Retail of the Future: What New Trends Will Stay and What Will Return to Normal

The last few months have seen the retail sector grow in unprecedented ways. Courtesy of the coronavirus and changing lifestyle habits among consumers, many retail brands are recording a fantastic increase in revenue via their online channels. It’s as if every new quarter tries to beat the previous quarter in terms of growth.

Estimated retail sales in the 3rd quarter of 2020 showed a revenue of almost $1.5 trillion USD. And this was from the US alone. That’s a 12 percent increase from the 2nd quarter, and a 36 percent increase compared to the 3rd quarter of 2019. Interestingly, online retail sales from eCommerce platforms accounted for 14.3 percent or about $200 billion USD of the total retail sales.

Of course, the pandemic has also forced some retailers to completely close up shop and file for bankruptcy. And it’s not just small retailers; the list iconic brick and mortar retail brands like Neiman Marcus, JC Penney, Hertz, GNC, and Stein Mart that have been around for a century or decades at the very least, and have multi-generational customers.

It is clear that many of the successful merchants have kept up with the times and adapted to new emerging trends. This brings us to the all-important questions: What new trends are important and likely to persist? And which trends will fizzle away when things return to normal?

Well, here’s [redacted’s] take on trends that will stay and those that will revert to the pre-covid era.

New Trends That Might Be Here to Stay Through 2021 and Beyond

1. Convenience Shopping

As more retail brands adapt to consumers’ growing concerns about personal safety in their stores, many are tweaking and modifying their last mile delivery options using technologies such as buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), contactless shopping, curbside and drive-through pickups, and in-trunk delivery.

So, instead of waiting for the product to get delivered, retail brands offering BOPIS features are seeing an increasing number of buyers choose that option when shopping online. All buyers have to do is select BOPIS when checking out and wait to get the notification that their product is available for pickup at the buyer’s earliest convenience.

Then the buyer just has to drive down to the pickup location. Depending on the option they chose or the operational procedure at the pickup location, the buyer can either go into the designated pickup area, verify their order and pick up their stuff. Or, they can simply drive through, notify the delivery associates of their order, and have them bring the package to the car and drop it in the trunk of the car.

2. Increased Safety Precautions for all In-Store Shoppers

Even though there are multiple vaccines available, it’s going to be a while before everyone gets vaccinated. Retail brands understand this, which is why they are doing everything possible to keep their stores clean and safe for consumers. Some of the safety procedures many retailers have adopted include:

  • Mandating the proper use of face masks inside the store
  • Limiting the number of people in the store at every given period
  • Having designated shopping periods for the vulnerable senior citizens
  • Placing hand sanitizers and washing bowls/sinks outside the store
  • Routinely wiping down and disinfecting shopping carts and trolleys
  • Installing plexiglass barriers between the cashiers and buyers

Many stores will probably keep doing this as long as there’s a risk of airborne or surface contact infection within the store.

3. Fast Fulfillment and Free Automated Shipping

People want to buy their stuff now and get it now. But most people know that’s not possible. So, they settle for the second-best thing –24-48 hour shipping. In fact, many buyers will abandon an online cart if shipping takes longer than 48 hours.

With more people working from home now, retailers are going to have to work on speeding up their shipping. And many are doing this right now. Apple, for instance, has shifted to shipping out devices from its stores instead of the regular distribution centers. This means that buyers can expect to receive their orders within 24 hours.

Many retail brands are now adopting the send-from-store model to speed up the delivery process and get people’s orders in their hands in the shortest time possible. This is likely going to continue even after the pandemic is over.

4.   Increased Integration of AR, AI, ML & Automation Tech

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality tech are driving the new seamless supply chains guaranteed to boost retail growth.

A combination of these technologies has seen retail brands improve their logistics, inventory management, and order fulfillment processes tremendously. With these technologies in place, products are better tracked, inventories are better managed, orders are fulfilled faster, and deliveries are very quick.

For instance, the machine learning-driven augmented reality platform like [redacted] helps merchants achieve all these and more by streamlining their processes, making them efficient, and reducing costs in the process. 

5. Old, Abandoned Malls May Become Distribution Centers

Some successful retail brands are working on bringing distribution centers even closer to shoppers. For example, Amazon is already considering the idea of buying up old and bankrupt former mall properties for cents on the dollar to turn them into their distribution centers.

For companies like Amazon, same-day deliveries are a priority and a luxury that their customers are used to. Customers are going to keep demanding ultra-fast shipping –many even abandon their carts because shipping takes longer than 48 hours.

Abandoned malls are great because they already have the infrastructure. So we might see a future where big retailers will have distribution centers located in all cities and even boroughs.

Trends That May Remain the Same Post-Covid19?

1. Retailers Will Focus on Seamless Customer Retention Strategies

Retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Home Depot have spent a small fortune on improving their supply chain efficiency. This has helped improve customer relations and bolstered these retail brands’ bottom line.

However, given the cost of implementing these strategies, the manpower, and the deployment of highly efficient technologies, these brands are going to be focused on getting their customers to spend more with them.

This means that customer retention strategies such as low-cost, free or super-fast shipping, easy last-mile delivery options, BOPIS implementation, and easy return policies brought on by the use of buy online return in-store (BORIS) technologies.

2. Shoppers May Do More Online Shopping

Some of the recent gains that eCommerce brands are enjoying, come from people who have never shopped online. We think that some retail brands are going to be focused on getting more people to shop online.

This will be considerably easier to do because covid19 has shown just how easy it is to get sick, and most people will want to avoid direct contact with surfaces and products that may have been touched by others.

3.    In-Store Purchases May Become the Norm Again

In-store purchases provide a sense of normalcy. After the year we’ve had, normalcy would be a great thing to have. And most consumers look forward to the days when they can go back to shopping normally as was seen in Europe after the first wave.

In fact, shoppers were willing to wait in line for hours just to do their shopping the old way. Of course, shopping habits may have changed, but offline malls and stores provide a sense of community and belonging that the online shopping experience doesn’t.

4.   Retail Stores May Return to Regular Hours

Retails stores are currently open for a limited number of hours due to manpower shortage and other challenges. However, now that some retail brands have figured out how to keep their doors open and stay safe, we may see more stores open for longer post-covid, even with the growing volume of online purchases.

 Final Thoughts

Ultimately, these are speculations based on accurate data, current realities, and human behaviors. It’s possible that some or all these may happen. There’s also the possibility that none of these incidents will play out the way we’ve anticipated them.

However, what remains constant is the need for every retail brand to make it incredibly easier for shoppers to buy from them. This means investing in tech that can help create a seamless shopping experience for the buyer. The easiest and most rewarding tech for this would be BOPIS.

BOPIS integration into current retail systems is pretty straightforward, easy-to-use, streamlines your processes even further, increases efficiency, saves costs and man-hours, and boosts your revenue.

[redacted] offers great BOPIS integration features and transforms your entire supply chain. We’re talking about everything from sales and inventory management, to order fulfillment and after-sales delivery. As an AI-powered augmented reality platform, [redacted’s] machine learning aptitudes make your retail process even more intuitive with frequent usage. If you’re thinking of making your retail operations more efficient, [redacted’s] seamless retail automation is what you need.

Click here to schedule a demo today.