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 Carol Spieckerman, President of Spieckerman Retail.
What are the 3-5 top trends that will shape brick and mortar retail in 2021?
CS: Multi-format forays – Just about every retailer is a multi-format operator these days, even ones that before were defined by a singular format. Former “big box” retailers like Walmart are operating small, medium, and large formats as well as pick-up and drive-through locations. Target is operating urban and college stores. Dollar General has been testing urban formats and concepts targeted to higher-income shoppers.
Flagships will fly – In contrast to the small format movement that has gained traction over the years, flagship stores will also proliferate as more brands seek to own their destiny and as digital natives seek to make a strong brick and mortar statement without investing in large-scale footprints. Nike is a great example of the former and brands like Glossier and The RealReal exemplify the latter.
From unplanned to intentional – Even as vaccines are distributed and shoppers feel safer returning to stores, old habits will die hard. The rush to online shopping during COVID-19 has acclimated massive numbers of consumers to conducting research and comparing prices. Shoppers will be well-informed and deliberate when they shop in stores, making it critical for retailers to up their games across store layout, visual merchandising, and convenient check-out. Investing in practical tools like mobile navigational assistance should take precedence over constant promotions.
What technologies will have the biggest impact on brick and mortar retail in 2021?
CS: Contactless payment solutions will continue to ramp up as shoppers return to stores with the expectation of having safe self-serve options. “Buy-now-pay-later” options, like Afterpay, Klarna and ZipPay, will replace traditional layaway and become more common across multiple categories.
Augmented and virtual reality will accelerate online as retailers seek to give shoppers reasons to continue buying touch-and-feel categories like furniture online. In brick and mortar, these technologies will accelerate self-service media, giving shoppers the ability to run simulations and product placement scenarios while in stores.
Shoppable media will proliferate and the stage is being set now with Hulu’s QR code capabilities and Walmart’s just-announced Shop-Along holiday beta with TikTok.
What should brick and mortar retailers be doing now to prepare for 2021?
CS: With vaccines on the way, retailers should be able to look forward to an unleashing of pent-up demand, not only for products and services, but for the positive aspects of brick-and-mortar shopping. Retailers should be laser focused on ensuring that they will be creating memorable experiences in stores in the back half of 2021. To simply strive for a return to “normal” will be forfeiting an opportunity. Disruptive times give retailers permission to do disruptive things and the time to start testing and refining is right now. Retailers will want to put in extra effort to ensure that shoppers’ shift toward basics and essentials expands into discretionary categories. Retailers would also be wise to pore over data in preparation for any disruptions 2021 may bring. Treating 2020 as an anomaly would be a mistake.
In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, what’s the future of brick and mortar retail look like?
CS: Brick and mortar will be the new frontier, serving new purposes through innovative formats and technologies. Automation will encroach and higher levels of technological savvy will be required of store associates. Stores will be further integrated with online and product assortments will continue to be optimized as retailers gauge which categories and products are better suited to e-commerce. Although safety has taken precedence throughout 2020, convenience will once again take center stage in 2021 and beyond. Smart retailers will continue to build their convenience arsenals rather than attempting to curtail choice and steer shoppers into narrow options.