Updated: Nov 2, 2021
As we have all experienced, the recent health crisis has forced consumers and retailers to change their habits and modes of operation - and many of those changes are likely here to stay.
PwC recently released a report providing customer insights into the predicted landscape of the retail market. As we move forward into a post-pandemic world, retailers can benefit from these insights highlighted by the report:
Reinvent Business Models
Emerging from the upheaval of the past year, retailers can take this opportunity to reinvent their business models. They are using this period to discover new opportunities for their business, enabling them to respond to the changing behaviors of consumers and move into the future with purpose. Many retailers could find success in optimizing their organizations, digging into their core business, expanding their brand and diversifying their offerings.
According to PwC: “More than half of Canadian respondents say they’re shopping less or not at all in-store for fashion (55%) and consumer electronics (54%).” This continued shift to online shopping will need to be addressed by all retailers that hope to be successful moving forward.
“More than half of Canadian respondents say they’re shopping less or not at all in-store for fashion (55%) and consumer electronics (54%).”
The future will require retailers to navigate the tightrope between online and retail presence, with each brand having to handle this negotiation differently. A major influence in how retailers approach this should be related to their core brand, and how they differentiate themselves from competitors. All retailers would be well-served by reflecting on what makes their brand unique and leaning into that when forming strategies for the future.
When reinventing the retail business model, they will need to find ways to:
Seamlessly blend the consumer’s in-store and online experience.
Create modes that allow the business to quickly respond to changing consumer desires and trends, and create resiliency.
Pursue avenues that diversify the brand’s portfolio.
Evolve Alongside Customer Expectations
As the pandemic has only accelerated the shift to online shopping, retailers would be well-served to start prioritizing their digital strategies for the future. The uncertainty of the past year has markedly changed the expectation of consumers, as they are now demanding faster response times, lower prices and an increased level of service.
“Canadian respondents highlighted the importance of in-stock availability (62%), fast/reliable delivery (61%) and a good return policy (54%), making those the top three consumer concerns.”
The PwC report also found that “Canadian respondents highlighted the importance of in-stock availability (62%), fast/reliable delivery (61%) and a good return policy (54%), making those the top three consumer concerns.” Retailers need to prioritize these areas of their business moving forward into the future to better align with these new expectations. Retailers could also explore rethinking their supply chain operations, perhaps expanding fulfillment and ensuring the flow of information across the organization is flawless.
The survey also found that “retailer memberships and next-generation loyalty programs that promote offers of free shipping or guaranteed shipping times are increasingly becoming what consumers expect as a matter of course.” Brand loyalty programs, like those offered by BOOM Group, will help retailers expand their reach to potential new customers and drive continued patronage.
Appeal to the Environmentally-Conscious Consumer
Canadians are increasingly letting their environmental concerns and values influence their shopping decisions. The PwC survey found that “nearly half of Canadian survey respondents agree they’re buying from companies that are conscious and supportive of protecting the environment (49%), and respondents are intentionally buying items with eco-friendly/less packaging (46%).”
“Nearly half of Canadian survey respondents agree they’re buying from companies that are conscious and supportive of protecting the environment (49%), and respondents are intentionally buying items with eco-friendly/less packaging (46%).”
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues and goals should play a role in informing business decisions moving forward, as governments, shareholders and consumers are likely to consider them a necessity in the future.
There are many ways that retailers can appeal to these consumers, be that eco-conscious packaging, supply chain transparency, or selling products that are free of forced-labor and cruelty-free. Brands should consider aligning their business practices and retail offerings with these environmental and social values, as consumers will continue to spend according to their own values. In fact, “32% of respondents would be willing to pay more for brands well known for their ethical practices, and 50% of respondents would pay more for locally produced/sourced groceries.”
As these trends are likely to continue, those retailers that move quickly into these spaces will not only likely be rewarded for being early adopters, but will also be more prepared to address further trends of the future.
Moving Into the Future
The health crisis of the past year and a half has undoubtedly changed the ways retailers must do business moving forward. It has highlighted consumer’s awareness of social and environmental issues, and hastened the expansion of online retail shopping. As retailers come out of this moment of upheaval, those best positioned for the future will take this opportunity to reassess their strategies, evolve with the expectations of their audience and bring environmental and social concerns into their business practice moving forward.
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