The unhindered rise of e-commerce, personalization, digital mannequins, and automated home deliveries are some of the key elements that will shape the shopping experience in the coming years. These changes will prompt retailers to adopt an omnichannel business model and deliver a consistent shopping experience across online and offline channels.
The pandemic threatened to mess up the retail sector as the movement curbs slowed down the growth. Brick-and-mortar retailers appeared slowly headed towards becoming irrelevant, a roadkill for e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart. As the pandemic limited the store operations, online commerce with door-step delivery became even more pertinent. It is already 2022 but prolonged pandemic has meant that businesses continue to witness a slump in store walk-ins even as there is an increased emphasis on virtual customer interactions to generate sales.
Smart retailers now understand that lack of digitisation and virtual solutions is impeding productivity and slowing down business. They are transitioning to virtual retails solutions to avoid supply chain disruptions and labour shortages. By thoughtfully virtualising business operations, eliminating silos between channel, and shifting to omnichannel models, they are responding to changing market dynamics in an agile and fast manner.
The bottom-line – offline retailers lagging in their digital adoption must follow to fix their disjointed fragmented retail processes and awkward customer experiences, or else they are sure to fall behind in the race.
How has shopping changed: The rise of e-commerce
The e-commerce landscape was already gathering momentum even before the pandemic. However, the past two years of the start-and-stop market environment have further accelerated significant customer traffic to digital channels. E-commerce sales rose from $156.39 billion in 2019 to $206.66 billion in 2020. The growth of e-commerce has not only changed how consumers shop, but also their expectations about how retailers approach customer service and personalization.
E-commerce solutions are now becoming a part of the omnichannel retail ecosystem to help deliver a seamless and contactless shopping experience for customers. Since e-commerce transcends the limitations of shelf space, retailers can showcase a wide assortment of products in front of their customers. In addition, customers can easily compare product specifications, browse reviews, and know about product availability while shopping online.
Moreover, it is more convenient for self-isolating customers to shop online from the comfort and safety of their house. Easy returns and last-mile delivery options have made e-commerce a formidable alternative to physical retail in the past two years. The new age retail shopping is defined by the ease of access to internet and e-commerce platforms.
Future of shopping: Omnichannel experience and beyond
The unhindered rise of e-commerce, personalization, digital mannequins, and automated home deliveries are some of the key elements that will shape the shopping experience in the coming years. These changes will prompt retailers to adopt an omnichannel business model and deliver a consistent shopping experience across online and offline channels. It is now more pertinent than ever to build virtual retail ecosystem and connect physical retail to digital lifestyles.
Retailers must bring the in-store shopping experience online using AR/VR technologies and virtual sales assistants to guide customers and help them choose a product. They should deploy digital BTL activations and in-store activations to engage with customers and drive brand loyalty in the future. A cohesive blend of e-commerce with physical retail is the way forward for brands to maximize sales in a restricted market environment. In an omnichannel design, store promoters can effectively use customer data captured across virtual and physical stores to offer better personalization and product recommendations based on their previous purchases.
While physical retail will return as the covid-19 restrictions ease out, some proportions of customers are not coming back in-store at the usual frequency they used to. Hence, maximizing the value of each store trip will be crucial for retailers. Also, the rise of flagship stores with a mix of cafes, art galleries, and shops, etc., will be fundamental to driving store footfalls in the future. Omnichannel retail can help manage crowds by offering customers options such as ‘Buy Online Pay in Store,’ curbside pickups, digital payments, and more.
Redefined role of physical stores
As the markets close and in-store footfalls decline, physical store locations can be used as fulfilment centres to enable faster delivery and support e-commerce sales. Additionally, retailers can use physical stores to execute experiential events, educate customers on product offerings, and reinforce their brand’s positioning in the market. New technology solutions can be leveraged to transform store formats and drive delightful experiences for prospects and customers.
Retailers prioritizing customer experience and responding with agility and innovation will strengthen their ties to buyers and drive sales amidst existential crises. The future of shopping will definitely be a mix of digital and physical retail, but above it, the most crucial aspect would be building personalized relationships with customers and automating inventory and supply chain systems.
The writer is CEO APAC, Denave, a global sales enablement company focused on driving revenue growth for its customers through a wide range of service offerings.