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As Peak Selling Season Approaches, What’s Ahead For The Retail Industry?

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 28, 2021

The pace of change in the retail industry, already gathering speed over that last 10 years, gained momentum during the pandemic. From shifts in technology and changing customer habits, independent retailers must keep one eye firmly on emerging trends as the holiday season approaches.

New research from payment provider Square

SQ
released today spoke with 500 retail owners and managers and 1,000 consumers in the UK to find out how business has changed since the pandemic, and hear their predictions for what lies ahead.

Omnichannel for all

The big retail players like Amazon used to dominate the omnichannel space but from 2020 onwards, consumers have prioritised connection as well as convenience. Square identified that by engaging with their community, local retailers are redefining what a successful omnichannel experience can look like for independent businesses. 

David Rusenko, Head of eCommerce at Square explains. “Local shops offer many advantages over the warehouse approach of retail giants, like Amazon and Argos. Being physically close to their customers creates opportunities to shine, by understanding their wants and needs, and offering faster access to high-quality selection of products” he says. 

Leaping online

When stores across the UK were forced to shut their doors in 2020, many sellers went online, utilising local delivery and click and collect services to survive. Going digital enabled local retailers to work around restrictions, expand their reach and make new connections, regardless of location. “It’s about figuring out what works for your business and what makes it easier for you to sell in new channels moving forward” adds Megan Karande, Product Marketing Manager, Square for Retail. Square’s report highlights that 97% of consumers now make monthly retail purchases online.

 

Be where your customers are

“There is an inherent joy in shopping in person. We’re seeing that online experiences are less of a replacement for in-person interactions, but more of a complement to them,” says Karande. “Shops aren’t just a place to buy things; they really are a part of the communities they serve.” 

The report emphasises that as retailers expand to online channels, they have the opportunity to connect the online and offline experiences, resulting in increased sales, repeat customers, and the ability to provide customers with the experience they want, where they want it. 

Delivering joy

One of elements that the consumers surveyed missed the most about in-store shopping was having what they purchased immediately.  

The report shared that nearly 50% of retailers now offer next-day delivery. That number is only going to increase, according to David Rusenko, as more small merchants offer faster options to compete  against larger retailers. Not only does it please customers, it can also  persuade them to buy more when they can guarantee the products will arrive in time to meet their needs.  

Onto the next selling trend

Shoppers are growing increasingly more comfortable buying items directly from social media sites. The report states that “73% of consumers have bought products directly from social media in the past month and retailers are reacting to the trend”. 

More excitingly, the research suggests “ways we shop could change even more radically in the next twelve months,  as retailers look for new ways to maintain a connection with their customers.  Two thirds of consumers are open to new ways of shopping”. 

The report also highlights “Livestream selling  – when a host demonstrates a product in a live online video, either via social  media or direct video call” as something that interested 26% of consumers. Virtual Reality (VR), a technology on the periphery of retail for several years now, interested 35% of those surveyed. The idea with VR would revolve around an “immersive online environment” and the research suggested as many as a third of retailers surveyed saying “they’re likely to  implement VR shopping in 2021, enabling consumers to experience their retail  space from anywhere”. 

 A bright outlook

Regardless of what the pandemic threw at them, local retailers across the UK have shown they possess the drive and dedication it takes to survive. By selling across multiple channels, embracing flexibility in back-end operations, and employing real-time inventory tracking,  independent retailers are showing enormous flexibility and resilience, placing themselves exactly where customers need them to be, when they need them.

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