Where Is Retail Going? Three Critical Questions Every Retailer Should Address

Where Is Retail Going? Three Critical Questions Every Retailer Should Address

Making predictions about the future of retail – or anything – can be a fool’s errand. However, retail as a whole has experienced a period where the future is being thrust upon it at an alarming rate. As that has occurred, plenty of leading indicators have emerged to shed light on what’s essential now, and what may be around the corner.

One place to look is stores. The pandemic has forced retailers to push their limits. Contactless payment methods like pay-by-link have exploded. The sudden demand for store fulfilment of online orders has added costs for handling and shipping. It also caused delays in delivery when carriers were stretched beyond their limits. Omnichannel systems, or lack thereof, were tested daily. And during the height of the pandemic, much of this happened without a single walk-in shopper at the store.

Later, the same demand was compounded by the sudden wave of curbside pickups. Then as stores started to reopen, buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) orders exploded as well. Stores quickly became hubs for returns of online purchases.

All told, changes that might have occurred over the course of a few years, have happened in months. Consumer expectations for service and speed rose just as quickly, and there is no reason to think they will lower in the future.

In terms of interactions between brands and their customers, the status quo has been permanently transformed.

97% of retailers expect BOPIS and Curbside Pickup to stay the same or increase

(Source: 2021 POS Buyers’ Guide)

How is Retail Changing?

Even prior to 2020, the stores had begun to serve multiple purposes. They were no longer a distinct, isolated channel, but rather, part of the overall brand experience. For some consumers, stores might be the start of a buying journey. For others, they may be a place to pick up orders or make returns. Today, stores are an integral part of the omnichannel experience, playing a different role for each person.

Despite many recent changes, one thing has remained clear: people have not stopped going into the store. While consumers are shopping online more than ever, 48% of US adults report that they purchase products or services in store at least weekly — and 51% say they do so more often than that. That’s because stores offer extraordinary convenience due to proximity, knowledgeable staff and new, frictionless services.

Will Retail as We Know it Survive?

It is a certainty that retail will survive. It is almost as certain that retail, as consumers have known for decades, is permanently changed. The rise of omnichannel, the surge in online shopping and the explosion of new fulfilment options, have forced retailers to adapt quickly. For those with legacy technology, operational adjustments are happening despite their solutions rather than because of them. That’s because those solutions were designed for retail as it was, not for where retail is going.

Therefore, brands are rethinking the best ways to serve customers who have become accustomed to new, omnichannel conveniences. There is a critical interplay between online experiences and store experiences. But the technology of yesteryear is unable to bridge those two channels. While store teams have performed admirably, scrambling to meet new demands, reliance on outdated technology means experience and profitability have taken hits. The only to sustain profitability and deliver the experiences customers increasingly demand is with a modern omnichannel platform where point of sale, order management, customer engagement and fulfilment are linked and working in concert.

An increase in the volume of online orders fulfiled from stores has led to reduced profitability for 79% of retailers

72% of retailers are planning to increase store space dedicated to online order fulfilment

(Source: 2021 POS Buyers’ Guide)

91% of shoppers miss shopping in stores, and "getting out of the house" is one of the top three motivators for future store visits.

100% of shoppers miss the instant gratification of store purchases.

(Source: 2020 Shopper Study The New Store Shopper in High-Touch Retail)

Will Retail Stores Exist in the Future?

The days of stores being a single, isolated selling channel are over. So while they must now serve a range of purposes, they are as essential as ever. New omnichannel services are likely permanent fixtures in retail, as shoppers enjoy being able to buy and return items wherever, whenever and however it’s easiest for them. To maintain customer loyalty, offering those conveniences will need to be continued. And to maintain margins, true omnichannel solutions are now critical. Success depends upon embracing new realities with services and technology that facilitate seamless, flawless experiences at every point of interaction.

If they haven’t already, retailers must create what used to be considered “stores of the future”, in the present. Ensuring competitiveness, profitability and adaptability starts with technology that connects experiences, constantly adds new innovations and arms sales associates with tools to sell, fulfil and engage anywhere.

The Future is Now

The omnichannel era has arrived and it’s only just begun. For some that requires a new mindset in their approach to serving customers and store teams. The right technology platform, like Manhattan Active® Omni, can help you differentiate your brand, exceed expectations and thrive in an evolving retail environment.

Manhattan Active® Omni is the industry’s leading omnichannel solution. To learn more about how it can help you modernise your stores, visit www.manh.co.uk/active/omni

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