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 Ray Ko, senior e-commerce manager at ShopPOPDisplays.
What are the 3-5 top trends that will shape brick and mortar retail in 2021?
RK: As a result of COVID-19, 64% of consumers still prefer to shop from local businesses making a positive contribution to communities, and this trend will continue. People will also plan their store visits further in advance using technology like search engines to help them discover and research products they wish to buy. This will make online search an even more important channel in 2021. Consumers will buy less and buy better, patronizing businesses that focus on ethical and sustainable credentials. Brick and mortar retailers will also have to get creative in differentiating themselves—harnessing technologies that deliver compelling physical experiences in-store and enable the sharing of compelling content with online audiences.
What technologies will have the biggest impact on brick and mortar retail in 2021?
RK: Technologies that significantly improve the physical shopping experience will make the greatest impact in 2021. Great examples are technology platforms to accept any and all returns at brick and mortar stores—which boost traffic—as well as quick, contact-less, self-driving, or autonomous delivery. Also, the use of QR-codes to align the mobile commerce experience with the brick and mortar environment will grow—promoting instant, contact-less shopping interactions. Huge advances in the payments space will also enable more flexibility at check-out, like crypto-payments and “buy now, pay later” options. Some retailers will even eliminate the cashier altogether so that shoppers can pay and leave by simply swiping their mobile phone.
What should brick and mortar retailers be doing now to prepare for 2021?
RK: 2020 was a watershed year for e-commerce. Online shopping surged and physical retailers were forced to make shopping easier and more convenient. In 2021, customers will eventually want to get back to physical stores, and so brick and mortar retailers must focus on transforming their in-store experience. Smaller retailers can prepare by developing a strong presence on the apps, websites, and social media channels their customers use to discover products and interact with brands in-store. Large retailers can mix shopping with world-class hospitality and culture, turning their outlets into truly unique, global destinations.
In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, what’s the future of brick and mortar retail look like?
RK: The global pandemic was brutal on everyone and on retailers a bit more. Those that did not close down learned how to pivot fast to deal with uncertainty. Future brick and mortar retail leaders will leverage the surge in e-commerce to create omnichannel experiences, by combining online and in-store shopping that provide customers with more seamless shopping. For instance, giving customers online access to a real-time, inventory of products at specific outlets will be common, so shoppers can plan their visits. Retailers will also enable customers to purchase products through their preferred channel and choose to have them delivered directly to their home, or to outlets for pick-up.