Retail existed from the time when there was no currency and all belief in sharing and barter system for consuming resources. People started developing markets in city centers to sell goods and services to customers, make a profit, and named it ‘Retail’.
The concept of the store started from family-owned or independent businesses, which used to serve everything from groceries to fabrics to toys to tools. A dramatic change was observed in the early 20th century when department stores started popping up. These stores not only believe in selling goods but started demonstrating goods too.
And then came the concept of shopping malls where department stores dominate along with clusters of other stores around it. The mall concept was envisioned as a social hub where people can do multiple things with shopping. Thus, from selling goods, retail has entered in selling services and providing entertainment.
A major shift was seen in the retail sector in the last three decades where retail revolves around, ‘providing convenience’, ‘creating experience’, and ‘making engagement’. And, as more and more people got access to the digital world, retail opened with plenty of shopping experiences. From technology to channels retail is all set to welcome all segments of customers.
New retail is on the palm of the customer with easy to access, saving money and time, available 24/7, and easy comparison between same product types. The acceptability towards this shift has increased in the last year during the pandemic across all segments.
According to a recent study by Marketing Week, “Nearly 41 percent of customers said they were currently shopping online for things they would normally buy in-store”.
To deliver as per customer expectation, retailers tried to understand the journey of each customer and created a flawless experience from maintaining merchandise to supply chain and delivery of the product. Thus, many new trends have been seen and welcome by customers in the last few years which are driven by high convenience and creating rich brand experiences.
Seamless shopping experiences through Social Commerce, are making customers purchase directly from social media app without clicking at any third-party website. Sellers have got the opportunity to reach a wide global audience through innovations like Facebook shops, Snapchat’s native stores, the partnership of TikTok and Shopify, and many such. Mobile is an integral part of everyone’s life and has revolutionized the shopping experience.
According to Statista, the “M-Commerce industry is predicted to increase by another 3 percent and result in $3.56 trillion in 2021”.
In the coming years, Mobile Commerce will dominate because of personalized services, voice searches, crypto payments, proximity marketing, chatbots, and supercharged page loading speeds.
Retailers bringing ‘retailtainment’ is not only increasing sales but boosting brand engagement and awareness too. Google Home and Alexa are taking retail to the next level, rise in subscription, along with Voice Commerce, is making the future move towards Automated Commerce and Headless Commerce.
As per the report by Statista, “Sales via smartphone are expected to rise significantly, to reach over $432 billion in sales in 2022”.
In this digital-first world, brands are innovating to create differentiated experiences with 3D, Augmented and Virtual reality, Chatbots, Face Time calls to ensure Omnichannel Experience by being available anywhere to everywhere.
Beyond e-commerce, offline retail too looks different, a blend of online and offline experience has proven good for retail businesses with BOPIS, BORIS, and Curbside.
Salesforce found that “Retailers offering BOPIS at their brick-and-mortar stores grew digital revenue by 27 percent in Q1 2020”.
Touchless tech is opening up the market to new customers providing ease to payment and online checkouts.
Retail history demonstrates how it has moved from exchange to experience, and brands that can adapt and thrive are capitalizing on new technologies. Customer expectations are increasing daily, retailers have to innovate in building a relationship with customers at the online and offline channels.
Retailers should use digital as a permanent touchpoint in the customer journey, ‘one size fits all’ was never the solution. It’s a must to understand the customer and its hybrid journey to survive in this new normal. How retail has reached from mom-and-pop store to ‘online’ store and where to go further will always be an interesting journey to explore.