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What is the future of retail? – how can we catch up to the new reality

There are clear customer trends emerging that have accelerated to the point that we didn’t expect to happen in 2020. Most retail isn’t ready for this. The future of retail relies on the confluence of the strengths of online and retail.

Everyone seems to be taking about the future of retail. Retail is headed for for one of the greatest economic shocks ever seen. What most people agree is that things won’t be going back to normal as recovery emerges. New trends have taken hold and consumer behaviour is responding.

So what have the trends done to retail behaviour?

Here are some facts about the new normal in retail:

  • Social distancing means fewer people physically visit the high street
  • Once in the high street, fewer people will be able (or willing) to enter a store
  • People have realised they can save money by not going out
  • Sport is actually a viable form of leisure
  • Home pursuits are making a resurgence
  • More people are going online, but they aren’t converting – purchase behaviour is getting delayed
  • Mobile growth has further degraded online conversion rates

What does the future of retail hold in this punishing environment?

The pessimist will look at these statements of what the new world looks like and wonder how on earth do we drag ourselves out of this mess?

The optimist sees change. With change comes an opportunity to take marketshare from a competitor with new approaches that outflank traditional retail. Invariably, the answer lies in the confluence of tech and human capital. How can retailers get closer to technology to capitalise on the volume seen online? How can online replicate the high quality human and immersive experience in retail?

The future of retail is a bridge between online and retail

Shoppers expect a seamless experience between online and retail. They expect to be known (assuming they consent to it!). They don’t care or even believe that the two departments aren’t integrated.

The ideal retail experience is described beautifully be the omnichannel gurus: A seamless experience between online and retail. None of that will take hold until there is a bridge built between those teams where you can accurately track a customer across those channels, and then respond to their needs in a seamless way between those channels.

A shopper on a website should have their needs understood and those needs met as easily as human interaction. A retail store has to be able to reach into the reach a website yields and satisfy the needs of a consumer in the way HTML cannot do.

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