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January 27, 2022

2022 Trends in Retail: The Latest Consumer Preferences and How to Adapt Accordingly

Written by: Carla El Gawly

After years of dramatic ecommerce growth, the physical store continues to evolve around the latest technologies that empower brands and retailers to provide the omnichannel shopping journey today’s consumers are looking for. In this ever-evolving retail marketplace, it’s clear that adaptation is key to success.

In order to win on the digital shelf, today’s brands and retailers must understand the latest trends in retail — and focus their efforts on providing a consistent, optimized customer experience across every channel and lifecycle stage.

Here are four things today’s consumers are looking for — and tips on how to adjust your strategy accordingly to position yourself for digital shelf success.

1. Differentiated Omnichannel Experiences

While the last few years have seen a surge in online shopping, today’s consumers still value various factors of the brick-and-mortar experience — from the ability to test a product in real life to the option to receive an in-store service.

As a result, one of the biggest trends in retail is for previously online-focused brands and retailers, such as Gymshark and Casper, to open physical stores.

Many organizations adopting this omnichannel approach have found that introducing a new brick-and-mortar location can lead to an increase in online sales.

Kenny Wilson, CEO of Dr Martens, told Drapers: "When we open a store in a new city, within the next six months online sales increase within that city. For example, we opened a store in Rome and it soon took over as our top performing city in Italy.”

As a brand or retailer, consider how you can create a differentiated experience that draws potential customers to a physical store. For instance, health and beauty retailers can take inspiration from organizations like Superdrug, and introduce on-site treatments and services.

Think about new and fun ways customers can see your products in action. Dyson’s flagship store in London offers a hair salon experience to try their products, and the opportunity for instant gratification of walking out with a product then and there.

2. Fast, Streamlined Delivery

Today’s shoppers have new and evolving expectations when it comes to delivery speeds. According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, the vast majority of consumers — over 90% — see two to three days as the baseline, and 30% expect same-day delivery.

Meeting these expectations requires an efficient supply chain, optimized warehouse processes, and reliable courier services (with accurate tracking). Given the ongoing global supply chain issues, it’s critical that your organization finds new ways to streamline various aspects of your fulfillment and delivery operations.

To remain competitive in this marketplace where speed reigns supreme, consider investing in automation technologies. For a little inspiration, take a page out of The Very Group’s book: They recently revealed their new automated fulfillment facility, which can process orders in just 30 minutes.

3. New Return and Payment Options

Linking closely to speedy delivery, the ease of return and payment flexibility remain top of mind for today’s consumers. Given these conditions, a variety of brands and retailers are exploring try-before-you-buy and buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) programs.

Amazon recently launched their Try-Before-You-Buy program for Prime members — and some brands have been doing this for quite some time. For instance, Warby Parker provides a Home Try-On program in which shoppers can receive five pairs of glasses to try for free, and then only pay for those pairs they choose to keep.

According to Finder, BNPL is the fastest growing payment method in the U.K. — with online purchases using these services growing at a rate of 39% per year, and market share set to double by 2023.

Klarna has led the way in creating a variety of payment plan options, including BNPL programs with their retail partners, such as ASOS. Now, they’re taking their technology to the next level by launching a browser extension that opens up payment solutions to every online store.

In today’s omnichannel marketplace, customers are seeking increased flexibility. By introducing new buying options like try-before-you-buy and BNPL programs, you can make shoppers feel more confident in taking the next steps on a potential purchase.

4. Sustainable Practices

Sustainability has also moved to a top spot in the consumer goods agenda, largely due to the ongoing climate change crisis. Around 60% of Americans are either “alarmed” (26%) or “concerned” (28%) about global warming. Over the last five years, these numbers have grown dramatically — and as a result, more and more consumers are seeking brands and retailers that follow sustainable practices.

According to an Accenture survey, 83% of consumers believe it’s important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled. In addition, 72% of respondents said they’re currently buying more environmentally friendly products than they were five years ago — and 81% said they expect to buy more over the next five years.

With this continued focus on climate change, major brands and retailers are under scrutiny to create and follow through on sustainability strategies. Amazon recently announced a new global clean energy project with an aim to power 100% of its business operations with renewable energy by 2050. And Boden, a U.K. fashion business, has banned sequins and glitter from their clothing in an attempt to reduce plastic waste.

It’s never been more important to assess and improve your organization’s sustainable practices occurring throughout every part of the commerce journey — from your supply chain to your internal business. Taking actions to source materials ethically, monitor energy use, reduce waste, and continuously evaluate the overall environmental impact of your operations can have a major effect on the ongoing climate change crisis.

Consider what steps your brand can start taking today, as well as what you can aim to accomplish over the next several years. Then build out a detailed plan that you can share with customers and prospects via your company page, social media, and other channels.

Optimize Your Strategy Based on the Latest Trends in Retail

The commerce space is evolving at a faster speed than ever before. While it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with the latest trends in retail, adapting your internal strategies accordingly is critical to your future growth.

Interested in connecting with your peers on how to achieve omnichannel success in this rapidly changing environment? Join the Digital Shelf Institute.

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