What does the future hold for retailers?

Shopping habits are changing, and retailers are doing an exceptional job at keeping up and adjusting their business models with the help of technology to meet these ever-changing shifts. With many high streets still struggling but the desire to shop local remaining strong, retailers are looking at a very different future than they would have imagined this time last year.

But what does that future now have in store? Craig Summers, UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates, explores three key areas that are changing in the world of retail.

Shopping local is back

During lockdowns in the UK, many consumers turned to their local communities to get the items they needed, including restaurants-turned-grocery-stores, independent shops and smaller local providers and this habit looks set to remain with us long after Coronavirus. Consumers are still keen to shop local, staying close and with groceries in particular, doing smaller but more frequent shopping trips.

Convenience stores such as the Co-op are seeing an increase in customer visits with smaller basket checkouts and as a direct result of this new consumer behaviour, it is opening 50 new stores to meet this demand. Over the next few months, more retailers are likely to follow this trend and as they do, they will need to be aware of the logistics and supply chain considerations required to keep these smaller stores adequately stocked and profitable. 

Customer experience is more important than ever

With consumer shopping habits changing and big seasonal shopping events such as Black Friday and the festive season different to previous years, retailers have needed to look at how they can replicate past successes of the shopping frenzy - and the shopping experience in general - into a predominantly online or at least, socially distanced journey when we can return.

But, even though the festive season is over, the customer experience should still be at the top of every retailer’s priority list. Whether it’s enticing customers safely back into stores with in-store delivery options or ensuring personalised and relevant offers are sent to them to encourage them to complete their checkout, customers will be more likely to shop with retailers that know what they’re looking for and are able to get the product to them quickly and safely.

Merging online and offline becomes key

As many offices still remain closed (or workers are slow to return even where they are now open) and home delivery options remain popular, many retailers are still facing low footfall and poor in-store sales figures. This is unlikely to change as we progress into the new year. 

To combat this, retailers will need to use technology to gain greater visibility and transparency of inventory across their entire supply chain network. Through the use of omnichannel technology, retailers will be able to continue to deliver on their brand promises, building a level of consumer trust that will result in more brand advocates and ultimately, an improved bottom line.

Viewing stock availability online before visiting a store, click and collect services and curbside pickup will also gather pace, underlining the importance of being able to merge online and offline offerings. 

Ready for change

At the start of the pandemic and UK lockdown (both the first and second), we saw retailers big and small adapt and change their offerings to stay ahead of the game. Flexibility and adaptability remained key, and these are two qualities that retailers will need to continue to develop as they begin to plan for 2021.

With a renewed focus on local shopping, dedication to the customer experience and the use of omnichannel technology (to make shopping truly seamless), retailers will be in the best position possible to maintain the bottom line, protect staff and keep customers returning again and again.

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