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 Anna Brettle, Founder of Stellar.
What are the 3-5 top trends that will shape brick and mortar retail in 2021?
Omnichannel – Offline is online, online is offline
Connecting consumers across different platforms is enabling retailers to bring the convenience of online shopping to offline shops and stores, and the immersive environment of offline shopping to the world of e-commerce. While the general trend has seen offline retailers moving into online by establishing e-commerce divisions of their businesses, more lately, we have seen online retailers developing a brick and mortar presence. Going into 2021, we can expect to see brands continue to create offline experiences that leverage the technology and convenience of e-commerce.
Smaller Stores and Pop-ups
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge strain on traditional retail and led to the temporary closure of many brick-and-mortar stores, naturally accelerating the shift towards e-commerce purchases. Consumers are adapting their shopping habits to suit a new normal where choices may be more limited. The pop-up shop concept will grow in prevalence where retailers build intimate branded experiences where consumers can shop and have items shipped to their homes. With the appeal of short-term leases, some stores are ahead of the curve and are even renting out their spaces by the hour which gives brands much more flexibility and can also provide greater interactivity with consumers than traditional physical stores.
Immersive design and product experts
Brands and retailers are now starting to invest in digital design to create beautiful, dynamic, and interactive virtual showrooms that recreate many of the immersive and experiential touchpoints we associate with physical stores. The role of a sales employee is also being transformed to become virtual brand ambassadors.
What technologies will have the biggest impact on brick and mortar retail in 2021?
AB: Video is one of the most powerful tools available to retailers today as it delivers an immersive and lifelike shopping experience from the comfort of someone’s home. Video can bring a product to life on screen in a way that can’t be captured in a collection of high-quality images. We’ve been working with our retail clients on providing personalised retail experiences through the use of video calls from a product expert. These video calls allow a direct video into a store and allow the consumer to receive a similar experience they’d receive in-store, from the comfort of their home. Samsung’s experience store based in London is a great example that shows how physical stores are progressing in a new retail environment offering customers more than just a shopping experience, they’re offering their consumers a brand experience.
What should brick and mortar retailers be doing now to prepare for 2021?
AB: COVID-19 has accelerated retail’s digital transformation, taking us to a place we were already heading. Customers may not browse the physical stores as they did before the pandemic, but it doesn’t mean they won’t come back to stores at all. Retailers need to merge their offline and online retail strategies to ensure that they are cohesive as the consumer will switch their shopping behaviours between bricks-and-mortar stores and e-commerce shopping.
In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, what’s the future of brick and mortar retail look like?
AB: Retail stores will continue to exist in the coming years as people will still crave that human connection that the digital world cannot offer. But the retail landscape is changing, and physical stores need to evolve with their customers’ shopping behaviours. We are starting to see a hybrid retail approach as retailers are offering a 360-retail experience — Offering more than just a standard selling approach but an experience that is selling a brand and building customer loyalty.