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By: Khushnud Khan
Retail remains one of the largest spread industries across the world. Not being oblivious to the massive changes that technology has brought in other segments, retailindustrytoo has shown rapid adoption of technology. In the last few years, the advancement of retail-tech, fintech has brought in massive changes in the way small to big players run their business. But this is just the beginning of what the future of retail entails. Allow me to take you through a few trends that I believe will shape physical retail in the next year.
Bringing Experience to Customers
While e-commerce may have brought a revolution with online shopping, when it comes to high involvement, big-ticket items, consumers across the world still prefer assisted in-store experience apart from touch and feel before making purchases. Brands and retailers are rightly making use of this opportunity by offering customers an engaging and educative experience in-stores for an assured and informed buying decision. This is driving small to big brands focussing on physical retail as their flagship channel, including investments in experience centres. The trend is evident with global brands like IKEA or homegrown brands like Pepperfry setting up experiences centers for customers not only to enable touch and feel but to also provide a more inclusive purchase experience.
Beating E-commerce in their own game
Right since its inception, online shopping platforms have adopted two fundamental metrics of price and selection to snatch shoppers from offline retail. And over the years they have been successful in price leadership through deep discounting, something that fragmented retail found hard to compete. It is also challenging for individual stores to maintain a large selection of products which online players are easily able to maintain though product catalogue.
With the adoption of new technologies, physical retailers can equip themselves and create superior pricing propositions and more extensive selection in-store. They are also able to improve upon conversion rates by offering better prices over online platforms with the aggregation of a vast network using technology. Retailers are also able to provide more massive selection over all online platforms put together with technology solutions like Virtual Inventory.
Search Engines and Social Media will lead to sales and not just influence
According to the US-based BigCommerce’s 2018 Report, 11.8% of Gen-Z shops on Facebook, while nearly 25% of Baby Boomers shop on the social platform. Millennials, meanwhile, prefer to buy products they discover on Instagram and Snapchat. The trend indicates that shopping through social channels and mobile apps will only see an increase with more extensive Internet penetration in our country.
Brands have a great opportunity here to understand the demography of their user and have a significant scope to tap this opportunity well.
For long physical retailers have had the issue of discoverability on Search Engines as e-commerce players crowd the most of search result when a prospective shopper looks up for a product. Retailers are now adopting technology to be equally discoverable on the Internet, and they are a lot of tech start-ups around the world coming up with solutions. Social media channels, like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, are also proving to be essential marketing channels for offline retailers, like they have been for online platforms.
Omni-channel will become a norm
In today’s age, when the competitors from every side are rigorously eyeing your next potential consumer, creating an active brand recall is imperative. Retailers need to ensure they are available to their target audience for shopping not just through big outlets but also through digital channels with an integrated consumer outreach. This is going to be one of the most crucial consumer acquisition and engagement strategies for all retailers and brands, small or big.
AR & VR will help retailers flourish
Niche technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are yet to be fully exploited by the retail sector at large. Those who are experimenting haven’t been disappointed. Many home furnishing and fashion brands have tasted success-using AR/VR. But not many have sustained its use in business apart from one or two stunts on and off. The next step would be to explore the right level of engagement with consumers by proving an immersive shopping experience.
The author is the co-founder and CEO of Arzooo.com, a B2B retail tech startup.