forcing an understanding of how digital channels can ultimately drive value for their customers. As the post-pandemic world comes into sharp focus, a lot of these changes will be here to stay.

How will this impact you?

After making significant investments in your digital infrastructure during the initial stages of the pandemic, you will need to refocus your efforts in the short-term – looking instead to understand how your channel strategy will need to change in the post-COVID world. How you can meet the new customer requirements that will emerge. Failure to treat this new phase of the pandemic differently will present the risk of failing to meet emerging customer expectations, as well as the detrimental commercial implications of having a channel mix that isn’t fit-for-purpose. Presenting customers with a delay because of high call volumes is no longer acceptable. 

What do you need to do about it?

Having adapted your business to cope with the accelerated adoption of digital tools and technology, you must now look ahead to refining your channel strategy:

  1. Your organisation will need to remain customer-focussed, in order to continue to meet the new and emerging expectations of ‘service’. The prevalence of frictionless online transactions and personalised digital interactions has increased throughout the course of the pandemic, and has transformed customer-journey expectations. This shift will require you to clearly define and articulate the value proposition of your channels to your consumers, in order to match these continued expectations.

  2. You will need to rapidly assess your channel strategy and identify areas for improvement – as well as areas that should be resistant to change, in order to improve the operating efficiency, demand deflection, customer advocacy and to reduce the cost of your channels. This will need to be done at pace as the opportunity to take a more ‘trial and error’ approach is now beginning to narrow.

  3. The use of technological capabilities to drive a seamless and predictable customer experience across your channels will be crucial to maintaining a competitive advantage. Advanced analytics and micro-market analysis at an organisational level will enable a deeper understanding of customer preferences, geographies and micro-economies - and therefore better inform future network and channel decisions. This will be particularly important following on from any initial investments made to grow your digital infrastructure in response to the pandemic.

  4. As customers increasingly adopt self-service and digital channels, the number of employees servicing traditional channels will have inevitably decreased or faced redeployment to support the roll-out of digital channels during the pandemic. However, as we move into the next phase of the new normal, which will solidify a more permanent view of how businesses can obtain the best channel-mix, the skill sets of your workforce will need to be re-defined to ensure that they are able to support the new ‘customer proposition’, as well as the development of new digital processes and solutions.

  5. You will need to be prepared for an increase in customer demand for seamless, omnichannel integration as restrictions start to lift. The acceleration towards digital adoption means that customers will continue to seek out channels with greater interaction where it will have an impact on them. As a result, customers will expect better integration across digital and physical channels, requiring you to generate a differentiated experience that allows customers to interact with your business through your channels flexibly, and on their terms.

How we can help?

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can optimise your distribution channel strategy in preparation for the new normal, and in anticipation of emerging customer expectations, please do get in touch to see how we can help you.

PEN are working with many clients to understand how best to approach a post-COVID world, and identifying the best strategies for them.

If this or any of our other related COVID articles interest you then please get in touch with Helen Clark.

Further reading:

Planning For Success After COVID-19: Location

Planning For Success After COVID-19: Product & Service Offering

Contact Helen Clark:


Phone: +44 (0)7585 111 518

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