With such an unprecedented 2020 year, the retail landscape has been in the spotlight more than ever. A year of disruptions where the term “strategy” was replaced with “pivot” as the board room catchphrase of the year.
When you stand back and look at the current retail climate, there has been plenty of ingenuity that has arisen from this pandemic from disruptors, evolving tech, AI, speed of delivery, omni-channel and overall customer journey improvements.
Imagine being in a star-wars ship and pressing the green button that warps you faster to your next destination. That’s where we are today. This is the year when retailers had no choice but to adapt. Traditional bricks and mortar brands have now faced the reality of only having the single store open being on-line. The traditional way of retailing and the “know-how” of trade was replaced with optimisation of the site and ensuring the powerful connection of social media was top of mind. At the time of writing this article, there have been a large number of international retailers that haven’t survived the Covid year, and unfortunately, there will most likely be a lot more post the Government support package completion dates. No doubt it’s been a challenging year, but retailers have to pivot and adapt to survive in this post-pandemic climate.
The big question is what’s really changed this year, and what will retailers continue to take with them to 2021 and beyond?
First of all, everything is now mobile-first. The tech development in the mobile space has now ensured that this is the device for all types of use. As a retailer, you must start here. Social media apps, customer communications (SMS, EDM, push notifications), loyalty programmes, QR codes are all part of the customer experience. The most important part to remember it’s that there is only the one customer. Whether the customer chooses to shop through their mobile or in-store, it must be not only the same experience, but seamless at the same time.
With the surge in online sales comes greater rates of return. Retailers of the future must recognise that their physical stores are not just a selling-based store, but rather a convenience shop for the customer. Anything from returns to fulfilling orders must be thought of in-store design and team training. Technology allowing accurate stock counts (RFID) to endless aisle will continue to keep the retailers trading even when the majority of their stores or warehouse may be closed.
Then comes a data-driven based retail environment. People are getting tired of “spam” and un-necessary advertisements that don’t interest them. The year 2021 is the year of the customer. By knowing the customer, a retailer can predict their purchasing habits, what they like, and how they like to hear about it. To put it simply, consumer data allows a great customer experience and enhanced personalisation.
Collaboration between brands and varying end-use retailers will continue to develop. Think of a fashion store collaborating with a new food venture all in one space. The store experience will become more immersive and brands will strive to put forward the best customer experience possible to attract current and new customers.
More than ever, consumer drives the brands’ decision making and content connection is the key. Everything eventually bounces back; it’s just that the landscape has changed a little.