Editor’s Note: While the retail industry has found itself catapulted into the digital world over the past few years, that doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar stores are a thing of the past. In fact, physical stores can provide customers with the tech-driven convenience they want, plus the beauty of a person-to-person connection. Hybrid retail events and omnichannel retail can help bridge the gap between eCommerce and physical shopping.
Retail and hospitality have been truly disrupted by the pandemic. With long periods where many businesses couldn’t operate, those that have survived have been those that have innovated. Some brilliant ideas and accelerated trends have sprung up from the pandemic in the hospitality and retail sectors, not just to keep revenue streams flowing but to keep customers served. Here we will look at three trends that have kept the sectors running and will likely be around for some time.
While we were all stuck at home during last year’s lockdowns, accessibility to everyday necessities and wants became a sudden issue. Delivery options became the only way for loyal customers to access their favorite restaurants or try new food. At the same time, kitchens at large hotels and restaurants that didn’t offer such services were lying empty with no customers to serve. Although this quickly became a huge issue across the hospitality industry, it was also a growing gap in the market, ready to be exploited.
This is where companies like Sessions stepped in. Run by its founder and former managing director at Deliveroo Dan Warne, Sessions works with hotels to evaluate their existing setup, the chef capability and the relevant Deliveroo data (location and local demand). They would then match each site with founder-led food brands to operate. The Sessions team then trains each kitchen to cook and deliver the brand’s recipes on Deliveroo to the exact brand specifications, providing them full support going forward.
The idea is so simple but genius at the same time. At a time when occupancy was at an all-time low, hotel kitchens could be generating a vital revenue stream working alongside these tried and tested food brands. Meanwhile, these food brands get the opportunity to grow and serve more customers faster than if they had to own all their own kitchen spaces. Even post-pandemic, these collaborative delivery services are sure to be extremely popular.
Tech-driven hybrid events
When all events were forced to either cancel or go fully virtual, the benefits of in-person events became all too clear. Physical meetings are often much more emotionally engaging than their digital equivalents, whether that be business conferences or entertaining live events. However, the benefits of having a virtual option also rose to the surface. They can easily accommodate a global audience, time zone permitting of course. Clicking a link from home is much easier than organizing travel arrangements. And virtual events are much more resistant to cancellations.
As we emerge into the post-pandemic world, hybrid in-person and virtual events are sure to become much more of a frequent occurrence. They cater for a wider audience, allowing attendees to participate in a way they feel comfortable or even watch on demand later. Some of the world’s largest gatherings recently, such as New York Comic-Con and London Fashion Week are providing interactive hybrid events, massively helping support the events industry to get back on its feet.
The pandemic undoubtedly forced many brands to accelerate and optimize their digital strategies. With consumers stuck inside and away from the high street, companies had to meet them online. What was first a necessity is now a business opportunity, as many customers are sticking with online services due to the convenience it offers.
Now that shoppers can view a whole product range with a few clicks, what is the point in coming to a physical store? The obvious answer is for the experience. Many brands are now switching on to experiential retail in an attempt to draw their once loyal customers back. These experiences, whether revamped shop designs or one-off events, need to match the customer base they serve. The “House of Vans” by the eponymous shoe brand, allows customers to watch films, listen to live music, eat, skate and BMX. Even pre-pandemic, Apple and their in-store geniuses, who are trained to run in-store classes, set the example of differentiating the physical and online experiences while making the transition between the two totally seamless.
Surprising recent research from Accenture found that it is the younger shoppers sticking with in-store shopping. 70% of Gen Z consumers plan to do most of their holiday shopping in-store this season, meaning if retailers and brands can target this audience with appealing experiences, they will win loyal customers this peak season.
It’s no surprise that the pandemic has permanently changed the retail and hospitality industries, and the above trends are just a few that are sure to stick around for the next few years. By balancing these new strategies with great consumer experiences, businesses can lay the foundations for long term success.