At best, you can only make educated guesses about what’s in store for the future of retail. Between the ongoing labor shortages, inflation, ongoing pandemic, and the volatility of the stock market, it is hard to predict what’s in store for 2024 retail. One thing is for sure, a retail reset is long overdue and can create a more stable and profitable retailer landscape. Customer service teams are primed to swoop in.
In 2024, there is room to grow with some unexpected opportunities to restructure outmoded supply chains, rightsize inventory management, review pricing, recalibrate promotional cadences, and reinvent the physical store. Sourcing and supply chains remain ripe for digital transformation and can streamline business processes, helping companies stay competitive.
The right set of omnichannel tools is critical for meeting new customer demands and enhancing the retail experience through personalization. Selling online now requires an omnichannel retail solution that can tie each touchpoint together. The most successful online retailers will sync inventory, orders, loyalty programs, and sales through social media.
Connect with customers anywhere and everywhere
Successful retailers will connect with customers everywhere they want to shop. To do this, you will need to use technology that can automate operations, opening up more time to invest in marketing, design, staffing, and new business ideas. For today’s retailers, connecting with customers at each touchpoint leads to higher sales and the flexibility to adjust and grow.
Personalization matters. Customers will increasingly expect relevant shopping experiences across physical and digital channels, which will build customer loyalty. Show them you know them, and they’ll stick with you; mess up, and they’re out.
Shoppers previously willing to overlook a less than stellar experience are moving from benevolent to malevolent. They want the experience to be seamless; they expect retailers to know them and engage more personally and contextualized. Experience for shoppers that promise less friction and a more integrated experience will prevail.
Connected data helps retailers quickly change course as market demands shift, while still providing personalized customer experiences.
The line between digital and brick-and-mortar is blurred
The value of physical stores for both customers and retailers is greater than the sales captured within them. In-person is where retailers set the tone for their online brand experience, the two need to match because while in-person stores are making a comeback, online shopping isn’t going away just because COVid restrictions have loosened.
E-commerce sales are forecasted to rise to nearly 22 percent by 2025. In 2021, Amazon and eBay were the most visited e-commerce sites in the North American country. Yet, despite the e-commerce boom, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have also been catching up on the sales potential of online sales, with Costco, Walmart, and Target ranking among the fastest-growing companies based in online retail sales.
Retailers with physical stores will quickly outpace competitors if the power of the online world is leveraged by synchronizing the material and the digital worlds to provide shoppers with a seamless, multi-channel experience that purely online simply cannot match.
Invest in a workforce for the future
To combat physical labor shortages, focus on technology and automation to rely less on physical labor. Additionally, digital talent shortages are expected for retailers as they compete with big tech. Digitally enabled retail will continue to rely on skilled workers for IT and analytics positions. Hiring for technology-driven roles will likely require retail to move at a much faster pace in adopting the latest and greatest technology to compete with far more tech-savvy industries.
Business owners are investing in this work through their tech stack. Automated tools allow staff members to spend less time on hands-on tasks like order tracking and managing customer loyalty programs and more time focusing on issues requiring human intervention.
Transparency matters. Shoppers care deeply about how a business does business. If values don’t mesh with theirs, it could be a relationship buster. Many customers want to see that you’re committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and initiatives toward sustainability.
Customers spend with brands that have an ethos on a par with their own. Retail has always been about understanding the customer, but that meaning has evolved. Today’s customer is digitally savvy, channel-agnostic, and open to exploring new products curated via social channels.
Transparency also means more touchpoints with customers when there are supply chain issues that are creating delays. Organizations need more credible information and technology upgrades to develop agile systems that can handle the new customer scenarios.
Prioritize data privacy and security
Protecting customers’ privacy needs to be a top priority for every company. The digital era comes with a unique set of challenges that can often be overlooked but most costly. It is easy to hack systems and steal someone’s information.
Perhaps there is a false sense of confidence from those who have not experienced data breaches or ransomware attacks, given that threat activity has increased exponentially during the pandemic. A 2021 study found that ransomware hit the retail industry the hardest, with 44% of retailers attacked globally. You can expect that number to rise as retail increases its digital presence. From cashier-less stores to drone deliveries, the attack surface expands. Retailers are likely not investing enough now to reduce the risk in a more-digitized retail world five years from now.