The truth is, though, that although this is certainly something to think about and a definitely consideration if you are starting up a retail business, there is a lot more to the future of retail than this one, fairly simplified, idea. Yes, high streets will always have to fight against the convenience, low prices, and variety of products that online shopping can offer, but it has plenty of things going for it as well – it’s a place to meet friends and see real people, it’s about supporting the local community, and since high street shops understand they need to compete, it’s often about amazing deals too.
So if this is not such a big problem as we might have been led to believe, what is the future of retail? Here are some ideas.
Sustainability Is Important
More and more people are beginning to realise just how important sustainability really is. We are becoming more used to recycling, to reusing certain materials, to having what might be termed a ‘circular economy’ wherein items are used, passed on, and only disposed of at the end of their useful life.
The more we work to have a sustainable lifestyle, the better it is for the planet, but the worse it is – relatively speaking – for the retail industry. Fewer people will be looking to buy anything new, preferring instead to buy used items or to upcycle something they already own. They might want to learn how to repair something instead of throwing it away and buying new when it starts to fall apart.
So retail needs to adjust to this new way of thinking (although, in reality, it’s an old way of thinking; during World War II the phrase ‘make do and mend’ was a very popular one, and people would do just that – they would darn stockings and stitch clothing and repair household items… they certainly wouldn’t waste anything). It needs to offer alternatives to brand new items. Some shops might start an additional repair service, or they might only sell used items. The need for new will be much less so that must do something to survive.
Innovation Is Key
Not only do many people want to help save the planet and be more eco-friendly, but many people also tend to get bored much more quickly these days. There is so much going on around them that they can quickly flit from one thing to another without even thinking. There is almost too much choice.
Retailers need to remember that customer loyalty is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Now it’s all about the product or service itself rather than sticking with one particular store because you like the people there or because they offer fast delivery on the items you are looking for.
For a retailer, online or offline, to stay relevant they need to innovate. Interesting new products, different strategies, offering new and exciting things… It is this that matters. Those that don’t innovate and rely on customer loyalty instead may survive for now, but they won’t in the future.
Different Ways To Pay
It is becoming increasingly common for people not to carry cash around with them anymore. They have credit or debit cards that can be simply tapped on a display and their goods are paid for (or, if they’re buying online they can just input the details if they aren’t already saved on their devices). Or they can use their phones and the different apps downloaded there. Or they can use e-wallets and many more new ideas that are being rolled out.
Cash only retailers will be a thing of the past. They will either need to invest in new technology or they will have to close if they refuse to do this. People just don’t have cash on them, and no matter how big or small the cost, no matter whether it’s online or offline, no matter whether it’s a shop or a street vendor or a busker or a vending machine, cards and apps are the way to go.
The battle between online and offline stores is not as big and grand as many think. If this is where they are focusing their attention then they are missing out on some much more important news – the future of retail is all about technology.
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling or how you’re selling it, if you don’t keep up with new tech and different innovations then your customer base will start falling away.