It’s been a troubling couple of years for the retail industry. Footfall on the high streets and in the shopping malls has been severely curtailed for much of that time and even when lockdown restrictions were lifted, there has been continuing uncertainty, and partial re-impositions of mask-wearing, social distancing and limitations on the numbers of people admitted to shops. Retail now exists in two worlds – in bricks and mortar and online. So what are trends, habits and changes we can expect to see in the next 12 months?
Environmental responsibility has, at last, become a concern shared by the majority of people and every retailer needs to demonstrate their green credentials, not just with lip service but by making strenuous efforts to reach Net Zero. Those that fail to do so will undoubtedly lose customers.
Partly in response to a general commitment to sustainability and partly as a result of habits that were changed by lockdown and remote working, consumers are increasingly in favour of local shopping. Excellent independent retailers have always been present in our communities and now they are gaining the visibility they deserve
Online retail was already on the rise before lockdown turbocharged it. The UK’s top 100 retailers experienced an increase in online traffic of 52% but 89% of retailers admitted their ecommerce capabilities could not cope with the surge in online business . 2022 must be the year in which online enterprises invest in the digital technology which will be necessary to sustain this unstoppable shift towards ecommerce.
Vast amounts of research have been undertaken to establish that where once consumers may have bought without thought, today most people will purchase from brands they trust and respect, not just for the quality of the products but because the values of the company are considered admirable. Decades ago attempts to boycott South African produce in protest at Apartheid had limited success, but it seems likely that it would be a very different story today. Manufacturers and retailers who are vocal about their commitment to health, family, diversity, social justice and sustainability can expect to thrive.
Shaping the Future of Retail
There are many strategies a business can pursue in preparing itself for the future retail experience, whether offline or online. The expansion of ecommerce makes it almost inconceivable for any but the most specialist or artisan concerns to thrive without an online presence. But ecommerce is not as simple as transferring a physical world model onto the web. And while the physical store may cease to be the foundation of a retail economy, it has an important role to play in an omnichannel offering.
Combining the physical and the virtual seems inevitable with the development of virtual reality and augmented reality. At present, the two environments remain largely separate, with ecommerce having all the benefits of data analytics and personalisation while the physical store offers features such as try before you buy and on-the-spot personal customer service. It’s not necessary to sacrifice one to the other if they are properly integrated into an omnichannel model.
Analysts have coined the ungainly term ‘phygital’ and until a better word comes along we’ll use it to describe a retail environment where the customer is physically present but is also plugged into digital technology with access to social media affirmations and the recommendations and comments of friends and family. It also offers a new way to deliver product information and much greater detail about an item’s provenance and carbon footprint. Some major retailers have been trialling this since 2018.
Ecommerce as a Service (EaaS)
MOOT’s EaaS has been designed and refined in practice to provide a simple, unified suite of tools to make it easy for any ecommerce business to supercharge its operations and take full advantage of these challenging but exciting new developments.