The New Imperatives: Flexibility, Personalization and Multi-Channel Experiences
In the unpredictable world we live in today, there is only one constant every retail business can count on in 2023: nothing is constant. The retail industry, which has continued to change drastically over the past decade, will undoubtedly look different 12 months from now. That is why retail businesses need to stay on top of the trends that are shaping the industry and embrace innovation so they can thrive this year and beyond.
Here are some of the primary shifting trends we are seeing in the retail and e-commerce landscape this year.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it's that retailers need to be able to make realistic changes in short periods of time in order to keep up with consumer trends. Online and in-person retail is evolving faster than ever as technological innovation picks up speed every day. Consumer behavior will not be the same next year, and retailers can be confident that their competitors will be finding unique ways to satisfy the changing demand.
For example, e-commerce has exploded in popularity over the last decade, and that trajectory went into overdrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers had to act quickly and think on their feet, whether that meant introducing curbside delivery options or QR code-enabled pick-up shelves. As a result, today, there are an estimated 12 to 24 million e-commerce stores globally, and analysts expect the global e-commerce industry to grow from $5.7 trillion in 2022 to $8.1 trillion by 2026. Those retailers who are unwilling to adapt will likely be left behind.
By remaining flexible, retailers can stay ahead of the curve and pivot their strategy to keep up with customer needs, purchasing wants and expectations. There are many retailers of yesteryear who failed to do this — Blockbuster is a prime example.
Adaptability is Key
Shoppers have made their opinions heard over the past few years, and retailers need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends if they hope to keep up with shifting consumer demands and a constantly evolving industry.
The Importance of Multi-Channel Experiences
Prioritizing Personalization and Loyalty
While it's clear that more consumers have moved online, 2022 also saw people returning to a new state of normal in which they are eager to do at least some of their shopping in person. More than 122.7 million people visited brick-and-mortar stores during this year’s Black Friday weekend — up 17% from 2021.
But today’s consumers are used to optimal convenience, which is why the old ways of in-store shopping won’t do. Consumers want multi-channel experiences — being able to research online and buy in-store or vice versa. 60% of consumers say they conduct online research online before making a major purchase. Retailers can take advantage of this by investing in seamless and integrated multi-channel platforms. For example, retailers can potentially utilize their own online ordering platform in-store by helping fulfill a customer's size or specific order if it's not in stock.
Appointment shopping is another popular multi-channel trend emerging this year, where consumers book exclusive time in-store to browse products through a retailer’s e-commerce website. If a customer isn’t comfortable shopping in person but also doesn't want to deal with shipping and supply chain issues, they can book an appointment to pick up in store.
As retailers welcome customers back, they will need to prioritize personalization both in-store and online in order to boost loyalty and engagement.
With the online experience, this means special loyalty program promotions for VIP guests, whether it be buy-one-get-one-free perks or free gift cards. It also means a seamless and quick checkout and delivery experience — when shipping is delayed, and consumers aren’t informed, 69.7% say they are less likely to buy from that retailer again.
When it comes to the brick-and-mortar experience, consumers want personalization, efficiency and the ability to choose their own retail experience. For example, 58% of surveyed retail shoppers in North America say they have used in-store self-checkout, and 71% would like an app they can use to buy products instead of waiting in a checkout queue.
Overall, the state of the retail industry in 2023 will demand that retailers stay flexible, continue to innovate and reward loyal customers. By following the retail trends of today, retailers will be better suited to stand out in the industry of tomorrow.