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Retail Strategies to Drive Growth in 2021 (And Beyond)

The pandemic’s arrival in 2020 has thrown a monkey wrench into everyone’s plans.

(Us at Qminder included, with our article 14 Customer Experience Trends for 2020 sadly not coming fully to pass.)

Circumstances change, and with it our expectations for the future.

But the future is forged on the anvil of today. For those retailers who wish to overcome adversity in 2021 and beyond, we present a list of retail strategies and trends to drive growth post-pandemic.

Prioritize safety

This first advice feels almost like a no-brainer. Duh, of course safety is on everybody’s mind!

Still, retail experts take time to underscore the importance of establishing and maintaining customer safety protocols.

The fact is, even post-lockdown customers will not feel themselves 100% safe until they see certain precautions in place.

In Deloitte’s pre-Thanksgiving pulse survey, 56% of consumers reported being anxious about shopping in stores.

Perhaps more damning is the way the retail industry was characterized in its entirety: only 23% of consumers ranked the retail industry as trustworthy.

This is in stark contrast with 33% who ranked travel and hospitality as trustworthy.

But rather than be shocked at such a low score, retailers need to take it as an opportunity to use health and safety investments to build greater trust with consumers.

Studies show that although price and location still play a great role in purchasing decisions, safety has been quickly gaining traction.

More and more customers take health precautions into consideration when choosing a venue to take their business to. Making them feel at peace is key to coming up ahead of the competition.

Take full advantage of social commerce

One of the most discussed topics coming out of the pandemic is demand for digital engagements.

These digital engagements are not only limited to new subscription models or support chat bots. Social commerce has been on the rise for a couple of years now, and 2020 has done nothing but accelerate it further.

What is social commerce? Social commerce is the option to make a purchase from within a social media platform.

Instead of looking up a product on Facebook and then going to the store’s website to buy it, you can purchase it on Facebook right away. This cuts down on the

The hidden caveat is that the less time customers spend on decision-making, the more likely they are to proceed with a purchase.

If you spend four or five minutes going to another website, filling your cart and entering the billing information, you might start asking yourself, “Do I really need this product?”

By eliminating the stage between an interest and purchase, businesses can make bank on impulse-purchasing.

The list of social media platforms that allow social commerce includes Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, to name a few.

In fact, according to Facebook data, 70% of shopping enthusiasts turn to Instagram for product discovery.

Make the delivery options faster, smoother and more convenient

2020 was the year of grocery delivery. The industry is expected to climb from $35 billion to more than $250 billion.

The conversion rate is simply staggering. Many people have tried it for the first time and, more importantly, expressed their preference for this new shopping model.

According to a study by Mercatus/Incisiv, 90% of e-grocery customers are expected to continue shopping online post-pandemic.

The convenience of digital shopping is invigorating and addictive. Only 7% of online grocery shoppers said they will return to brick-and-mortar stores.

The flexibility of working from home is partly to blame, as your average consumer’s schedule has freed up considerably. We don’t have to worry about making it home in time for the delivery anymore.

To wit, Instacart reported that the “numbers of orders placed between 9 AM and 5 PM during the workweek rose by 32%.”

This is not only limited to groceries. For the past few years, companies have started embracing the so-called direct-to-consumer model where a product is sold directly to customers, bypassing any third-party logistics.

One of the bigger names is Dollar Shave Club that offers home delivery for razors and other grooming products since 2011.

Retail experts and strategists put emphasis on improving supply chains.

Deloitte’s 2021 Retail Industry Outlook predicts that order fulfillment will see the heaviest investments, followed by warehouse management and procurement.

It has been suggested that there will be a shift when it comes to last-mile deliveries in the form of autonomous delivery. From self-driving vehicles to air drones, packages can be delivered to the doorstep without any human-to-human touchpoint.

Although this may be a massive breakthrough with regards to safety, it also paints a rather bleak picture about human interactions, or lack thereof, in our future.

That’s why the last point for today is to…

Focus on the individual customer experience

Despite the COVID relief package, the pandemic has been hard on mom-and-pop stores. These are businesses whose success relies on stability; they never had to adapt this quickly and this severely.

For companies still operating in physical locations, it’ll be important to distinguish themselves from digital retailers.

The key is to provide unique in-store experiences.

As we’ve stated in Redefining Customer Experience Post-Lockdown, the footfall may drop down, but the value of each customer will rise.

Though the reality is that brick-and-mortar stores will sell less, they have the opportunity to provide value by strengthening customers’ relationship to the brand.

An example from a bigger retail player would be Nike and their Time Square flagship store, where shoppers could record themselves dunking a ball or run on a treadmill with a simulated view.

The point is not to grow revenue directly, but to boost brand awareness and engagement. Interactive displays, virtual and augmented reality — these are all the tools that retail can take advantage of to make their brand stand out.

This is what some call “retailtainment”, or the merge of shopping and entertainment in such a way as to elicit a strong emotional reaction from customers.

Overall, a report from Deloitte states in no uncertain terms that “retailers need to improve their ability to anticipate demand”.

Investing in artificial intelligence and other means of aggregating customer data could help retailers predict demand and act accordingly.

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