I’ve a confession to make. Like many retail writers, when we hit December, that means only one thing: it’s time to commit our thoughts on the coming year’s retail trends.
Back of the net, laptop slam dunk, sorted. That is until the following year when the process is revisited all over again. Retail, rinse, repeat. And let’s face it, for many years that’s served us all very well, although a frictionless experiential, omnichannel experience in a phygital kind of way never really did it for me (how are your finger nails down that blackboard doing?)
Not only is the pace of change happening quicker than anyone could have predicted, the very nature of retail means that it continues to evolve in front of our very eyes. And with that in mind, an annual look at trends no longer appears sufficient. It now feels more realistic to look at industry trends on a quarterly basis.
With that in mind, my top five trends for Q2 2022:
Retail with purpose
Sadly, it’s taken the atrocities in Ukraine for this to be included this quarter but consumer strength of feeling has put this firmly in the spotlight.
The sustainability agenda juggernaut has been lumbering along in the background for some time, burdened by the consumer behaviour gap and retail greenwashing (and a lack of any common understanding of what it means to be a sustainable retailer) but events in Europe have crystallised sentiment. And with it, our expectations of retailers, meaning that when they say they believe in ethical values (I’m looking at you Lush) they live those values.
It’s something I wrote about recently, however, IoT enabling everything to be connected to every ‘thing’ is one of the more exciting trends which is rapidly emerging. And why is it so significant? Because hyper-connected retail is good news for the consumer.
Where still, in the majority of cases, the right really doesn’t know what the left is doing, hyper-connectivity brings with it the promise of convenience and ease (effortless as we’ll see later) on a scale never before possible.
Data, data everywhere and not a drop to drink
If there’s one thing retail has plenty of, it’s data. Masses of it. But there’s also one thing it struggles with; not only analysing and interpreting that data but most importantly, using it in a relevant and contextual manner.
Why is this so important? Think for a moment of your own demands and expectations when it comes to engaging with brands and retailers. There’s one especially large online marketplace who I use. They have all my personal information, they probably know more about me than I know myself, but still insist on addressing me as “Hi A” in communications.
Data – use it or you’ll lose it.
Customer experience, or rather, discussing it, is nothing new. However, it needs to be done in the right way. After all, poking me in the eye would be an experience but not one I’d wish to repeat.
Psychologists tell us that the memory of the experience is more important than the experience itself. Just think about that for a moment and then consider that according to Gartner, 81% of customers going through a high level of effort are likely to share their bad experience with friends vs. only 1% of those those who went through an effortless experience.
Retail is dead, long live retail
Death of stores, death of the high street, retail on its knees – how often have you seen those kind of headlines leaping out at you? The truth of course is rather different…..and exciting.
I often get asked what I believe the definition of retail to be and increasingly I’m finding that question harder and harder to answer. Is it media? Is it entertainment? Is it social mobility? Is it commerce? Is it logistics? Is it all about community? Blurred lines indeed.
And this neatly brings us back to where we came in: retail with purpose. ‘Unprecedented’ has been doing some heavy lifting of late, and rightly so. The pressures which are only beginning to mount on household budgets mean that the shift from old to new retail – purpose driven, supporting the consumer, is only going to shift into a much higher gear.
Because as the impact of rising inflation, energy bills, food and fuel prices continues its remorseless assault on our cost of living, our already huge demands and expectations of brands and retailers, is only set to ratchet up even further.
Andrew Busby is Global Retail Industry Lead at Software AG and Founder at Retail Reflections