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 Amanda Astrologo, Partner at The Parker Avery Group.
What are the 3-5 top trends that will shape brick and mortar retail in 2021?
- Continued emphasis on health and safety, for consumers and store teams. This is a given, but try to think beyond masks, wipes, and plexiglass and include messaging, branding, and customer experience.
- Importance of omnichannel options for consumers and flawless execution of omnichannel processes throughout the buying and fulfillment journey.
- Critical need for efficiency in inventory management – tighter assortment, improved productivity, enhanced demand management.
- Making the best use of brick-and-mortar inventory—continuing the trend of leveraging stores as ‘warehouses,’ determining best use of labor, and enhancing store associate training to make all customer experiences seamless and unobstructed, with the overall objectives of increasing shopper satisfaction, ensuring consistency with the brand, and strengthening loyalty.
What technologies will have the biggest impact on brick-and-mortar retail in 2021?
- Those with an omnichannel focus – curbside, contactless, mobile.
- Advanced analytics:
- Demand analytics to support improved inventory management
- Assortment planning and related analytics
- Integrated POS, e-commerce, and customer analytics
- Delivery platforms, either in house or partnerships. Uber picked up Postmates, Target offering same day delivery in some markets, are just a few examples.
- Systems that support inventory management, particularly visibility and accuracy – inventory must be as accurate as possible in each location in order to fulfill demand.
What should brick-and-mortar retailers be doing now to prepare for 2021?
- Deploy capabilities to support omnichannel experiences with the brand.
- Review assortment strategy and options.
- Rethink channel strategy – where to deploy inventory and how to best serve consumer demand.
- Evaluate and rethink store operations structure to best support omni and seamless customer experience.
- Understand any additional training or development needs for merchandising. Teams cannot continue to buy and deploy inventory in the same way.
- Review supply chain and inventory execution capabilities to be able to pivot quicky as needed.
In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, what does the future of brick-and-mortar retail look like?
- Retailers are definitely in reactive mode at the moment, so those retailers that dedicate time and resources and invest to be innovative and proactive will win. Fix the foundation to support the omnichannel journey and ensure the teams are ready to react.
- Brick-and-mortar is not going away, and retailers must realize some areas were quite over-stored even pre-COVID, particularly in specialty apparel. Some of the changes and evolution were already on many retailers’ radar or roadmaps but these initiatives were accelerated with the pandemic and related disruptions.
- Brick-and-mortars will have to evolve even further and faster. Micro fulfillment and seamless customer experience will continue to be a focus. Leaders will need to determine how to be more flexible and change processes quickly without chaos. Not only are product needs changing quickly, but so is store staff and customer expectations.
- All the pieces need to work together, so taking the time to understand the life of an item thru customer journey (and back—return handling is also important) will be key.
- Also, while retailers may not dramatically shift assortments, to ensure long term viability, many must determine how they can make themselves more “essential” to their consumers.
- In addition to tools and trends above, overall retailers should evaluate how they engage with their consumers – email, loyalty, promotions, and store experience. Beyond removing friction, they must determine how communications and messaging can be improved and focused to ensure it resonates with the right shoppers.
- Finally, and to round out the conversation, store staff needs to be trained to excel and meet brand standards—especially if their store is designated a fulfillment center as well as a physical shopping location. Staffing approaches may need to change so as not to interfere with in-store customer traffic and experiences.