What we think
This is where you can peer into our minds and learn a bit more about us as recruiters, consultants and humans. Expect plenty of insight into Consumer, Retail, Recruitment, and life in our Leeds and London spaces. Some tips from the top and the odd guest appearance. Enjoy and please feel free to leave us a comment!
The new shopping: What’s next in-store?4th March 2021
by Gabby Rosenberg
Dare we look at a post-Covid retail landscape when we are all still stuck at home?! It’s a challenge to make predictions at the moment with our city centres empty and so many shops boarded up. The death of the high street has been lauded for a long time but I’d rather look at this change as evolution than a death sentence. We know from the rush back to retail after the 2020 lockdown that we will be back in our city centres as soon as we can, but how will our shops need to evolve to match the needs of consumers and pace of change we’ve all seen in the last year? Here’s a look at five trends I expect to see.
Hands, face, space
Humans are definitely going to have to keep their distance from each other for a while longer and that means innovation in the use of the shop floor. The most obvious challenge for the immediate future is changing rooms; the logistics of quarantining garments that have been tried and rejected means it’ll be a while before we see a return to the changing room. This gives technology a huge role to play, especially companies such as Style.me and Zeekit, who create plug-ins for ecommerce sites that allow visitors to virtually try on clothes. In large format stores we can expect to see wider aisles, one-way systems and more space devoted to our favourite pastime – the queue! There are two ways of looking at the conundrum of the queue; either it’s an up-sell opportunity, or it generates a need for shoppers to pay faster and in new ways. Perhaps we’ll see supermarket-style self-checkout options become de rigueur in large formats. So does the lack of changing rooms and the fact shoppers won’t be able to touch everything mean there’s potential for shopping to feel a bit boring?! It is ultimately a very sensory experience that we expect. I’m sure we can expect an array of digital-first solutions to keep us entertained…
Pre-pandemic, it didn’t feel as if many retailers were making the most of AI (certainly not outside London). We didn’t see virtual changing rooms rolled out across whole chains as predicted, nor did in-store entertainment reach its potential. We’ve all been missing live events over the last year and I hope our return to the shops will be met with that same sense of excitement, such as live shows, live streams, increased digital screens and use of digital point of sale – the retail experience may now be digital-first but that shouldn’t stop when we enter the physical store. Further to this is the launch of Live Shop from retailers such as The White Company – I had a brilliant experience in their Leeds store last year using the live video function where the Kingston store actually found the item I wanted and posted it.
Round and round
Online purchases are driven by free delivery and an easy checkout*, but disconnect occurs when we want to return the item; it was and still is an absolute faff! I hope to see easier methods of return once stores are open again, larger spaces for customer service and perhaps airport-style ‘bag drop’ where we can return parcels. Customer trips will be longer and more strategic as we head into city centres less frequently so hopefully this e-commerce behavioural cycle can be fully joined up for the first time. In 2020 we saw the launch of Klarna in-store, giving customers more choice around delaying payment, which ties in well with buying clothes without trying them on first.
Clean & green
Sustainability is not just a trend, but a priority for consumers and we can expect the big retailers to be doubling down on their efforts to win over conscious shoppers. Cleaning up supply chains is not just in their interests morally; it’s a business strategy too. As Retail Week reported here “There is an opportunity for retailers to build long-term loyalty by empowering and rewarding customers’ ethical behaviour. This can be done through eco-incentives, reuse and recycle schemes, and broader ecosystem rewards.” Many retailers had started this pre-pandemic (it was a huge focus for H&M for example), but we can expect to see lots of recycling, re-using and eco-friendly schemes as part of the shopping experience when we return to stores.
Me, me, me
Despite changes to GDPR and some consumer concern around data sharing, we are still pretty happy to hand over our mobile data to retailers every time we make a purchase. What retailers do with that data now needs to form a more personalised shopping experience that works seamlessly alongside our digital interactions with retail brands. When we start to venture back into cities, we can expect to see the effect of widely available 5G services meaning enhanced facial recognition, real-time promotions and post-purchase rewards are all possible. “The future is knowing who the customer is on a personalised level, not a segment level.” say Deloitte in this article on Vogue Business.com. This will all give a greater feeling of control to shoppers (although ironically it’d actually a loss of control taking place!), driving brand engagement and increasing sales.
I can’t wait to get back into the city centre of Leeds and see what changes these crazy times have stimulated. There will be more changes to in-store than headcount limits and hand sanitiser stations for sure!