WD Partners SVP of Operations Strategy & Design Joanne Heyob On The Future of Brick and Mortar Retail
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WD Partners SVP of Operations Strategy & Design Joanne Heyob 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 Joanne Heyob, SVP of Operations Strategy & Design, WD Partners.

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

  • Digitally enabled experiences, resale/re-commerce and social commerce will be trends we will see in 2021.
  • Brick and mortar retail as it was pre-pandemic, will not be the same.  Consumer behavior has shifted and adoption rates of using online shopping have increased.  In order to drive traffic back in a physical space, digital will need to be incorporated. In-store experiences will need to shift to include showroom shopping, live-streaming and smaller footprints.  Using existing stores as a way to fulfill online orders is already underway.  Leveraging existing real estate as mini distribution centers can allow retailers to have a smaller footprint and a more engaging way to shop.  Imagine being able to walk a store and build a cart as you go of items you want, check out on your mobile device and a store associate pulls the items in the back and brings them to you or directly to your car.  Talk about a new way to shop!
  • Consumers have also become more socially conscious of what they have and the footprint they are making on the environment.  Socially conscious consumers want to make a difference and the trend in resale is only going to increase.  Websites that help connect consumers to previously owned fashion and housewares are thriving.  Brick and mortar can bring this experience to life with the thrill of the hunt—everyone loves to find a good deal on a good quality piece and its even better when they know they are making a difference when shopping.
  • Social commerce has been a strong accelerant for online-only brands. Leveraging social platforms to increase brand awareness and to provide instant gratification to online shoppers will continue to increase.  For traditional retailers, they have typically used their own website or social pages to direct consumers to product. They have to be more engaging, more relevant, and be more available to a wider array of shoppers.

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

JH: Contactless and frictionless checkout will continue in a bigger way in 2021. Consumers we have surveyed at WD partners have said they want to buy online and not only pickup in-store, but they would rather just pull up and have someone put their purchase in their trunk. We will see robotics used in a whole different way—from automated delivery vehicles to drones delivery orders right to your doorstep. This will be a huge year for technology enhancements for retailers. 

Automation will also be a big tech trend since more stores are fulfilling online orders.  Retailers will need to look at their portfolio strategy and determine where they need to invest in automation or dark stores and where they need to improve associates ability to pick orders efficiently by improving their overall inventory visibility.

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

JH: They should be making investments in their supply chain, especially with the launch of 5G technology. This is a much more streamlined and accurate way to have visibility of where inventory is located. Understanding how you can improve your logistics and get product where it needs to be is more critical than ever. If you can’t find product or ship it fast enough, consumers have learned to look elsewhere because of the pandemic.  Investing in supply chain technology and predictive analytics will go a long way in helping brick and mortar stores stay stocked with inventory for consumers. Another thing they should be doing right now to prepare, is looking at where they can collaborate with other local independent retailers in neighborhoods they are not in.  Planning for pop up shops with a local vibe will attract a new customer and may bring other customers back who have abandoned shopping malls altogether.  They also need to have a portfolio strategy.  If they don’t, they will not survive.

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

JH: Retail is experiencing an accelerated evolution—mall dynamics need to change from old school thinking of having big anchor stores and food courts, to smaller concepts that incorporate a lifestyle and one stop shopping. Retailers no longer need 800+ stores in every mall in town.  They have get closer to the consumer and understand where they need an experiential store, where they can transition locations to a fulfillment center and where they need to test out showrooms.  Retailers that invest in technology and automation can save on labor costs and leverage the associates to truly engage with customers to drive sales.

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