Digital and pandemic-led upheaval have thrust new issues to the top of retailers’ To-Do lists. Here are 10 key focus points for 2022.
Eco-credentials now sit centre stage of any retail brand proposition. Forrester found 49% of adults in the UK and 41% in the US prefer to buy environmentally sustainable products. Second-hand sales are booming via platforms such as ThredUp and Depop; for example Patagonia and REI run buyback programs, Adidas is partnering ThredUp, and Burberry and Gucci are collaborating with TheRealReal. Consequently, every apparel seller is looking at returns, recycling and resale.
Cardboard shortages, Suez Canal blockages and escalating shipping costs were among many stumbling blocks in 2021. Supply chain expert Tom Kelly says: “The logistics of getting materials to where they are needed continues to be strained… For 2022, businesses and their supply chains are going to need to take a very close look at their logistics and planning functions. They will have to rethink how they are going to increase accessibility to the material they need to keep customers happy.” Retailers know they need to make supply more secure if they’re not to disappoint their customers.
Product delivery offers customers supreme convenience but can be complicated and costly for retailers to execute. Deloitte expects retailers to partner or open their own dark stores and micro-fulfilment centres to solve last-mile delivery challenges. Investment in predictive and connective technologies including AI and the IoT will also enhance speed and tracking. Will 2022 be the year retailers finally live up to expectations on logistics?
The store as a fulfilment centre
Shops are transforming fast. According to McKinsey, 44% of stores served partially or entirely as fulfilment centres during the pandemic. That’s expected to jump to 50% this year, as retailers focus on ship-from-store capabilities. Early adopters have proven the concept: Walmart saw great success during the pandemic by combining its physical network with its website to offer a same-day click and collect service. Nordstrom has trialed the concept of stockless stores, where customers can get advice from stylists but can’t buy clothes on site.
Physical retail’s rebound
The death of the bricks and mortar store has been greatly exaggerated. It’s estimated 78% of purchases globally will still be made in physical locations by 2024. Experts believe shopping malls could be on the upswing in 2022, fueled by pent-up demand and excess savings from the pandemic. “Despite growing vacancy in lower classed properties, foot traffic data from Placer.ai suggests an underestimated resilience within regional and super-regional malls,” the CBRE notes in a recent report. Nine of the top 10 eCommerce websites are run by retailers that also operate physical stores, and even online giant Amazon is investing in establishing a high street presence. For many the main priority will be unifying commerce projects to connect virtual and physical touchpoints, so they can deliver seamless cross-channel shopping for their customers.
The growth in buy-now-pay-later shows no signs of slowing. Main player Klarna is used to make two million purchases a day across 250,000 websites. It boasts a 30% increase in conversion rates for its retailers and a 41% increase in order value. In 2022 retailers will continue to lean into such financial services as a natural extension of their brand, building customer loyalty and creating a seamless checkout experience. Joel Rampoldt, managing director at AlixPartners, says: “From a retailer’s perspective, they want to do anything to close that sale right now while the shopper is on the app. There are a lot of items sitting in shopping carts and buy now, pay later is a way of lowering the barrier… to that final step of clicking ‘purchase’.”
Social commerce is one of many new ways to sell that has captured the public’s imagination. Two-thirds of American shoppers now use online videos to inspire them to make a buying decision, and experts expect live streaming to be the new big thing in eCommerce, generating $25 billion in sales by 2023. One shopping platform, NTWRK made more than $100,000 in just one day by selling on Snapchat. “Social media platforms have done a fantastic job at finding and showing users the right product to the right person at the right time,” Bryan Cano, senior director of media strategy at StickerAds, says.
Competition for talent is intensifying thanks to fewer employees, all wanting better working experiences. A worker shortfall “… is widespread in the entire consumer supply chain,” Karl Haller, a retail expert at IBM, says. Analysts from KPMG say retailers will spend the next year reassessing their workforce, identifying where humans deliver the biggest competitive advantage, and reinvesting in the right capabilities and training. Talent attraction, upskilling and retention are all focus areas for forward-thinking operators.
The mass digitalisation of retail continues unabated. Statisticians predict 40% of interactions with customers will be automated or happen through AI by 2023. Data will be used to drive personalisation, customer experience, and operational efficiency — if it can be connected and sorted appropriately. Industry leaders such as Intel are already seeing major interest in AI and advanced analytics that leverage information from edge-to-cloud.
Personalisation & privacy
Retailers face a delicate balancing act between offering the hyper-personalised experiences customers value while allaying any privacy and security concerns. According to Accenture, 91% of consumers still want a personalised online shopping experience, but customers and campaigners have raised concerns about facial recognition, data sharing and geolocation-based tracking within the industry. Retailers face a choice – do they prioritise personalised sales, privacy, or both?
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