As we tentatively step out of lockdown – Indian variant permitting – retail is seeing something of a rebirth. Dunelm has come out of what looked at the outset of the lockdown to be a catastrophe-in-waiting smelling of roses. The Zoom boom has treated it well – driving up sales of homewares by levels never before seen in a sector famed for slow and steady growth.
Boohoo, meanwhile, used the pandemic shake down of retail to snap up a range of brands to augment its portfolio and now, as lockdown starts to lift, has launched new websites for those brands. Across Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Wallis, the sites aim to leverage boohoo’s panache with online fashion retail into a whole new demographic. It is also worth noting that they built and launched these sites in nine weeks.
On the marketplace front, Pinterest is also using the changing climate to experiment more broadly with live streaming. It is running three days of instructional and life-style video tutorials, frm within its app, as it explores how best to use video to engage with shoppers, many of whom may well be looking for a new experience somewhere between real shops and the internet.
Pinterest’s customers are not alone here. According to a study out this week, 80% of shoppers believe that retailers have missed out vital parts of the in-store shopping experience from their online offerings. Rushing to get online a year ago this was easily excused. Today, as we look at a much more hybrid retail model, it is less so. Video, as Pinterest knows will be a key part of this.
The other factor of online shopping that has fallen short in recent times has been customer service around online. In fact, online customer services is now one of the most complained about parts of retail, with lack of help, rudeness and poor delivery all being seen as deal breakers – consumers voting with their thumbs and not recommending companies that let them down.
With all this going on it comes as no surprise that retailers are also failing to meet the needs of disabled customers online. Research shows that all of the world’s top 50 retailers don’t meet all the accessibility criteria to allow those with disabilities – which is around 15% of the world’s population – to access online services inclusively.
There is much work to be done as the world wakes up to the new omni-channel shopping model, but while challenging, it is exciting to imagine just how retail may yet look this time next year.