Top Retail Trends Business Leaders Need to Look Out For
While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the retail industry, retail businesses are slowly rebounding. Consumers are reveling in in-store shopping experiences after 14 months of store closures, and many companies are re-thinking their approach to provide sustainable yet innovative customer experiences.
Business leaders are the gatekeepers to unlocking new insights about their customers, so here are a few trends to expect and monitor in the future:
Tech industry analysts and visionaries say augmented reality (AR) will transform business – forecasted to be a $50 billion industry by 2024.
AR is an enhanced version of the real physical world achieved through digital visual elements, sound, or other sensory stimuli delivered via technology. It is a growing trend among companies involved in mobile computing and business applications.
Any smartphone or tablet can act as an AR platform to create a shopping environment, whether for brick-and-mortar stores or online retailers. An online-only retailer could use AR technology to create a 3D shop that virtually replicates the experience of shopping in a traditional store. Giving customers the ability to try an item before buying it improves their satisfaction and reduces costly returns.
On a side note, companies such as Walmart and Chipotle use augmented reality to train employees, providing them with hands-on training experience with zero risks of costly mistakes.
Today’s shoppers want in-depth information about the items they buy, and AR can help bring a product’s story to life in an immersive way.
A Hybrid Approach to Retail Employment
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo states that despite there being positive signs of economic recovery, the retail and service sectors are not expected to recover in the same way from the pandemic.
649,000 retail employees quit their jobs in retail due to low pay and limited benefits in the search for new jobs, higher pay, and less stress – leading to a less stable number of employees.
Apple is exploring different ways to test a hybrid model of work from home for its employees. Known as the “Retail Flex,” the model would allow employees to work some weeks at their store location and others remotely, where they will handle online sales, customer service, and technical support.
Enterprises will need to leverage contact centers to handle the increased amount of virtual requests.
In a recent study, 41% of employees working from home prefer to continue remote work. Because of that, more retail companies will need to accommodate the evolving workforce and provide advanced options to the changing consumer.
The hybrid work option will be around for a long time. The retail industry will need to leverage and invest in the appropriate hybrid work technology to ensure seamless switches between working from home and in the office.
Business communication tools such as Smart Choice Communications’ VoIP will be an integral factor in ensuring seamless communication between employees and departments.
A Focus on Customer Retention
More and more millennials and Gen Zs are flocking to brands that promote corporate social responsibility, leading consumers away from traditional retailers.
High traffic organic social media posts from popular platforms such as TikTok have become an instrumental driving success factor for new and upcoming brands – poising 2021 retailers for exponential growth.
Sherene Hilal, Senior Vice President of product marketing and business operations at Bluecore, stated that retail themes will change dramatically.
Hilal adds that as e-commerce continues to grow, brands will need to double down on customer loyalty and retention efforts. “Consumers are now buying new products from new brands faster than they ever have before. The speed and volume of shoppers discovering and purchasing online are forcing retailers to formulate what growth could mean for brands.”
Paying attention to the needs and desires of existing consumers will be more essential today than ever before. This was proven true when brands implemented curbside pickup, saving time both in-store and while shopping online.
There is no doubt that retail sales will continue to be generated from online shopping and physical stores. Both private companies and large supply chains will need to incorporate different ways of providing personalized experiences to their customers.
Regardless of the medium, channel, or approach, retail is here to stay. Only this time, the only way to ensure survival is to closely monitor the inclinations of the consumer.