The store of the future must respond to changed customer behaviours
Understanding how customer behaviour has changed will be the clue to serving them well in any channel. 63% of shopping occasions begin online, says Oberlo, so this is the perfect place to start, understanding that more and more journeys involve two or more channels.
During the pandemic, according to McKinsey, 75% of consumers changed something about the way they shop while 30% tried a new shopping method such as delivery or curbside pickup. And any assumptions that these changes are temporary are dispelled by findings from the same research which show that between 73 and 80% intend to continue these behaviours
The physical store of the future in a digital world
Store operations now have a holistic view. The brick and mortar store is now both self-contained – able to manage an entire shopping journey from browse to buy to deliver – as well as a hub connected to a whole retail, supply chain and partner ecosystem. If customers are on web sites and social media, retailers can analyse their activity across all their channels (website, social media, store…) and offer a customised experience when they visit the store, based on data. and customer apps are just two ways in which retailers can see who is in store and access personal information securely and with full consent.
At the same time, the store is connected to warehouses, goods in transit and fulfilment providers so that staff can manage orders as well as last mile delivery.
Staff are now able in real time to get a complete view of store, stock, customer and order status through hand-held devices that also manage point of sale and payment, so they can deliver personalised customer experiences.
Innovation in store design and function takes account of digital shopping habits
The store is also adapting in terms of design, layout and function. Pop-up stores for instance are already worth $10 billion (£7.7 billion) in sales according to Popup Republic. Amazon and others continue to open so-called Just Walk Out (JWO) stores that have removed the checkout. And more and more luxury brands are opening flagship stores that emphasise customer experience over inventory.
Most retail sales still go through the store
Global retail sales 2019
Physical retail store sales
In addition, not just but now other retailers have launched checkout-free stores where customers have only to log in through their phones as they enter the store and leave without paying because this is all handled online. Statista estimates that there will be 10,000 autonomous stores by 2025.
In this and other ways, retailers are supporting the store while removing the barriers between physical and digital space. They are also embracing their customers’ demands for greater sustainability in their own lives as well as from their chosen suppliers. Rental clothing stores will apparently be worth $64bn by 2025 says Thredup in a 2021 resale industry report.
The challenge now for retailers is how to manage the balance between investment in and integration of new activities, new roles and new tech in a store of the future that can manage so many activities:
- Omni channel customer service
- Product personalisation
- Returns management
- Click and collect
- Automated checkout
- Data collection