Editor’s Note: Retail has evolved quickly the past few years and will continue to do so in 2022. With customers wanting instant gratification and a more seamless shopping experience, digital transformation is bridging the gap between e-commerce and in-store shopping. Almost every major trend impacting retail right now revolves around having a more digitally savvy business. However, it’s critical that rapidly changing businesses don’t lose sight of fundamental principles, like the importance of good security.
Start 2022 on the right foot by investing in cloud-based technology that’ll keep you competitive and keep your sensitive data secure.
Based on nearly two years of living through constant change, retailers have upped their game in terms of the shopper journey. Here are the top five trends that customers can expect this year:
Trend 1: Physical stores remain a critical force for retail shopping
While online commerce exceeded $1 trillion in 2021, the brick-and-mortar stores will still be very relevant for shopping with 84% of sales coming from physical stores. The stores will become more experiential and will incorporate more technology within the shopping journey. QR codes will be used for product descriptions and information, finding stock or demonstrating product usage. Mobile phones will integrate with in-store shopping for price and stock checking, as well as for checking out seamlessly. Social interaction and shopping, one of Americans’ greatest pastimes, will be even more important as the country rises out of the pandemic next year and consumers will look for more opportunities to cultivate a sense of normalcy.
Trend 2: Bridging the gap between online shopping and in-store experiences
Better experiences between shopping online and visiting stores will be evident as retailers have worked hard over the past two years to build up these capabilities. Shoppers have witnessed this build-up in 2021 in a major way with the curbside pickup, buy-online-pick up in-store and direct shipping from vendors when stock is not available in stores. Retailers will continue to work on these types of strategies.
Trend 3: Shopping goes viral on social media
Andrew Lipsman, eMarketer principal analyst of Insider Intelligence, predicts that viral commerce is a key growth area, noting the $45 billion social commerce business, which essentially is shopping through social media. Users can expect to see more offers, a broader range of products being offered through social media and an increase in special collaborations between brands, retailers and influencers. A recent trend on TikTok includes users posting their latest purchases with the hashtag #tiktokmademebuyit and has over three billion views. Retailers are curating online assortments that come from TikTok best sellers.
Trend 4: Near real-time delivery continues as shopper demand rises for these services
A rise in third-party delivery intermediaries has happened across all sectors of retail. Shoppers will see more and more retailers offering same day delivery with many retailers offering services within a two-hour window. Shipt, which is widely used by and owned by Target, has continued to grow in terms of number of product offerings and in terms of number of retail partners. Instacart does over $1.6 billion per year and plans to go public in the near future.
Another aspect that facilitates this type of shopping is the growing usage of micro-fulfillment centers which are mini-distribution centers in local areas near where customers live. Retailers are using these centers to help with delivering products to the customer homes. Many retailers are offering areas in the mini-distribution centers where customers can pick up their orders. In some cases, individual stores have become fulfillment centers with pickers scouring the aisles for consumer orders.
A significant technology transforming micro-fulfillment is automation. Walmart, for example, is using automated bots to retrieve goods for online orders in the smaller fulfillment centers. The last area in delivery that shoppers may expect to see is more widely used is driverless trucks to transport products to customer homes.
Trend 5: Curtailed and more curated assortments
Supply chain disruptions have been prevalent since April 2020. Last year was particularly troublesome for many retailers and brands across a wide variety to product categories. As a result, many retailers have significantly reduced the assortment of products within categories. Shoppers can expect to find fewer choices in terms of style, color or features. The U.S. market has historically been overstored and overstocked with product choices, especially in the fashion goods category including clothes, accessories and shoes. Less choice and better curated assortments should translate to a positive shopping experience for customers.