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 Joshua Williams, Founding President of Fashion Consort, Assistant Professor of Fashion Management at Parsons School of Design and Acting Chief Branding Officer at QueerCut.
What are the 3-5 top trends that will shape brick and mortar retail in 2021?
- Contactless Payment – With Focus on NO TOUCH at all.
- Smaller, localized stores that are service-oriented (ie. BOPIS, tailoring).
- A greater focus on personalized clienteling (more than automated emails, dynamic ads, etc.).
- Localized brand affiliations with local influencers and tastemakers.
What technologies will have the biggest impact on brick and mortar retail in 2021?
JW: I think any technologies that facilitate the in-store shopping experience, will be front and center in 2021. These technologies can be “hidden” in some cases, such as air filtration systems, cleaning technologies, etc, or “seen” such as contactless payment, automated no-touch doors, sinks, toilets, etc. “Tech for tech’s sake” will become less important as customers going to the store will want a truly physical experience. Additionally, I think we see an increase in smart speaker technologies that bridge home, commute, office and store.
Tangentially, I think VR shopping technologies will continue to accelerate as retailers try to bring in-store experience into the homes of shoppers.
What should brick and mortar retailers be doing now to prepare for 2021?
JW: First and foremost, retailers should be focusing on their store line employees. The realities of their jobs have changed as customer expectations have changed. Employees will need to be able to engage customers in a truly 360 omni-channel experience, and companies will need to reward employees who do this—rethinking sales commissions, in-hand tools, client access and engagement, and direct participation in marketing. This will require a lot of transparency and empathy at all levels of the retail organization. What’s more, retailers need to figure out how to aggregate information and experience at the front lines in a way that executives can be more agile in decision making. Customer expectations are changing quickly, especially due to the pandemic, and retailers that respond quickly, and authentically, are being rewarded.
In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, what’s the future of brick and mortar retail look like?
JW: More than ever, I think customers want to be seen and heard. They are paying for more than a product—a product that they can probably find anywhere. They want personalized service that takes their daily needs into consideration, beyond the typical demographic and psychographic markers. This means rethinking approaches for urban versus suburban stores. This means providing services such as tailoring and customization in-store, home delivery and curbside pick-up. This means engaging in local communities and providing services that align with these communities—for example, multi-lingual visual merchandising and customer service, stocking local brands, supporting local organizations, including mom & pop retailers, etc. Many of these things were already happening pre-Covid, as add-on services. These will now be expected.