CallisonRTKL Vice President Joan Insel On The Future of Brick and Mortar Retail

This article is part of Raydiant’s Future of Brick and Mortar Retail series featuring interviews with industry experts and thought leaders with the goal of providing actionable insights that can help brick and mortar retailers prepare for what lies ahead.

The following is an interview we had with Joan Insel, Vice President and Global Retail Brand Strategist at CallisonRTKL.

What are the top 3-5 top trends that will shape brick and mortar retail in 2021?

1. Hybrid retail, which combines the strengths of online shopping with that of the physical store. Brick-and-mortar stores will still provide a thrill to the senses—seeing, touching, hearing, smelling the product. But stores must also provide online order and fulfillment options such as in-store or curbside pickup, same-day, local delivery, or other traditional shipping methods.

2. Sales associates, who are digitally empowered and well trained. Stores will rediscover the importance of savvy sales associates who know how to connect with their customers and provide an exemplary personal shopping experience.

3. Consumer shopping behaviors, which are always changing, but have changed faster than ever. The coronavirus has quickly and significantly changed consumer shopping patterns for the short term—and possibly for the long term as well.

What technologies will have the biggest impact on brick and mortar retail in 2021?

JI: Touchless technologies and experiences driven by one’s own personal smartphone, rather than a touchscreen for everyone to use, are an immediate response to the coronavirus and are likely here to stay. AR, VR and MR continue to make waves in the retail environment.

What should brick and mortar retailers be doing now to prepare for 2021?

JI: Know your brand. Live your brand. Be your brand. Consumers today are not just shopping for products—shoes, luggage, skincare—but they want to know how the brands they buy are advocating for the greater good in their communities.

Know your customer. Be data-driven, of course. Review your analytics from point of sale, foot traffic, social media, etc. But don’t forget the human element, the insights you can learn directly from your customers—and your staff.

In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, what's the future of brick and mortar retail look like?

JI: We see a bright future and a whole host of new opportunities. There may be fewer and smaller physical stores, but the entire retail experience will be more harmonious. It’s important to remember that today’s consumers don’t make distinctions between shopping in-store, online, or with a mobile app, and they are equally comfortable with in-store or curbside pickup as well as same-day delivery or other shipping options.