Whisper it quietly, but things appear to be edging towards some form of pre-COVID normality. As we're a little over a month into 2022, many of us will have undoubtedly have been glad to see family, visit friends and get out of the house.
Many sectors will be glad to see footfall levels increase, but perhaps the most intriguing sector to watch will be the retail space. Whilst busier than ever from an online perspective, brick and mortar stores have been in limbo for some time now.
After experiencing a rise of 7.8% in 2021, retail sales are predicted to grow by a further 2.0% in 2022. And, if this is to be the case, physical stores have a massive role to play in this.
So, what could be the retail trends of 2022?
When you think of cashierless stores, you're most likely going to imagine a certain Jeff Bezos-led store. However, the UK's first cashierless store was actually opened back in 2019 by Sainsbury's - closing after three months due to "not all customers being ready for totally till-free".
Fast forward to early 2021 - where Amazon opened their first UK Amazon Go store in Ealing - it looks like it could be a trend that we're collectively now ready to embrace.
Using Amazon Go as the model here, their stores use cameras and sensors to track the activity of shoppers who take items from shelves before billing them when they leave the front doors. As we enter this year - and the likes of Aldi and Tesco appear to be throwing their weight behind the idea - we can expect to see more of these stores on the way. Although, the controversy regarding replacing human jobs with technology will be a debate that only heats up.
During the pandemic especially, omnichannel commerce was the only way brands could reach you. You may be able to name an endless list of companies with a great social media presence that, in one way or another, influences your consumer choices.
By offering a joined-up experience that spans from brick and mortar stores to websites, social media or adverts, customers get a better feel and a personal connection with a brand. Whilst this idea may sound a little creepy, having the ability to buy something online and then get real-time updates of your order via WhatsApp or an alert on Facebook Messenger when you can collect your item ties the experience up nicely.
Don't be surprised to see more retailers deploying headless architecture this year as they look for new and engaging ways to target - and retain - consumers. A headless architecture means those relying on omnichannel methods are encouraged to add features such as chatboxes, text message ordering or WhatsApp communications with sales advisors.
Who knows what functionalities and tools you'll add to your tech stack this year?
Following on from omnichannel selling, another trend that looks set to have a breakout year could be where stores don't just sell a product - they sell an experience too.
Already a crucial factor for some - and executed expertly by brands such as Disney or Apple - consumers make decisions based on several factors. But, the role that physical stores really play is now more crucial than ever before.
Using Apple as an example, their stores are all built to convey ambience and a sense of the brand through decor, staff choices and experiences. When you walk through the front door of any store, be it in London, Birmingham, New York or Paris, you know you're in an Apple Store. By offering free interactive sessions to explain how consumers can get more from their iPhone - or by giving all staff tablets which can access your account, you can tap into a much more personalised experience.
The Metaverse has been a buzzword recently - don't be surprised to see more brands capitalise on this hype with VR showrooms for clothes, cars or makeup already starting to appear, giving customers a 'hands on' (or should that be pixels on?) approach with products.
As those who work in logistics, or a logistics based role, can attest to, the last minute is typically the most expensive part of deliveries. As such, it's no secret that retailers are focusing on ways to recoup costs here - in some capacity.
Amazon's Prime Air offering was billed to deliver goods to your door within 30 minutes of purchasing from their site. Initially scheduled to be here in 2018, we still look no closer to their arrival, prompting some outlets to ask, "what went wrong?" But, don't rule out Prime Air making an appearance in 2022 just yet (although hopes are slim, admittedly).
But, there look to be other promising companies carrying the torch, too. Delivery business, Starship, relies on robots to deliver items, and in late 2021 they recently completed their two millionth delivery.
It doesn't stop there either, LG is amongst the organisations to have announced plans for delivery robots, whilst other offerings also include Alphabet’s Wing drone delivery service - not to mention self-driving vehicles such as Tesla. Don't be surprised to see more stories in this vein appear this year.
Security is no laughing matter, and it's only becoming more of a headache for businesses. Supply chains are already going through a global disruption, with short stocks and empty shelves a common sight in recent times. But, if a cyber attack gets added to the mix, it could force an organisation to close its doors for good.
A key conversation topic with our partners revolves around not standing still from a security perspective, ensuring they continue to invest and patch vulnerabilities.
There is no guaranteed, silver bullet type approach to cyber security, and threats are becoming more complex. The impact of cyber attacks extend beyond costly fixes - should a data breach hit your company, you may see a longer-term hit, as 87% of consumers admitted to being willing to walk away and take their business elsewhere if a breach occurs.
Businesses, on the whole, are becoming switched on to the threats associated with operating in 2022 and are aware they can't fight threats alone. This year, we expect AI and blockchain to play a huge part in the fight against cyber crime.
2022 is going to be a massive year for us all. As we all look to do our bit to kickstart the economy and mitigate the economic cost of COVID - even with rising inflation rates and cost of living - the retail sector may benefit more than most other industries.
If you're a business in this sector and you're looking to capitalise on these predicted trends or have ideas of your own, you're going to need support. "Hire an Expert, Don't Try and Be an Expert!" is what MSPs such as Fifosys will tell you - and for good reason too. Changes such as this mean putting extra strain on your internet lines, whilst other internal hardware may need standardising in order to facilitate transformation.
These processes can quickly become costly and incredibly complex, don't go through it alone. Contact us today for a free consultation and see how we can help take you to the next level.
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