Blog post

5 trends we expect to light up retail in 2022

It’s time to gaze into the future, here are the five hottest trends we think are going to light up retail in 2022. 

  • Topic
    Retail trends, Store operations, Customer experience

It’s time to dust off the crystal ball, channel our inner psychic, and gaze intently into the future…

Predictions should always be treated with an element of caution. Things will happen no one saw coming (just look at 2020) and, with retail continuing to evolve at breakneck speed, change could very well be the only constant.

That being said, our team and partner network of retail experts do their best to keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry so we can anticipate the trends we think will start to dominate retail in the next 12 months and beyond.

So, without further ado, here are the five hottest trends we think are going to light up retail in 2022. 

The power of data

Big Data has been a common trend for a number of years now. And, while some retailers have been incredibly successful in how they use data, most haven’t. We expect this to change at pace. Having a 360 degree view of the customer is a goal every retailer should aspire to but, with so many different touchpoints and datastreams, it’s always been notoriously hard to 1) have all the data accessible in one place, and 2) use the data in an effective way to make better decisions.

By changing your mindset towards retail software and IT architecture - and embracing cloud-native SaaS solutions - this all becomes much easier.

For example, things like a CRM, footfall analytics, training software and loyalty software can - with this mindset - be easily integrated into a cloud-native POS. This means store associates have data at their fingertips, empowering them to deliver a radically improved experience to customers. This same data can also be used by HQ to make better decisions on everything from staffing levels through to store layouts.

As Bernard Marr writes in Forbes: “Creating smarter services with AI is critical. Retailers can now build on the data they have and use it to create more intelligent and AI-enabled services. Customers will expect sophisticated levels of personalization from retailers, so recommendation engines are becoming increasingly important.”

By working smarter with data, retailers will be able to do more with less, maximize upsell and cross sell opportunities, and give more to customers.

Returns will become a key differentiator

Historically, returns have been viewed as something functional. They are a set of processes that need to happen so customers can return goods. Rarely has much thought been put into the impact the returns process has on customer satisfaction. This too is set to change. 62% of shoppers are more likely to shop online if they can return an item in-store.

As Forrester notes in this article: “Returns directly influence consumer choices: About three out of five French, UK, and US online adults prefer retailers that offer free return shipping; about two out of five prefer retailers that provide refunds via the original form of payment. More fundamentally, online consumers have told us that fear of returns has outright discouraged them from buying online.”

Customers want returns to be easy and hassle free. And, most importantly, if they buy something online they want the option to return it to a store. Investing in technology that enables returns to be handled anywhere will give retailers a competitive edge in 2022.

Micro-fulfillment will reach new heights

The pandemic saw many retailers turn stores into fulfillment centers. With same and next-day delivery becoming an increasingly important differentiator for customers, retailers are looking at ways to make the fulfillment process fast and effective. Last-mile delivery is hugely expensive and fraught with difficulties but this can be mitigated and managed when stores act as micro-fulfillment centers.

As well as individual stores have become fulfillment centers, larger chains with bigger budgets have added warehouse space to stores specifically for fulfilling online orders, or they have opened “dark stores,” which are smaller fulfillment centers closed to the public but located closer to where customers live to enable quicker delivery and pickup.

The local effect

2021 showed us physical retail is alive and kicking. Yet the role it plays is subtly changing. One in five retailers are planning to move stores out of major city centers and into local high streets in the next 12 months. This move will reflect the growing consumer demand to shop local and build closer, more meaningful relationships with the brands they choose to shop with. 

According to Deloitte: “The localisation trend has been accelerated by the pandemic as remote working replaced commuting and shopping was largely limited to local high streets. The range and quality of goods and services available locally have surprised many and built an enthusiastic following among people who have developed a loyalty to local businesses.” 

Sustainability matters

Consumers want and expect brands to do more when it comes to sustainability. Take Nudie Jeans, their work with transparency, and their ‘Repair Shops.’ Nudie offers free repairs for life and this approach (which is implicitly tied to their brand values) not only sets them apart from other brands but is a huge draw for their customers. It mirrors a wider trend of an increasing number of brands working with transparency and traceability.

Combine this with big players like Patagonia and IKEA designing products with reuse in mind and it’s clear the ‘circular economy’ is taking on an increasing importance, especially with nearly half of global consumers saying they prefer to buy environmentally sustainable products.

Sustainability touches all aspects of retail - from inventory management and fulfillment through to product design and supply chain resilience. 

As Mckinsey says: “From setting ambitious targets to creating industry coalitions, the leaders in sustainable retail are taking actions that could make retail more environmentally friendly, socially caring, and economically responsible.”

In Summary

What these trends show us is standing still is not an option. At its heart, retail is simple. It’s about giving your customers what they want, when they want it. However, when customer shopping behavior is in a constant state of evolution, it’s your job to stay ahead of this change.

This means working smarter, using tech and software to empower your store associates, and doing everything you can to anticipate what’s going to come next.

If you want to make 2022 your most successful year yet then download our free guide on how to give your customers what they want - by changing your mindset to retail software and IT architecture.

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