Qudini CEO Imogen Wethered 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 Imogen Wethered, CEO and founder of Qudini.

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

IW: Curbside collection for online shopping became incredibly popular during the pandemic, as it offered a safe and convenient way for customers to collect orders without waiting for delivery. In 2021, this demand will only intensify as customers become used to this new initiative.

Consumers will become less tolerant for queues outside and inside of stores. Nine months on from when the Coronavirus pandemic first caused shops to shut and 64% of consumers are still avoiding trips to stores to some extent, especially stores with queues. Going forward, this reluctance to wait in queues will only strengthen and consumers will favour retailers that prioritise the customer experience by allowing them to join virtual queues or book appointments for store visits or service ahead of time.

Virtual service will become a must-have. Online shopping surged during the pandemic, but one of the biggest pain points online shoppers came up against was the inability to receive personalised one-to-one service. In the last few months, a number of leading retailers have offered customers the ability to book virtual service over video or phone with consultants, allowing them to answer any concerns or provide them with expert advice and support. This service is hugely beneficial to the sales funnel, as it helps to convert customers on the fence as well as build relationships, generate interest and awareness and make retailers stand out from the competition.

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

IW: Appointment booking software: This technology enables customers to book appointments to visit stores or to receive service. This helps drive sales and loyalty by enabling customers to use any channel to seamlessly schedule appointments for tailored virtual or in-person services.

Virtual queuing software: Provides customers with the ability to avoid waiting in physical queues by joining a virtual queue instead. Consumers can do this on their phones via SMS and QR code or through a kiosk or member of staff and receive real-time updates about their position in the queue. This technology ensures social distancing and great customer experience.

Curbside click and collect software: The technology powering retailer’s click and collect services will play a crucial role in the future of brick and mortar retail. Not only has this helped power stores during the lockdown, but it is also building stronger customer relationships and increasing brand awareness.

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

IW: As we have seen in the year 2020, retailers need to be willing and ready to adapt to change at pace – and the majority have shown a great deal of agility and resourcefulness throughout the pandemic by embracing a number of new initiatives.

However, the demands of customers have changed. They are more omni-channel in their focus and are less willing to tolerate poor customer journeys than they were previously.

In 2021, retailers will need to take their customer journey to the next level by prioritizing key initiatives in their roadmaps, otherwise, they risk being left behind. This means providing a fast and pain-free shopping experience, offering service and support to customers through a number of channels, and also making the in-store experience engaging and compelling.

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

IW: The future of brick and mortar retail will undoubtedly be omni-channel in nature. That’s not to say it will become redundant – brick and mortar is crucial to building engagement, strengthening relationships, and driving sales – but consumers have changed their behaviours and there is a much greater awareness around online shopping, click and collect, virtual service, and more. This means retailers need to optimise their store portfolios to incorporate omni-channel elements into the customer journey.