Retail TouchPoints Executive Director of Content Debbie Hauss On The Future of Brick and Mortar Retail
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Retail TouchPoints Executive Director of Content Debbie Hauss On The Future of Brick and Mortar Retail

Feb 02, 2021

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 Debbie Hauss, Executive Director of Content, Retail TouchPoints.

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

DH: Brick-and-mortar has changed dramatically and retailers will need to respond to survive. Top trends to watch include:

  • The new agile store format: this is an update to the pop-up trend that has been evolving over the years. Less costly, turnkey retail formats that are temporary and rotating will help new brands emerge and existing brands pivot to different formats.
  • Hybrid shopping: Retailers need to meld digital, physical and social shopping experiences to meet consumers successfully at every touch point. One example is Beautycounter, which is offering livestreaming from the back of the store.
  • Community engagement in a touchless world: As retail struggles to re-emerge post-COVID-19, businesses will need to find new, creative ways to engage with their customers. The store can be transformed into a hub that brings the brand community together for more than just product purchase.

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

DH: The technologies that will be front-and-center in brick-and-mortar retail will be those that best respond to consumer needs around returning to the store. A few I would watch include:

  • Autonomous store technology, allowing shoppers the least amount of touch in-store;
  • Contactless payment, with new features including the ability for shoppers to buy now and pay later;
  • Interactive digital signage, offering personalized product suggestions; and 
  • Smart fitting rooms, allowing shoppers to more safely try on items, request different sizes, and complete purchases.

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

DH: Well, the ones that are not preparing to completely shut down should already have re-configured their spaces to allow for social distancing and improved hygiene. All retailers must acknowledge the growing importance of e-commerce and figure out how they can deliver on the promise of seamless experiences across all channels. The further answer to this question, though, depends on the specific retailer. For example, some larger chains are converting locations into dark stores that can serve as distribution centers. Many businesses already have implemented BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store) and home delivery. Both large and small retailers are looking into new, more agile store formats that can allow for less expensive and time-consuming store openings and brand launches.

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

DH: It is impossible to know for sure what brick-and-mortar will look like in six months, never mind six years. We’re just at the start of getting the population vaccinated for COVID-19, so the beginning of 2021 will definitely continue to be very shaky for many retail, hospitality, travel, event and entertainment businesses. On a high level, in order to survive through and beyond the pandemic, retailers need to be prepared to very quickly pivot when any new challenge comes forward. 

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