While physical retail has been disrupted by COVID, the pandemic also ignited an inspiring fire of innovation. In my last post, I explained why brick and mortar would survive and thrive in 2021. I’ll now paint a picture of how these retail trends will play out.

These trends represent exciting growth opportunities which thriving brick-and-mortar retailers are taking seriously. Here’s how the top retail trends will rock retail in 2021 and beyond.

1. Consumers will demand more from omnichannel retailers.

Since every customers’ best shopping experience becomes their new expectation, retailers will be pushed further as their customers move effortlessly across retail channels. 

This past year has brought the importance of omnichannel practices to light. We’ve all gotten used to conveniences like buy online/pickup in store, curbside pickup, checking store inventory online, and same-day deliveryThriving omnichannel retailers will add more tools like these while looking for ways to remove friction and provide value throughout the purchase process.

Retailers that thrive longer-term will implement truly integrated cloud-based retail technology platforms that allow them to adapt quickly to meet their customers’ ever-evolving needs.

2. Physical stores are the human heart for retail brands.

Yes, customers are doing more of their shopping online. Even before they purchase, many shoppers go online to study product options, pricing, and availability.  

So, the role of the retail store and the store associate has changed: Shoppers go to the store when they want to explore, dig deeper, and feel connected. The on-demand shopper will continue to visit the store for immediate gratification.  

Physical retail stores will increasingly be designed to foster human interactions and create unique customer experiences.

  • Stores will be showrooms where customers see, touch, and try out products. Many retailers are creating space to engage customers in complex and big-ticket purchases.  
  • Stores will be mentorship centers where sales associates, armed with customer and product knowledge, provide personally relevant stories and insightful advice. Think of Nordstrom Local, which barely stocks clothing but offers tailoring and style consultation. 
  • Stores will be places to experience community again. This will start with COVID-safe events, like sidewalk book signings and fun loyalty promotions. Maybe we’ll even see some outdoor concerts again this year!

Stores will evolve to support emotionally connected interactions while continuing to satisfy routine shopping trips. Thriving retailers will automate inventory and other operational processes, and use enhanced POS systems, to allow store associates to better engage and support the customer. 

Now, physical stores are playing an increasingly central role — they are becoming the cornerstone of omnichannel retail.

3. The street store is now the cornerstone of omnichannel retail.

Until COVID, many retailers saw brick-and-mortar stores as one branch of an omnichannel empire. The other branches were the e-commerce website, third-party retailers, and other channels. At the center of the tree was the warehouse.

Now, physical stores are playing an increasingly central role — they are becoming the cornerstone of omnichannel retail. As we discussed, all of those click-to-brick transactions rely on street stores, and now even pure e-commerce operations rely on physical stores to address shortcomings.

  • Most major retailers now use stores as regional fulfillment centers for online sales, having in-store staff pick and ship orders.
  • Dark stores and micro-fulfillment centers will become common as retailers rethink their use of physical space across the distribution channel. 
  • Stores also play a role in the return of online sales, removing friction for the buyer and often leading to additional in-store purchases.

From Walmart, to Target, to Amazon, and every FieldStack client, brick-and-mortar stores are crucial nodes within their omnichannel retail networks.

How retailers are embracing these omnichannel retail trends.

Technology is central to exploiting these omnichannel retail trends and opportunities. I strongly encourage you to look closer at  FieldStack, the only truly integrated retail management system that empowers any retail chain with omnichannel capabilities used by global retail brands. 

We are committed to helping retailers survive and thrive in 2021 and beyond.

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Retail shopping cart in a woman's handData Driven Retail in 2021