Four ways retailers must adapt in 2021

The Covid-19 crisis has created a new era of change for businesses. From transformation that’s been a long time coming to the acceleration of pre-existing trends, organisations are being forced to rethink their businesses to meet the new retail norm.

This ‘great acceleration’ has intensified trends that were already underway. Notably, it’s led to consumers being happy buying big ticket items online – something they’d never dream of doing 18 months ago. And that has left retailers wondering exactly what it is they need to do to adapt for the future.

There is no simple fix. The solution is complex and retailers need to tread carefully as they navigate these tricky times. But one thing is clear: the future of retail has to be ‘more’ – more experiential, more customised, more proficient, and more collaborative.

That’s a lot to ask, but retailers are up for the challenge. 

Let’s take a look at those changes in more detail and how retailers can put them into practice.

1 Retail space – big vs small

The flagship store has been a mainstay for retail brands for years. But with high rents and consumers more confident buying online, retailers will move away from these large brick-and-mortar premises and towards smaller retail spaces. To stay relevant, these physical stores will need to focus on customer convenience (operating in an omnichannel capacity) and feature geo-characteristics of the brand (providing different brand offerings depending on the store’s location).

That’s not to say all flagship stores will be consigned to the history books. Those that stay will be fewer in number, but will become destination stores, writes Forbes. They will be more consumer attractions than retail stores, where entertainment, experiences and shows are the main event. Shopping and making a purchase will almost be an after-thought.

2 Greater personalisation

The customer at the centre: it’s the modern retail mantra. Customers want convenience and a smooth route to the right products at the right time. Now, more than ever, physical stores need to harness the power of technology to meet customer needs. 

A personalised in-store shopping experience is largely linked with our local high streets. But with technology, brands can recreate that personalised, localised experience once only found in the village store. Knowing customers by name, understanding their likes and dislikes, and making suggestions based on their preferences is the way forward, but is only an option with the right tech.

3 People – skilled, experienced staff

One way retailers can entice customers back into their stores is through the people they employ. Staff need to be experienced, skilled and able to meet consumer needs to the tee. In 2021 and beyond, working the shop floor needs to be seen as a career (not just a part-time role) – and paid accordingly. 

Focusing less on the number of sales and more on reducing the number of returns, personnel will be able to answer consumer questions and create a memorable retail experience, specific to that shop’s location. After all, the more empathy retailers show staff, the more empathy staff will show customers.

4 Collaborative opportunities

Another way retailers can succeed post-pandemic is by operating more collaboratively. Sharing retail space is not only a smart move financially, it’s one that keeps consumer interest piqued. We’ll see more big-brand collaborations as a way to make the best use of large stores, but this will apply to smaller brands too. Think gyms combined with restaurants, fashion being sold alongside groceries, and more pop-up local market spaces with smaller retailers working together to give consumers a more rounded retail experience.

In 2021, retailers need to give consumers something that’s unique and a break from the norm. Stores that offer something different, surprising and inspiring will get consumers off their sofas and through the doors. That’s going to take some creativity, but the retailers that get it right will find plenty of consumers eager to get back in stores and enjoy the experience that brings.

If you’re looking for new ways to deliver engaging, immersive customer experiences in store and beyond, The Delta Group can help. Get in touch to find out more about our services and solutions.