The Future of Retail
Shopping Redefined: What The Future Holds For Retail in a Post-Pandemic World
There is virtually no one in the modern world who could confidently say that absolutely nothing in their lives were changed, at least for a certain period of time, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all had to adjust to working from home, wearing masks in public, Zoom meetings, adding hand-sanitizers to our purses, and more so than anything else, shopping almost exclusively online. The pandemic brought about several new terms into our everyday vocabulary, such as “quarantine” and “self-isolation”, and a phrase we began to see and hear constantly was “the new normal”. While the world is gradually returning to its pre-pandemic ways, there are still several aspects of our lives that have been permanently altered and likely to remain as part of a new normal.
It’s no secret that brick and mortar stores have been at risk of obsoletion since the rise of e-commerce, with this possibility recently becoming intensified as a result of heightened safety concerns paired with an increased amount of online availability. Not too long ago, having an online presence meant a simply designed website that illustrates your brand values, and perhaps features some of your products; while nowadays, most websites are designed to be interactive, mobile-friendly, and include online-exclsive opportunities and live support, not to mention the pressure to create a presence and sell through social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. It’s also no surprise that more and more entrepreneurs are building their business to be online-exclusive, in order to cut costs on things like rent, utilities and staff. Online shopping experiences for an online population; but is it enough?
A Contactless World
While brick and mortar stores of the future may be reduced in number and popularity, it’s unlikely that they will cease to exist just yet, due to the personal relationships and in-person experiences they provide, that tend to all five senses, which e-commerce is yet to perfect. However, this doesn’t mean that retail has gone unaltered. While many features of retail as we know it have held up, numerous of them have changed to minimize human contact and maximize efficiency in-store.
Contactless cards, which were already used by most have become the norm, self checkout points in stores have increased and initiatives have already been taken by industry giants such as Amazon to offer its cashier-less, checkout-free store concept and technology “Just Walk Out” to other retailers, which might mean that we get to see more of these types of stores on the future, with the idea developed and perfected to fit the brand. Perhaps then, the idea may seem less dystopian to sceptics and even become the norm. After all, who wasn’t sceptical about most of our current everyday technologies when they were first introduced?
All About The Consumer Experience
Nevertheless, retail stores are bound to step-up their game if they want to stay relevant and compete with e-commerce platforms. So how would they do that? One prediction is that they’ll likely tap into the experience aspect of things, and the now nostalgic idea of “shopping days” which provide shoppers with a reason to get ready, go out, fulfil their needs, be entertained doing so, and have an overall pleasant experience - perhaps with a loved one, that they otherwise would have missed out on, had they fulfilled the same need sitting at their desk. Transforming shops into visually pleasing, exciting and enticing places that offer personal service unmatched with the e-commerce experience, as well as equipped with the latest technologies that provide a seamless customer journey, from digital stylists and makeovers, to interactive dressing rooms and 3D visualisation technologies.
Other predictions based on the actions of industry giants like Target are that more and more stores will operate as fulfilment centres, combining sales and logistics, and pushing curbside pick-ups as a mediating alternative to physical shopping and home deliveries. Another distinctive trend, contradicting the “shopping day” concept, has been the move away from malls. Many retailers, including Sephora who announced in early 2021 that they were set to open over 60 standalone stores across the US, have been experimenting with off-mall locations in major cities.
Whether you prefer online shopping or a more hands-on experience, you can sleep comfortably at night knowing that neither are going anywhere anytime soon, and will only get better, as companies compete to win the attention and adoration of consumers by improving themselves constantly, and not to worry, they’ll always find a way to adapt and survive.
written by Esen Tolgen