With the rollout of the Covid vaccine underway, businesses and consumers alike are searching for the new normal. Technology is advancing at ferocious speed and the pandemic continues to shape consumer habits and expectations.
It’s not easy making predictions during such unpredictable times, but key trends highlighted by Internet Retailing and Forbes suggest how the shopping experience will change this year. Retailers need to be ready.
Retail spaces become experiential
The physical shop is no longer the final destination in the purchase journey. This year will see a strong focus on a more hybrid retail model – merging the best bits of in-store and online shopping. That could mean customers booking in-store sales appointments to experience a product before ordering online, or retailers driving up engagement through more interactive content – e.g. gamification online or safe, limited access events in-store.
Greater investment in in-store tech
Technology is going to be key in enticing customers back into physical shops. By merging AI with location technology, the in-store shopping experience can become faster, more streamlined and contactless. With new and improved mobile apps, retailers can also offer consumers a more personalised experience – everything from real-time stock checks to instant product collection either from a specific parking space or on entering a store.
Retailers are making larger investments in digital signage, too. The technology can serve a range of purposes – for instance, it can be used for wayfinding, to push store-related or safety messages, or double up as advertising canvasses to display dynamic, targeted ads to customers as they walk around the store.
Voice of consumer input
Companies need to work hard to put the customer first. During these uncertain times, listening to the customer is the best way to anticipate upcoming changes. Voice of consumer input can help inform everything from new products and pricing to marketing. The sooner the retail industry adopts the voice of the customer as standard business practice, the sooner they can start to regain some sense of certainty.
The changing face of the high street
As stores start to re-open, we can expect to see a rise in ‘digital first’ shops – retailers that know what consumers want or prefer (even before the customer knows themselves). Ecommerce is at an all-time high, meaning retailers are looking at ways to repurpose physical stores to help meet the increasing online demand. Whether that takes the form of shop floors turning into fulfilment centres or greater collaboration and sharing of these spaces, businesses will be looking at ways to keep costs down and customer spirits high.