The end of the decade has taken an unexpected toll. The year 2020 featured a global pandemic, an economic spiral, as well as a massive wave of store closures and industry bankruptcies defining much of the shopping landscape within the world of retail.
As we try to predict what’s to come in 2021, there’s no better time than to evaluate the drastic changes retail have faced over the past decade – from Covid to technology, and online retail.
The experience of shopping has enormously transformed the way retail operates with different technologies, consumer habits and expectations shaping the industry, and the way consumers approach shopping is a distinctive contrast to how they did over 10 years ago.
The growth of ecommerce for example, has brought significant opportunities and threats to retailers. The way we browse and buy has, to a certain extent, shifted away from the high street to online channels. This has resulted in a change to how we view brands that we interact with.
Altogether, advances in technology have drastically changed the way consumers shop, both in store and online. The past decade has seen a rise of direct-to-consumer brands and companies built nearly entirely on social media. Offline stores began experimenting with new forms of tech to entice shoppers back into brick-and-mortar stores.
While some took off better than others, there’s no denying some of the brands who had led the high street in the past have disappeared. The brands who failed to innovate new forms of technology are no longer relevant for the modern consumer today, as presenting the same merchandise in the same format and not reacting to trends have no competition whatsoever with retailers that have fully integrated digital and upgraded store experiences.
Throughout this article, we’ll look at the ways in which the retail experience has changed over the past 10 years. We will examine the ways in which technology has revolutionised the industry, and our vision for the future of businesses.
What Has Caused the Changes in Retail Experiences Since 2010
A shift in customer expectations – Technology has put far more influence in the hands of the consumers more than ever before. An increasing need for brands to be competitive has forced them to pay attention to what customers expect from their experience and to act on this. These expectations relate to key issues, such as delivery and service. Consumers expect to be able to find products easily and to get hold of them quickly as they’re increasingly expecting retailers to offer faster and cheap delivery options.
For 2021, experts predict that ‘instantaneous delivery’ will be expected to be the norm.
Personalisation – Personalisation can help brands to achieve better results in terms of sales and reaching out to a new audience. Nowadays, personalisation of shopping experiences encompasses the tracking of consumer behaviours that is now common practice and is increasingly employing technology to use past patterns to make personalised suggestions and create a shopping experience that feels bespoke for every customer.
Empowered Consumers – 10 years ago, consumers had much more limited power. Today, reviews and ratings online can either make or break products or brands, putting the power securely in the hands of consumers and buyers.
Consumers also now use the online world to be informed on real life purchases. Around 81% of consumers will do online research before committing to a purchase.
Ecommerce – The biggest takeaway especially from 2020 is the shift to ecommerce; consumers have embraced online shopping and retailers have responded with the speedy rollout of new technologies. After all, ecommerce sales are at an all-time high as the pandemic accelerated years of growth in just weeks.
Social Media Influence – The widespread use of social media and the rise of new platforms over the years have also influenced retail as social media influencers have led a shift in consumer behaviour, as they review and share products with likeminded individuals. Altogether, this has rapidly become another convenient way for shoppers to find the styles they like to quickly purchase.
Regular use of devices – Devices such as tablets and smart phones are becoming more popular as shopping portals as these devices have gone from being a novelty to an everyday essential with highly versatile functions and presents shoppers with a valuable research tool. Around 88% of consumers now browse online before they step out to the high street.
Even in brick-and-mortar stores, mobile devices have become relevant to retail more so than before. Apps like Google pay, or Apple pay allow users to conveniently pay by phone. Amazon has gone one stage further with cashierless technology, all increasing convenience for the customer.
For retailers, the need to cater to an increasingly habitual use of devices is becoming more pressing by the year. Mobile can be a map, a shopping list, a product finder all at once.
The Online Shopping Experience
Technology has been the dominant factor that underpins all significant influences over the change in retail experiences. The UK retail market is one of the most engaged in Europe when it comes to making purchases online as around 80% of internet users are engaging in online shopping. Here, we explore the ways in which technology has revolutionised the retail industry in the last decade.
Diversifying Channels – It is said that roughly 38% of retail purchases are now made via multiple channels. This new era of modern technology has led us to adapt our purchasing decisions through the use of multiple channels, as opposed to a single approach or platform.
The popularity of social media platforms over the last few years have evolved into a channel through which consumers can browse for reviews on products.
Omnichannel shopping is set to continue as a retail trend since technology gives consumers more and more channel options to browse and buy through. Retailers who adopt omnichannel technology are able to thrive, unlock growth and increase sales through online stores, as well as putting the customer at the centre of the strategy to drive business.
Here at Data Clarity, we have developed ClarityOmnivue to specifically solve the challenges businesses face trying to mine multiple disparate data sources to deliver one 360-degree view of customers and business key performance indicators. ClarityOmnivue transforms disparate data into a unified data solution that enables more informed business decision. For more information on how ClarityOmnivue can be of benefit to your business, click here.
Although the consumer may go through different forms of communication (online, brick-and-mortar, email, etc), omnichannel is unavoidable and essential to offer the best experience for customers.
Data Clarity have worked with retailers like Paul Smith to develop ClarityOmnivue that has given them the ability to easily identify and reconcile their data and providing all the information they need to know about a single customer.
The Integration of Artificial Intelligence – AI has both real and practical usefulness for consumers and brands. In particular, it will provide opportunities for brands to crunch and analyse big data, with major retailers replying on advanced analytics to understand what should be stocked in their stores and drive efficiencies in logistics.
Gartner believes that AI will soon begin to lead the way when it comes to customer service. In 2020, 85% of customer interactions were being handled by AI.
Shopping on the move – The increasing use of smartphones and tablets gives us the power to browse and buy anytime and anywhere. Mobile is starting and ending more consumer journeys than ever before due to convenience and usefulness. This simply would not exist without the influence of technology.
Understanding of consumer behaviour – As consumers have become increasingly powerful, brands have begun seeking insights into why customers do what they do. The influence of technology has made it possible for businesses to get a swift perspective on historic interactions, as well as broader customer behaviour. By using behavioural analytics, brands are able to gain a better understanding of their customers.
Market Insights – Retailers need to gain a clear understanding of their market in order to succeed and technology has provided plenty of tools for that. One of the most critical is dynamic pricing, which means retailers can adjust pricing strategies based on real time market data on their own products and also compare with competitors.
What Should Businesses focus on in 2021?
Retail in 2021 will be incredibly challenging, however, embracing the fundamental certainties and understanding the core influencers set for the foreseeable future will enable you to prioritise and execute a set of actions.
Businesses and companies that not only want to survive through a digital future but thrive need to update their digital transformation strategy if not already done so, or perhaps need to offer more preferences to promote customer loyalty and drive business growth.
For ‘real world’ retailers, they now need to optimise commerce across channels like online marketplaces, social media, and retail.
The influence of e-commerce demonstrates how important it is to understand your customers’ needs and respond to changes in their behaviour promptly. For more information click here.
At Data Clarity, we are on top of the challenges and opportunities this presents for retailers. To discover how you can do more as a business, contact us today.