When the lockdowns have ended and schools are back in session, what will the high street look like? There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting effect on our lives, and it would be misguided to expect things to return to what we used to call normal.
Business has always been fluid, but with the world in a state of flux, it can be difficult to know where the trends might lead us next. As we continue to see retail shift away from its historical base and rapidly towards the adoption of new and emerging technologies, here is what you can expect from retail in the future.
The continued rise of eCommerce
eCommerce has gone from strength to strength during the pandemic, with members of the public stuck at home and high street retail outlets required to close. This ‘perfect storm’ has seen consumers flock to the internet in their droves, with thousands of new stores setting up shop on the world wide web.
As we accelerate out of the pandemic, you can expect to see this trend continue. For one thing, consumers have incorporated online shopping into their regular routines and so it makes sense that this will continue after lockdown restrictions have eased up. Similarly, brands have spent millions on the technology needed to run eCommerce websites, and they will not want to see that investment go to waste. As a result, it is expected that they will continue to push their online presence even further as they seek to cut down on high street retail costs.
A biproduct of this trend is that many businesses will be looking to improve their online sales capabilities. One solution is for them to seek out a reliable eCommerce payment gateway, such as the one from UTP Group– enabling them to complete transactions 24/7. It is the simplest way for firms to take payment online, and you can expect to see a lot more of it in the future.
It is difficult to predict how consumer trends will progress, but what is for certain is that we are entering a new era of personalised shopping experiences.
No, we are not talking about name engravings or initials and monograms – but rather shopping experiences that are tailormade for individual consumers. As brands gather more and more data on their customers, they gain the ability to attune their products and services to their demands. It becomes much easier to recommend products, and to offer incentives that are suitable for the individual rather than a much wider demographic.
Some retailers are already doing this, and we can learn a lot about the future direction of the market from their efforts. Many of the UK’s major supermarkets provide loyalty cards that are linked to a customer’s individual account – meaning that all their purchases are fed through an algorithm so long as they scan their card. This data is then used to automatically create ultra-personalised offers and services, improve upselling efforts, and double down on consumer-brand relationship building.
As we move forward, retailers are likely to gather even greater quantities of data. The hope is that as they learn more about their customers, they adjust their products and services to better meet demand.
Corporate social responsibility, along with Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) concerns are driving corporate decisions. As shareholders and consumers alike become more attuned to the need for sustainable business practices, it seems likely that retail firms will work to align their policies and practices more closely with socially responsible ideals.
Even as fast fashion companies snap up major high street brands including Debenhams and the constituent companies of Arcadia, it is quickly becoming apparent that consumers are now unwilling to compromise on ethical standards. As a result, it is to be expected that retailers will revisit their supply chain monitoring, anti-modern slavery policies, and even environmental policies.
There is no telling where this movement may go, but what can be said is that the retail environment of the future is likely to be much greener, fairer, and far more responsible.
The rise of authenticity
Just as consumers have started to take more notice of environmental and social concerns, so too have they shifted their priorities away from a value-centric approach towards one that is all about quality. The experience economy is on the up, and consumers are looking for authenticity across the products they buy, too.
This is the reason that major supermarket chains have started to redesign their own brand lines to reflect the names of farms, and the origins of produce. It is a tactic that is sure to catch on as the public continue to seek out authentic experiences and products.
As a result of the internet, the world is a smaller place than ever before. People want the products that are culturally accurate – and retailers are set to deliver.
The return of high street shopping
Finally, it stands to reason that the future will see a return to the high streets. Physical retail outlets may be closed now under COVID-19 restrictions, but these simply will not last forever, and brands remain eager to open their stores and start turning a profit again.
What is certain is that retailers will need to adapt their models to keep up with the times. Even as the pandemic recedes, social distancing looks like it’s here to stay and so firms should consider whether it’s time to place an order for a contactless card machine, such as the one from UTP Group, alongside all of their usual inventory and supplies such as card machine paper.
Although many people are concerned about whether there is a future for physical retail, there are several unique benefits to high street shopping that set it apart and safeguard it against change. One example is that many customers still prefer to look at a product in person before spending their money, and even the fastest delivery services are no competition for simply walking into your local outlet and purchasing what you need.
With these changes in place, retailers can still look forward to a long and prosperous future on the high street. It might just look a little different than before.