3 Lessons from Rubik’s Cube for Retailers Who Are Surviving the Pandemic


Did you know that a Rubik’s cube can be solved in just 20 movesOpens a new window despite having 43 quintillion combinations? Here is another interesting fact. The original purpose of a Rubik’s cube was not to be used as a toy. Erno Rubick invented the cube to teach students how to solve the independently moving parts’ structural problem without pulling apart the entire mechanism. There are several other valuable lessons the cube can teach businesses.

Solving a business challenge can be like solving a Rubik’s cube. There are different aspects of the business an organization must solve while ensuring that it does not fall apart. Solving a business problem may seem extremely difficult or impossible but it can be solved with the right strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also taught us that business dynamics have totally changed, and a strategy that worked till now may never work again. The fact that strategies need to change is specifically true for retail businesses as they are one of the worst-hit industriesOpens a new window . This means that they will have to change the entire strategy or adopt new ones to survive. There are several other lessons a retail business can learn from a Rubik’s cube. Here are three of them.

1. Have a Strategy and Execute It

What the cube teaches: If you have tried solving a Rubik’s cube, you may already know that you cannot solve it without having a strategy. You cannot blindly rotate the faces of the cube and hope to solve it. Similarly, you need to stop just hoping for the best and put a strategy in place if your business needs to survive the pandemic or an economic downturn. This includes having the right operations, supply chain, marketing, and budgeting strategies, among others.

Lessons for retailers: Before you create a strategy, know what your end goal is. Do you want to retain your existing customers, or do you intend to fulfill more orders? Do you wish to improve your brand’s image among consumers? Or do you plan to ensure that your business is resilient to social and economic challenges? Choose your business strategy accordingly. Once a strategy is in place, you can implement the right tactics, processes, actions, and KPIs.

Learn more: 8 Experts on How Marketing Strategies and Budget Should Evolve During COVID-19

Once you have the right strategy in place, it is necessary to execute it without deviating from the plan. This is where many businesses fail. Every strategy has specific steps to follow. Sure, there may be mistakes you commit along the way, and you will have to course-correct yourself. However, not following the plan may hurt your business more or lead to wasted efforts. Even if you feel that the strategy is not working, without executing it properly, there is no way to know whether it works for you or not.

2. Let Go of Old Models and Be Creative

What the cube teaches: During your course of solving the Rubik’s cube, you may initially feel delighted that you have solved one or two faces (or colors). However, the reality is that the cube cannot be solved face by face and takes a different approach. The fact that you may have to change the approach destroying your earlier efforts may devastate you. However, to solve the cube, you need to ensure that you change your strategy and take a different approach to solve the cube.

Lessons for retailers: The same principle applies to your retail business. You may have achieved a certain level of success in your business by putting together specific processes and following certain methods.You may also have developed a specific strategy to succeed. However, in the ever-changing world of business, these strategies and structures need not guarantee long-term success. This is especially true, looking at how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of business, at least in the long term.

People have changed the way they deal with businesses or make purchases. For example, more people are going online to browse their favorite products and purchase them as the digital world offers shoppers numerous options. Moreover, they do not need to leave the safety and comfort of their homes. In a research report, Cowen and Company, an investment firm, noted that the customer foot traffic to retail stores dropped by 97.6%Opens a new window in the week of March 20th compared to the same time in 2019. Further, according to Rakuten Intelligence, the volume of orders from online grocery retailers grew by 210%Opens a new window from March 12th to 15th, compared with the same time in 2019.

Even in the post-pandemic era, shoppers can be expected to evaluate retail stores across a few parameters, such as innovation and safety, when they step into the store to make a purchase. This means that your strategy will have to change according to the changing business dynamics. Here is an example of how Whole Foods, an organic and health foods supermarket chain, and its parent company, Amazon, transformed their retail stores.

Demand for online grocery shopping skyrocketed as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic as people prefer to buy essentials without leaving the safety of their homes. While many grocery stores may have already been selling online, they are forced to be creative to stay ahead of the curve.

Whole Foods had to temporarily close its Bryant Park store in Manhattan to focus on fulfilling increasing online grocery orders. The company got creative and convertedOpens a new window its physical store into a ‘dark store.’ The dark store was available only for the staff to pick up products, package them, and fulfill customer orders. Amazon too, converted one of its stores in Southern California into a dark store and added a waiting list for new digital customers to keep the store open and facilitate smooth fulfillment.

This move has helped these retail businesses meet the increased demand for buying groceries online and serve more customers.

Learn more: How Can Brands Leverage Shift in Customer Behavior To Lift Sales: Data Out Now

3. Use Data and Information To Make Business Decisions

What the cube teaches: When you first started solving the Rubik’s cube, chances are that you got excited and tried different combinations to solve the cube. After a few failed attempts, if you are like most people, you got frustrated and gave up on solving the puzzle. Alternatively, you may have persisted, collected information from the web or someone who has already succeeded, tried out the permutations and combinations and finally solved the puzzle. The same thing may be applied to business.

Lessons for retailers: There is no argument that data and information are essential in today’s business environment. If you are not relying on data but luck, then you may not go too far in your journey. You need to utilize data and insights to make important decisions.

For example, the in-store navigation and cart-tracking data helps understand the shift in demand and adapt quickly to these changes. You can make quick decisions about staffing, restocking, and layout design to improve customer safety and traffic flow during and after the pandemic. You can further obtain valuable information about your brand, such as how customers perceive you and their sentiments. This can be obtained through the engagement customers have with your website, social media pages, and other web assets.This data is valuable for establishing strong relationships with customers, resolving their pain points, and improving your brand image among them. You can also use data obtained from surveys, research reports, and platforms to create business strategies, improve operations, and stay ahead of your competitors.

Here is how EO Products, a beauty and personal care company, used data to quickly react to the changing consumer behavior.

As the pandemic hit the U.S., reports showed that the demand for hand sanitizers skyrocketed by 1,400%Opens a new window between December and January. EO Products, located North of San Francisco, spotted this surge in demand and increased the production of hand sanitizers to 16 timesOpens a new window its regular production. About two-thirds of the company’s staff work from home while the remaining team is working on increasing the output of sanitizers and soaps.The company has also hired temporary workers, runs extra shifts, and converts factory lines to meet the increased need.

AccordingOpens a new window to Tom Feegel, president of the brand, the company’s strategy team continually monitors all kinds of data points that can affect its supply chain. The company also keeps an eye on global trends as it sources its raw supplies from across the world. The company started monitoring how it would increase its production and supply chain when the first news of the virus breakout came from China. The company’s direct site orders rising by 1,300% gave a clear indication of the scenario in the mass distribution and retail space. Further, the company implemented a ‘Super Spike Protocol’ it had developed after the H1N1 virus had affected the US in 2009.

Learn more: Creative Marketing Strategies Brands Have Adopted During the Coronavirus Pandemic

To Wrap Up

A Rubik’s cube is tricky, but it can be solved with the right mindset and strategy. Similarly, surviving the COVID-19 pandemic may seem challenging for retail businesses. However, by implementing the lessons learned from the Rubik’s cube, such as having a strategy, staying agile, and using available data, companies can survive and grow during and post pandemic.

What have you learned about surviving the pandemic by solving a Rubik’s cube? Share it with us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .