The changing face of retail

Gathered yesterday on the banks of the Thames, property and retail developers alike met to attend the Completely Retail & Leisure Marketplace. The event was held at the Old Billingsgate Market building, itself an example of the changing nature of markets and of how the property industry forever adapts.

The industry is expectant, with positive announcements and expansion plans the pattern at this year's event. This growing optimism is supported by recent reports from Cushman & Wakefield suggesting a range of pipeline developments and predicting a surge before 2017.

However, we've a dug a little deeper beneath this increasingly positive 'bricks and mortar' story to discover a range of trends facing the foundations of the retail industry.

In-store technologies

Interactive stores keep the customer engaged and in doing so, keep shoppers in their stores. There has been an unavoidable rise in the use of in-store mobile devices, chosen for their versatility in taking payment, demonstrating products, providing in-depth information and encouraging social interaction.

Immersive screens are also becoming a regular feature, like those used in Gucci outlets to allow customers to browse products with only hand gestures, and those featured at Nike which mirror customers as they move through the store.

However, we must also recognise the opportunities that micro-location beacon technology now presents within the retail domain. This technology alone has enormous potential to revolutionise the shopping experience, making it quicker and easier for customers to access the information and products they are looking for, or to provide special offers or discounts. It also provides retailers with invaluable data about their customers’ shopping habits, as well as the activity of their staff, allowing them to make improvements to the store layout by identifying store flow, maintaining service standards and operations that will benefit both customer and retailer.

Forget your wallet

Gone are the days of searching for your wallet, no longer must we swipe and wait. We are on the verge of mobile payment with a single touch. These mobile payments are set to amount to $90 billion by 2017. Retailers are both pioneering their own solutions and partnering with the likes of PayPal, Google Wallet and Apple Pay in order to meet this growing trend.

Pizza Express has developed an app which gives customers the option to book a table, browse the menu and most importantly, settle the bill via PayPal. This way, customers in a hurry to leave or those without their wallets can pay their bill from their mobile.

The rise of omnichannel

With customers browsing items on their mobile device, paying online and collecting in-store, we are set to see omnichannel retailing rise to prominence. The omnichannel connects retailers and customers across channels and interfaces simultaneously and, increasingly, interchangeably.

Take fashion retailer Oasis for example, offering customers a fully-flexible payment and delivery system, paying and obtaining their products from wherever they choose. Alongside this, the merchant provides in-store iPads to assist shoppers and process payments. What’s more, for items unavailable in store, customers can place orders from these iPads online.

The need for speed

The customer’s need for speed will not wain. Staying connected to shoppers is increasingly vital for retailers. Consumers expect a prompt response to their questions. Live chat, hotlines, social media and beacon technology pose as solutions to these questions, whilst also benefiting retailers who wish to roll out instant, real-time information, personalised promotions and recommendations to shoppers.

Similarly, demands on retailers mean that they must find ways to streamline and speed up order fulfilment to get products into customers’ hands as quickly as possible. We must only look at retail giant Amazon, whose plans for its drone-based delivery service aim to complete delivers in thirty minutes or less.

Much like the mobile device, the future of retail now lies in the hands of the customer.

These trends all represent a broader power shift - shoppers have more control over what to purchase and where and how to buy it, leaving retailers and destinations with the challenge of vying for consumer attention.

In this way, the survival of retailers, physical and virtual, and the destinations in which they're housed depends entirely on how retailers face up and adapt to the challenge of a truly customer-orientated service.

Posted in Blog.