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PREDICTIONS 2021 How will the shopping experience change in 2021?

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We’re running a series of predictions about how the ecommerce and multichannel retail industry will develop in 2021 and beyond. Today we explore how retailers may experiment with the way they sell. 

2021 will look to repurpose store space as sales move online

“In 2021, retailers will be looking at how to repurpose excess store space as in-store sales reduce. Some of this will be a move to ‘dark’ stores or creating additional backroom space as retailers look for new ways to cater for rising online demand. We’ve already started to see major retailers turn shop floor space into local distribution or fulfilment centres where orders can be packed up for delivery or for curbside collection.

“This is the start of a major trend, which could play a key role in helping those retailers that have been hit hard by pandemic, such as department stores, to stay afloat. It’s likely we’ll also see retailers collaborating with each other more by sharing the floor space that has suddenly opened up – this will be key to saving costs at a time when many are struggling.” Retailers should also be looking at their click and collect operations to provide a separate easy process for store pick up or even curbside collection.”

Wayne Snyder, VP Retail Industry Strategy, Blue Yonder

Upping the experiential ante

This year, Click and Collect finally got its shining moment. The hybrid online-offline option wasn’t nearly as embraced by retailers or consumers prior to this year. But now there’s a pressing need for it.

In 2021, we’ll see Click and Collect pushed to new heights as retailers look to hold these shoppers’ attention in exciting ways. In-store and curbside order retrieval are working particularly well in the US right now.

As a result, we expect to see retailers everywhere develop more experiential moments for these hybrid consumers and for purely e-commerce customers to ensure the path to purchase isn’t solely transactional. Virtual platforms will drive engagement by incorporating more interactive content: think gamification and livestreams. On the physical side, parking lots can take a page out of drive-in cinemas’ recent successes by reinventing window shopping, and safe, in-store, limited access events could create upselling opportunities.

Melissa Minkow, Retail Industry Lead at CI&T

Mall operators will also invest more in technology to help merchants and lure customers back to the mall. 

Operators will revitalize their mobile apps and merge AI and location technology to make the shopping experience both in-store and online faster, seamless and contactless. Through the apps, customers will be able to shop the mall in a more personalized way including only seeing merchandise that’s in stock. Malls will also make it much easier for stores to provide first-class carside service and BOPIS for picking up purchases the moment a customer pulls into a designated parking spot or enters a store.

“Accelerated demand for safe and contactless shopping this year during Covid, has forced retail brands to cobble together ad hoc solutions to accommodate customers seeking contactless payment options, home delivery, curbside and in-store pickup. All of which have become must-haves as consumers reset their priorities around their health and safety concerns and form new habits. 

“In the year ahead, the retail industry will emerge from a boot-strapped approach to one that will enable efficient execution and well-crafted customer experiences as they look to win market share.” 

Emil Davityan, co-founder and CEO, Bluedot

The rise of ‘Digital first’ stores

As more people get vaccinated physical stores will slowly start to reopen, and for longer periods of time. Additionally, people will want to get out and explore what’s out there more, when it comes to shops. However, consumer needs will be different – customers will expect retailers to have a higher degree of knowledge when it comes to their preferences. Digitally transforming stores will therefore be crucial, more will likely provide an Apple Genius Bar type of experience.

Raj de Datta,  CEO and co-founder, Bloomreach

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