It’s hard to believe we’re beginning a new decade. The last 10 years were, to say the least, a transformative period in our industry. Digital advertising, which grew tremendously in the early 2000s, matured and flourished. We saw the rise of programmatic, the start of the data revolution, and the dominance of the smartphone, which brought in a new era of mobile marketing. In retail, we’ve seen consumer expectations change dramatically as “the Amazon effect” impacted nearly every sector. Brick and mortar stores that were unable to keep up with omnichannel strategies closed their doors for good in the 2010s, and new, pure-play ecommerce brands rose to prominence. It’s been exhilarating, to say the least.
So what will the next 10 years hold for us? For starters, we’re already seeing a correction and levelling of the some of the shifts that the last decade brought, particularly in the retail sector.
The dramatically shifting retail landscape
Let’s first look at retail, which has seen a seismic shift in the past decade. As ecommerce, m-commerce and multichannel retail expanded, shopper expectations adjusted in lockstep. The “six to eight-week” delivery expectations of the past compressed to 24 hours or less. Mobile payments, tap-able bank cards and self-checkout added additional convenience to shopping. And shopping online and picking up in-store became table stakes for retailers. Consumers who’d grown accustomed to shopping on Amazon and eBay suddenly found that even getting out of their cars to pick up the items or food they’d ordered was just too much work.
Many in the industry saw this shift as the death of brick-and-mortar retail, labeling it the “Retail-pocalypse.” We at Blis contend that this is not the end of Main Street, High Street or the mall, but it is an evolution. As customer needs and expectations shift, retail must adapt. “Digital transformation” became a catchphrase and growing trend, and this is what it’s all about: meeting consumers where they are, and leaning into digital as a catalyst for customer-centric change.
The result of digital transformation in retail is that omnichannel has become our new normal. Omnichannel retail puts customer experience first, and while it makes customer convenience the number one priority, it also streamlines every aspect of retail business – from the supply chain straight through to checkout and delivery. We’ve seen stores including Nordstrom, Walmart and Sephora win with a solid omnichannel strategy, while those that fumbled, like Toys R Us and Payless, weren’t able to keep up.
Over the next decade, we’ll see the evolution continue, with more traditional retailers embracing omnichannel, and more pureplay e-commerce and DTC brands redefining the “IRL” retail experience. Both pop-up and permanent retail experiences have already debuted for brands including AllBirds, Warby Parker and Peloton, and there will certainly be more of these in the future.
As more digital brands enter the physical world, we’ll simultaneously see mall brands rethink their real-world retail experiences. Malls themselves must think in terms of “curating” their selection of stores, making the experience of shopping more convenient and worthwhile for consumers. But retailers must continue to observe closely the shopping habits of their customers. How are they shopping, and what are they shopping for? What do they expect from your brand?
Just as Smile Direct Club has locations where customers can get scanned for and order custom aligners, and Peloton has stores where fitness enthusiasts can try a bike and buy cycling shoes, retailers of all ages and backgrounds should consider the true purpose of their physical stores. LIVELY lingerie created a store where shoppers can buy their wares, but they can also just hang out in a casual seating area – a strategy that could certainly work for other brands. If legacy retailers can think more creatively based on their customer data, they may be able to build similar experiences. Stores like Ann Taylor or Brooks Brothers might consider offering coffee to guests, or perhaps a quiet space to take a conference call – a service that would be appreciated by their suit-clad clientele. Creating brand-appropriate experiences that address what the customer wants or expects from the brand is the key. Look to customer data and real-world insights based on where your best shoppers go and what they do when they’re not in your store. This information will lead the way to creating the touchpoints that build deeper relationships and drive customer action.
With this evolution of retail, real world insights can help businesses stay ahead. Location-based marketing can do much more for your business than simply help you reach the right audiences at the right time and place. With real-world intelligence, Blis can help drive measurable, positive business outcomes, no matter the changes that lie ahead.