Blog post

4 retail learnings from 2022

Here’s everything 2022 taught us about the current state of retail and what we expect to see in the year ahead.

  • Topic
    Retail trends, Customer experience, Unified Commerce, Store operations

After two years of deep uncertainty 2022 was finally the year when shopping and spending returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Despite a turbulent global economy, cost of living fears, and inflation that seemed to be always on the up, shoppers weren’t put off from spending their hard earned cash which we especially saw with physical retail bouncing back with a bang. 

Here are our top four takeaways from 2022 that are going to help shape and define the retail industry in the year ahead and beyond.

1. All shopping is cross-channel

2022 once and for all finally put to bed the argument of ‘retail death’ and that eComm will take over everything. As we’ve said before, it’s not clicks or bricks, it’s both, forever. Modern shopping is cross-channel and it’s not linear. Shoppers can start their purchasing journey from anywhere at any time. And, more often than not, this journey is a combination of in-store and online - with a whopping 75% of customers saying online research is important for their in-store experience. 

It’s why 70% of all shopping is cross-channel, with less than 10% being pure online and just over 20% pure in-store. And this means that physical stores and digital channels have to go hand-in-hand. It’s not one or the other and never will be (unless in very niche cases).

This unified view is what your customers want and your business will benefit from it. Look at the numbers - 62% of shoppers are more likely to buy online if they can return a product to a store, 80% of customers that do return a product to a store end up spending the refund in the store, and omnichannel customers are 83% more profitable than single channel customers.

This is why, if you want to sell and fulfill from all available stock at any time from anywhere, then unifying your data and your sales channels in real-time is the only way to do it - and  the only way to get one single point of truth across your whole organization.

It’s why retailers are doubling-down on innovation with 82% of decision-makers saying they are going to increase tech investments in the next three years.

2. Physical stores are flying

According to Gartner, 2022 saw more store openings than in the previous five years. The role of the physical store continued to evolve with stores serving as everything from fulfillment centers through to community hubs. This resurgence is part of the reason why 80% of retail CIOs are making investment in store technology a top priority for 2023.

Just look at the figures; Macy’s ecommerce is 2-3x greater in locations where they also have department stores, 81% of Gen Z consumers prefer to shop in store to discover new products, and 41% of consumers globally say that they feel a renewed appreciation for being able to touch and physically try products before they buy.

Consumers will choose where to shop based on availability, selection and price (and when they shop they want convenience and choice) but increasingly brands are turning to the in-store experience as a way to stand out from the crowd and the competition.

As Bård Kvamme, Director at Norrøna, says:Physical retail without any kind of experience is boring - especially when it’s so easy to buy everything online. It’s why you need some kind of X-factor. 

“If you offer your customers something different - like the events we run in our stores - then they’ll continue to shop with you and visit your stores. Having people in your stores who really care about customers is also key. If your stores don’t offer some kind of elevated experience then you need to develop one really quickly or else your business will die.” 

And the key to delivering these kinds of memorable experiences is your store associates…

3. Your store associates are your brand’s soul

If your stores are the heart of your brand, then your store associates are the soul. 

2022 saw the role of the store associate come under more scrutiny than ever before. In a world where self-checkout is becoming increasingly popular and easy to implement and where shoppers generally are very well informed, store associates have to be so much more than people who process transactions.

They are your storytellers, your brand champions, your frontline and creating a culture that recognises this should be a top priority for the year ahead.

Afterall, great customer experience (CX) starts with your store associates. CX will always suffer if your store associates are unhappy, taken for granted, and don’t have the right tools or information to do their jobs.

The trick is to empower your store associates to always say: “Yes!”

Making sure your store associates have the right tools and information in their hands is the best place to start to ensure they always say yes. According to Zebra, 78% of store associates feel more valued by employers when provided with tech tools that help them work.

Add in the fact that 67% are concerned that shoppers are more connected to information than they are and 43% cite out-of-stock complaints as their biggest frustration, and it quickly becomes clear that empowering your associates with the right tech is a no brainer. 

4. Flexibility is the future

Flexibility is the future of retail. When flexibility is inherent throughout your organization it means you can adapt and evolve to new challenges, new behaviors, and new ways of shopping.

To have this level of flexibility, you need an IT architecture that lets you create an ecosystem and workflows on your terms, based around what you need. Disruption is never going to end and now one of the biggest things you need is the ability to be agile and nimble to the changing market conditions.

Doing this means waving goodbye to monolithic, legacy solutions. One big monolithic service that tries to do everything (and more often than not fails) isn’t the answer. Legacy software solutions are rigid, tough to integrate, often based on a local server and built for a model of retail that’s been consigned to the past.

Instead, software built on MACH principles, puts the power in your hands and lets you run your business on your terms.

The software you choose - whether it’s a CRM, eCom, footfall counter or a Unified Commerce Platform anchored by Point of Sale (POS) - and your IT architecture, play essential roles in helping you deliver the kind of experiences your customers desire.

Strategic investments in tech and in your stores will change the game and equip you for the next-generation of retail and unified commerce - where you are the one in control.

In Summary

2022 showed us that with a mindset that makes your physical stores the heart of your business (and your store associates the soul) you can gain an edge over your competitors while giving your shoppers the convenience, choice, and the seamless experiences they crave.

With the swirling winds of economic uncertainty set to blow through 2023, it’s going to be imperative to control costs and maximize profitability.

By focusing on your physical stores, employee and customer experience, and using next-generation tech, you can do just this all while sending your employee and customer satisfaction scores through the roof.

Download our free guide and discover how to control costs & boost retail profit in 2023.

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