Opinion: How the retail industry copes digital and social trends


September 7, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

Words by Ayman Beydoun, Chief Operating Officer, BFL Group

Within the global retail industry, our transition from a predominantly brick-and-mortar business into online has been off the charts. Technology has proven to be a formidable companion as we exerted additional efforts and allocated funds to keep our respective businesses thriving amid challenging times.

Now that governments and international health and humanitarian organizations are relentless in increasing vaccination campaigns, we are seeing the gradual easing of social distancing restrictions, leading to a more positive outlook for the global economy. As for retail businesses, we can expect the physical stores to start hosting shoppers once more, although not in the exact same fashion as before the pandemic.

Many companies have started implementing different strategies in order to increase their brand visibility and boost growth. The fast-growing e-commerce sector further accelerates the trend for the global digital transformation market within the retail industry, which is expected to reach USD 388.51 billion by 2026 and record a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.2 per cent over the forecast period (2021 to 2026).

Safe and contactless transactions are in

Let us begin with the obvious: contactless interactions. Due to the pandemic, people have become used to communicating without any physical contact. Before, it was common courtesy to shake hands; now, people deem it insensitive and unsafe to do so. The same can be observed within retail stores.  Furthermore, retailers now encourage customers to opt for contactless payments, via credit cards or debit cards or mobile payments, in order to minimize the chances of contact and passing on of any sort of virus. Retailers are also taking extra safety measures such as enhanced sanitation from packaging, display, order processing, and more. These steps will help retailers protect the health of their staff, as well as their customers.

Retailers expanding market base through technology

Another rising retail industry trend is the use of technology to broaden the market base. Retailers are no longer limited to a single location or a specific market and going digital gives them opportunities to expand their operations overseas.   For instance, fashion retailers can collaborate with companies in emerging markets, locally or overseas with a strategic digital marketing strategy. Aside from websites, retailers can now increase their online presence with various social media applications, thus, opening new opportunities for prospective investors, partners, and customers.

Personalized retail experience virtually and physically   

Personalization in the retail world often involves retailers giving consumers suggestions or ideas based on their preferences, previous searches, location and order history. But with digital transformation extending to customer experience, retailers can boost customer service and engagement through omni channels. Digital tools such as chat-bot can assist the customers online, for instance. Telephone conversations, direct mail, and in-store surveys are ways a business can provide a personal touch in their customer service. Customers value brands who communicate with them, especially on a human and personal level.

The growing power of the socially conscious consumer

Sustainability-focused buyers are now keener to support brands that offer eco-friendly products. Companies have recognized this trend and are starting to cater to the needs of these customers, ultimately expanding their market reach.

The integration of digital innovations, along with other societal factors and recent events, have shown deep influence on changing buying behavior. Businesses need to recognize these trends and start developing strategies accordingly to respond to consumer needs and improve their customer relations to stay on track as the retail industry continues its massive transformation.

 

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