While COVID-19 continues to provoke changes, it's still difficult to picture what its long-term impacts are going to be like for months and years to come. However, recent patterns illustrate future retail trends that will force retailers to grow or sink in the modern retail environment, the first of which is an adaptation to changing customer habits while paying close attention to growing tech-enabled buying and omnichannel retail.
The outbreak also prompted a redesign of what customer service entails by examining how customer journeys and satisfaction metrics have developed over time.
Especially in times of strife, a customer's relationship with a business can have a significant and lasting impact on their sense of confidence and allegiance.
That said, now seems to be the period of opportunity for customer service leaders to put themselves at the fore of longer-term changes in consumer behavior that might result from this turmoil.
Maintaining a real-time perspective on evolving consumer tastes and swiftly driving innovation to reinvent experiences that matter to very new situations will be crucial.
Synonymous with this perspective, seven emerging trends in retailing will frame reactions for both the shorter and longer-term, induce resilience, and prepare consumers to thrive in the days after coronavirus. Here, we will take a look at what those retail industry trends are.
Safety and wellbeing is a far more critical topic of concern in retail, and for good reason: customers have put it center stage. Especially against the backdrop of the pandemic, consumers are growing increasingly aware of wellness in many facets of their lives.
As a consequence of it, consumers are looking to shift their diet patterns and are looking at perusing particular foods for health benefits.
In fact, food has become such a crucial concern for consumers that 66% of them view it as "medicine for their body," according to FMI and Rodale.
Even as consumers adopt new concepts of wellness, they are worried about conventional food safety risks. However, 88% of consumers are largely or absolutely assured that the food from their local supermarkets is healthy, a number that has spiked in recent years, according to IMF Trends.
Although retailers have made remarkable improvements in adapting their products, given the unique and changing stance of consumers in an age plagued by a pandemic, retailers would do well to continue to adapt their solutions to a variety of requirements, including food safety, health, and wellbeing.
The topic of AI inevitably goes hand in hand with personal assistants and voice search. In the UK alone, the adoption of smart speakers doubled in a matter of a few months from 14% to 27% in 2018, a development that mirrored throughout first-world countries.
Although Amazon's humongous market share still remains the controlling force with its Alexa interface, the potential pervasiveness of voice-enabled assistants will become a mainstay. In fact, studies predict that in the future, 55% of US households will have a smart speaker at home.
What's more, voice search now makes up a fifth of Google's overall searches, a movement which could encourage retailers to make their websites voice-search friendly.
Gartner predicts that up to 30% of searches will no longer use a screen or a keyboard and will likely use other technology by 2020, while Baidu estimates that this could well go over to 50%.
Did you know that the social media population comprises 3.60 billion users across the most popular social networking platforms?
Retailers would do good to leverage the untold power of these channels for their social media strategy.
That's why large social media companies are already exploring ways to integrate payment details and gateways to the platform itself. The first of such platforms to incorporate this is Instagram; however, it's still in its experimental stages.
In the near future, while social media sites will still be places to interact and stay up to date with friends and acquaintances, it will also become a breeding ground for retailers to maintain contact with their consumer base.
In fact, 60% of Instagrammers, totaling 600 million users, already utilize the platform to find and buy goods. Integrating a payment system that is native to the platform will make the whole system secure and expedite the process.
While this trend has been on the fringes for a while, its onset and development were hastened by the pandemic. From self-driving delivery vehicles to drone deliveries, the future of delivery service has arrived earlier than hoped.
While moving to internet shopping and distribution decreases the risk of interaction with people carrying pathogens, there is still a concern of exposure to poor hygiene at order fulfillment centers or distribution systems. Autonomous deliveries and execution eliminate risks about such situations, which is likely to result in increased adoption and acceptance of these technological developments.
During the next year, automated delivery programs are expected to stay concentrated on "last mile" approaches, using autonomous cars and aerial drones for journeys between fulfillment facilities and customers' homes.
Move over offline and online shopping – as purchases made from brands whose ads are promoted through influencers are here. Influencer marketing and advertising are pegged to be the next big retail trends throughout 2021.
In 2020, influencer marketing has seen a big change in the way marketers and influencers work with each other. Influencer content has progressively changed to raw aesthetics, and this shift will further evolve throughout the course of the next year.
Consumers place their trust in brands that have authentic brand voices, and today's smart consumers can detect an over-produced advertisement from a mile down the road.
Brands that do not prioritize legitimacy in their influencer relationships will eventually say goodbye to strong engagement levels and RoI in 2021. It's time for marketers to concentrate on exclusive influencer content that gives priority to learning, culture, and consumer experience.
Brands have even started collaborating with influencers to build and share marketing content on TikTok, IGTV, Instagram Live, and Instagram Reels to develop and help digital communities. Take, for instance, Bandier Fitness Authority's example.
Bandier has worked with business leaders to create and broadcast IGTV workouts and then publish snippets of it to IGTV reels for those that skipped the live stream. It helps the brand group its community together through a common purpose while also advertising its gears' reliability.
It's 2020, and the word "omnichannel" is casually thrown around in retail networks, largely so since it is heralded as the future of the retail industry. As has already been stated, consumers no longer differentiate between offline and online shopping.
In fact, an HBR report showed that 73% of shoppers use multiple platforms to find and purchase items.
Vendors have tried to capitalize on this development over the past couple of years by providing agile solutions for both in-store and virtual shopping. However, the demands beyond 2020 will dramatically increase, and brands will need to do more as the increasingly maturing innovations of virtual reality can be used to enhance the shopping journey of a customer.
Consumers have begun expecting the same experience across all of a brand's consumer-facing channels, and retailers would do well to remember this and not discriminate between online and offline because their consumers surely won't.
Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) are the next big things accelerating the future of retail trends.
According to a survey by Nielsen, customers ranked AR/VR as the top innovations they are exploring to aid themselves in their everyday lives, with 51% claiming that they wish to use AR tools to evaluate the products they want to buy.
And although AR isn't new (think Pokemon Go!), it has gone from being a bragging right to almost becoming a necessary and crucial part of retail e-commerce offerings. In a time when too many consumers keep relying on the internet shopping, retailers are harnessing the power of AR tools to shorten the gap between online and offline experiences.
In fact, according to the 2020 IBM Retail Index, the COVID-19 has speeded up the transition to digital buying by approximately five years.
Take Shopify, for instance, who introduced Shopify AR, an AR toolkit for brands to build and design their own augmented reality experiences to display their wares to consumers. The toolkit was such a huge hit that engaging with products that had AR content resulted in 94% higher conversion rates than those that didn't.
Retail is a competitive sector, and the rapid advancements in technology make it more unpredictable. Moreover, as the marketplace becomes more densely populated by the youth demographic, businesses are finding it difficult to abandon conventional forms of marketing to suit new tastes.
As a retailer, understanding emerging retail trends in the industry gives you an edge over your competition. This will also offer you the perspective needed to reinvent your offerings in unexpected business environments to avoid industry shake-ups before they appear.
So, are you game?
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