The future of shopping hasn’t always been a topic of discussion for retail owners. Historically, the high street had been thriving with tens of hungry shoppers and a myriad of competition, meaning the high street was seen as nothing but a commodity and was thought to be a certainty. This was the mindset, until now. According to Statista, online sales now account for over 26.2% of total retail sales in 2020, over double of what they accounted for in 2011. This demonstrates that there is a clear shift towards online eCommerce sales, with COVID-19 becoming a catalyst for online sales efforts of retailers across the UK.
You don’t need to be an eCommerce expert to know that technology is taking over every aspect of our lives, from the way we shop to the way we work, even down to the way we communicate with each other. There is no doubt that technology has become a multi-faceted tool that has changed the way we live our lives, for the better or worse depending on who you ask, but what if the future of retail has now changed forever? We can no longer rely on shop fronts reeling people in or clever displays enticing customers to buy extra items. How do we keep customers engaged without the immersive in-store experience they were previously used to? In this article, we will explore these questions and more, to leverage the power of online marketing for retailers in need of some extra help.
Trends in the Retail Industry
1. COVID-19 Impacts on the High Street
It is without question that the coronavirus pandemic has had a substantial impact on the retail industry in 2020. With the high street being put to a halt when lockdown restrictions were introduced in March, it was up to retailers to innovate new ways to sell and keep themselves afloat during these uncertain times. With the pandemic now lasting longer than we ever would have expected, these innovations are having to become more long-term, with last-minute restrictions being applied to shops endlessly.
This change has of course come at the cost of jobs and retail spaces in the last 8 months, causing catastrophic effects to the economy. But rather than see this change as the end, why not re-brand as a permanent solution, introducing digital jobs and removing the costs of pricey high street rentals. The great thing about retail going online is that you’re accessible to anyone, and you can compete with even the largest retailers with the right digital strategy in place. Going online can ultimately open up a world of opportunity for your business, and there are people there, ready to find new products online, in fact, there were 5,100 UK searches (on average) in a month for the term ‘roller blind’. That’s a huge number of customers to catch, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
“The great thing about going online is that you’re accessible to anyone, and you can compete with even the largest retailers with the right digital strategy in place.”
2. Sustainable Selling
Sustainability is everywhere and brands know it. If you haven’t seen an advert or a website banner pledging to be sustainable by year ‘X’ then you must have been living under a rock for the last 2 years. Consumers are not only demanding sustainable supply chains, but they will actively boycott companies who do not communicate their sustainability strategy in the most transparent way possible. And what better way to pledge to sustainability and the environment through using your very own digital platform.
Through leveraging the power of digital marketing and social media you can join the 176 other major companies around the world who have developed specialist social media pages to communicate their sustainability promises for the future and compete in the digital landscape.
3. The Future of the Retail Workforce
As noted earlier, it is not only retail giants that are being affected by the pandemic but the dedicated retail workers, too. With no guarantee of when stores could be permanently open again, workers have come to lose their once stable income, and they are left with their careers in limbo. Going digital can help with this too. With more opportunities presenting themselves online, you could leverage the knowledge and expertise of your dedicated retail workers and translate that into a digital-first landscape.
Once visual merchandisers could become experts on website banners, user experience and graphics, making the website visually appealing to new and returning visitors. In-store customer service experts could leverage their customer experience skills and become an online customer advisor, helping with all customer queries, just through the web or over the phone. The possibilities are endless, you just have to use your imagination.
The FMCG industry is by no means a thing of the past, and we believe that a number of stores will in fact stay open. But why not take advantage of the opportunities that are available online and convert real customers into sales.
How to Keep Customers Engaged Online
Without the enticing displays, calming scents and the immersive in-store experiences, how are retailers and FMCG companies supposed to re-engage customers in the same way they do in-store? We are all aware that shopping online is a different experience entirely, without the chance to touch and feel the products, how are customers supposed to know if they will look good in their home? Luckily there are loads of ways you can keep your customers engaged without the immersive experience of the high street. Here are our 3 top tips for keeping your retail customers engaged online:
- Create a zoom feature on all of your products. If your business lies in the home furnishing industry, we would absolutely recommend to include a feature on your photos where you are able to zoom. This allows customers to get a real insight into the texture and feel of the product, without the need to touch it themself.
- Install a super-easy returns policy. It may seem counterintuitive to make returns as seamless as possible for customers, however, many customers will compare competitor products based on their returns policy. With no way of touching or seeing the product before its purchases, there must be a way to easily return products. This even allows customers to order multiple products and only keep the one they want, without fear of not being able to return them.
- Add customer reviews to all products. One way to truly see a product is through seeing it through someone else’s eyes. It can be incredibly useful for a purchase decision to hear an opinion of a product through unbiased eyes, giving trust to the purchaser that other people have loved these products. People will often comment on the textures and quality of the materials, as well as delivery times and customer service so you know what to expect with each product.