The retail sector has (and with good reason) been the subject of much pessimism in recent years. Yet, things might not be as bleak as once thought.
2017 saw 7,000 store closures and 2018 would surely follow suit. But in a surprising twist, closures were halved. And while some big losses shook the sector (Debenhams and House of Fraser both fell into administration), the retail industry has found itself injected with a renewed vigour: start-ups have developed their own spin on previously staid shops; landlords are rethinking how shopping centres could be designed to maximise customer experience, and technology is starting to seep into the physical store’s every pore.
“Looking back, the problem wasn’t that people had gotten too lazy to leave their homes; it’s that brands had become complacent about making shopping IRL a worthwhile experience.” – Fast Company
Clicks and bricks
Despite the popularity of online shopping, ONS stats show that sales from online retailers account for just 17% of the UK’s total retail sales. But it’s not about waging war: retailers are recognising that physical stores can complement the digital experience – thereby deepening customers’ relationship with their brand.
A 2018 survey from the ICSC found that 76% of Gen Z shoppers believe physical stores provide a better shopping experience; just over 60% are omni-channel shoppers, and about 80% purchased items in stores as a direct result of seeing them on social media.
Harnessing this knowledge, Primark has opened its first ‘megastore’ in Birmingham. Despite having no online offering (a rare phenomenon), its 7.6 million Instagram followers ensure shoppers are keen to snap up what they see on social.
New tech is allowing retailers to meld its instore and digital offerings for a truly cohesive, brand-led shopping experience. Stores will focus on providing an actual experience for their customers, rather than on simple stock provision – with Apple leading the way through powerful visual showrooms. And now that we’re advancing beyond the ambition to appear ‘instagrammable’, the new focus for retail is on seamless service.
A seamless shopping experience
Consumers have higher expectations that ever before:
>> 76% of UK customers would switch to an alternative retailer following a poor home delivery experience;
>> 23% of shoppers have abandoned online baskets at checkout because they had to input too many payment details.
Every aspect of the shopping experience has to be seamless, because your customers won’t accept anything less.
Multinational retailer Carrefour uses beacon technology to send its customers details about special offers, along with directions to the nearest store. Many retailers don’t know it, but they are already collecting enough data.
By taking advantage of simple data sources, such as purchase history, location, recently viewed products or the type of device being used, retailers have the ability to create seamless shopping experiences – leading to an increase in revenue, engagement and repeat custom.
Sustainability and consumer conscience
However, it’s not just the melding of online/offline platforms that shoppers are looking to when it comes to meeting their understandably high expectations of modern day retail. Society as a whole is becoming increasingly environmentally conscientious, and brands that embrace sustainable shopping stand to thrive.
Back in April, Waitrose started selling items such as cereals, pasta, coffee and rice in large dispensers as part of its scheme to reduce waste from plastic packaging. Prices are roughly 15% cheaper in the refillable section to encourage customers to adopt the eco-friendly initiative.
An instant hit, the trial has since been extended – and placed the retail heavyweight firmly in the media spotlight. The scheme also encourages the in-store shopping experience – as opposed to Amazon grocery, for example. In addition, packaging (and the amount of subsequent plastic waste) can be better controlled by the consumer.
‘Day out’ experience
As consumers demand more ‘experience’ from their shopping trips, high streets are transforming into more leisure-based destinations. From ping pong tables to climbing walls, the inclusion of leisure activities serves to attract customers, increase dwell time, and improve consumer experience – all while filling vacant or previously unused space.
Retail is an exciting place to be right now. Innovative retailers have the power to mould the shopping habits of up-and-coming Gen Zers, with infinite possibilities.
For example, social shopping (allowing users to purchase directly from a facebook/Instagram post) may be slow to catch on, but these are habits waiting to be formed. Users are used to simple brand aesthetics on social media, so a clear call to action (‘swipe up to purchase’) is undoubtedly necessary. Innovation is the key to nurture future habits.
Work with us to maximise your operational efficiency
When you’re planning for a competitive future, it’s important to assess your internal operations. Our GNFR solution helps you to:
>> Reduce operating costs
>> Ensure effective overhead/spend management
>> Simplify processes through one order, one invoice and one delivery
To find out more, speak to us today.