The Future of Digital & Physical Retail: Top Five Trends for 2022
In late January, our team had the pleasure of attending NRF’s annual Big Show conference in New York, where Principal Melissa Gonzalez led a captivating panel discussion about the future of the industry. With so much changing in retail over the past two years it was a welcome opportunity to connect with brands and experts in person and hear about their innovative approaches toward keeping up with consumer expectations and demands.
Here are our top five takeaways from what’s important for retailers, brands, and designers to keep at the forefront as they bring future generations of digital and physical consumer experiences to life:
1. Agility in evolving the cross-platform experience is critical.
As consumers continue to evolve how they shop, blurring the point-of-sale lines across digital and physical spaces, brands need the ability to continually and fluidly advance their offering. Any instance of friction during the payment process can kill the purchase. Unearthing and implementing streamlined methods of putting payment in the hands of consumers and/or in-store associates is essential.
When it comes to in-store layouts, art meets science. We have more access to data and insights today than ever before, highlighting customer patterns, capturing interactions with store associates, and illuminating friction points. This data is vital to informing agile design strategies, which need to morph alongside the customer. Industry partnerships, like the one announced between The Lionesque Group and Pathr.AI, will be key to defining and strengthening the future of consumer/brand relationships.
2. EFFICIENCY IS THE MOST DESIRABLE CURRENCY THAT TECHNOLOGY OFFERS.
To truly be successful, store associates require information to be at their fingertips, both for back-of-house and consumer-facing interactions. Instant visibility as to what’s on the floor, what’s in the back, and what’s available at another store’s location isn’t just an expectation of today’s customer, it’s necessary to embolden the prospects of a sale and fortify brand loyalty.
Consistent with The Lionesque Group’s recent industry survey findings, every moment a store associate has real-time visibility into the full scope of their inventory adds up to millions of dollars saved by the retailer. Using technology to empower associates with this knowledge bolsters store efficiency, optimizes productivity, and streamlines delivery performance.
3. Omnichannel means being omnipresent for the consumer.
Whether they’re standing in a store, browsing online, interacting with social media, or playing in the metaverse, consumers want and expect a congruent, simplified “click-to-buy” experience that’s seamless across every presence of a brand. They’re seeking an “all-of-the-above” optionality that is as fluid as they need it to be in the moment, and this agility is critical as we think about designing the store of tomorrow. Digital integration will need to empower both store associates and the consumer to be able to move interchangeably when visiting different brick and mortar locations so they have the options, access, and efficiency they desire.
4. True sustainability starts with the supply chain.
Consumers speak with their wallets, and more and more their love language is shifting toward an expectation in transparency, sincerity, and sustainable practices from the brands they support. This further includes retailers being net-positive to the environment, as well as striving for social and community equities.
The real onus, however, is on the full ecosystem coming together to truly make a difference consumers can see and resonate with. Brands and retailers need to own and optimize their supply chain, making it more accessible from a cost and candor standpoint for consumers.
One of the lessons shared by Saskia van Gendt of Rothy’s was a profound sense of understanding of the brand’s own role in the process. “If you own the supply chain,” he notes, “you can truly impact things. For example, you can set up for on-demand manufacturing so as not to leave waste.”
5. We’re amidst an era of phygital convergence.
The metaverse—the industry’s newest buzzword—holds the promise of and capacity to meld physical retail with mixed reality experiences. However, we’re already years into this convergence of digital and brick-and-mortar, with offerings like virtual endless aisles that consumers can browse for hours, just as they might window shop in-store.
Innovative technology has, and continues to fuel the future of retail data collection and analysis, powering responsive IoT connectivity via RFID, sensors, digital displays, and products that ignite an overlay of immersive media. The digital/physical overlap will only continue to grow.