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EDITORIAL From sustainability to social to personalisation: growing retail in 2020

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We won’t dwell on 2019: that is literally last year’s news. It was bad. We move on. The question facing the retail industry is how?

Retail in the UK had a hard time last year, but there was a small fillip at the end of the year, when online retail did see a spurt of growth as Christmas drew near, according to IMRG’s latest numbers. It wasn’t enough to stop it being the ‘worst year ever’, but it does offer some hope – and some insight into where we go next.

Christmas presents itself as one of those universal truths: people will buy stuff. They have to. Your mum can’t not have a gift. This rings true across all of retail – people are still buying. What they are buying, where they are buying and how they are buying are changing.

As IMRG finds, online is where it is at. But there is more to it than that. Making online work better for shoppers is going to be key, as well as tapping into the burgeoning drive towards sustainability by an ever-growing number of consumers. It also involves linking all of this to social and using the experience and worthiness of new shopping habits to drive more people to do it.

As Prince Charles told the Davos economic summit yesterday, the whole global economy needs to look at sustainability and how to systemically change the whole structure of neo-liberal capitalism to be sustainable. Retail has a small part to play in that – but it is a vital role. There may be many climate change deniers out there (not least in some very power positions), but regardless, a growing number of shoppers are looking to be more sustainable in what they do.

And this is what retailers need to tap into. A study by Ginger Comms for by Voucher Shares, asked more than 1500 British consumers about their current shopping habits and found that 25% of them were planning to shop ethically in 2020. The drive is there.

Making shopping personal and making sure that buying clothing online doesn’t require multiple purchases to get the right size is also going to help close this circle. Just as N Brown group is planning to do with True Fit, retailers need to look to technology to not only meet the green demands of shoppers, but to make the whole online shopping experience better.

Personalised targeting is also going to help sell more, sell more efficiently and create the experiences that shoppers demand. Something not wasted on Mumsnet, which sees personalisation of both content and offers as a key way to drive traffic, sales and experience.

Social media too is going to play its part: it will be the window through which the wider world sees how these initiatives are making consumers happy and how they will spread the world. As luxury toiletries maker Molton Brown realises, social commerce has a massive part to play in growth and development.

So, let’s put 2019 behind us a look to what 2020 has in store – if we tap into the right kinds of services and experiences that increasingly green shoppers expect.

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