Skip to main content

By making the in-store experience stand out through community events and allowing customers to pick up online orders, retailers are using brick-and-mortar locations to build their brands and deepen customer loyalty.Supplied

A new world of retail is taking shape. Today’s consumers are craving connection and convenience, and retailers are stepping up to meet those needs, reimagining what the entire shopping experience should look like. From conversational commerce to seamless online shopping experiences, the future of retail is bold and innovative.

To help retailers define and own their success in 2022 and beyond, Square, a technology company providing omnichannel solutions to businesses, developed the Future of Retail report. In partnership with Wakefield Research, Square surveyed 500 retail managers and owners, along with 1,000 consumers, to reveal the challenges and opportunities shaping the retail industry.

What is the future of retail shopping?

The future of shopping lies in the power of omnichannel retailing. One customer might seek out same-day curbside pickup for a jacket they researched online. But they’ll also remember that lovely bottle of wine they saw in store as part of a new subscription service. And with the rise of multi-hyphenate businesses, which innovate with new revenue streams, both experiences could happen in the same store.

In 2022, shopping will be personal, thoughtful, seamless, and innovative. Customers expect to purchase what they want, both when and how they want it. But they also trust retailers to curate the right products and experiences for their individual tastes.

Retailers are taking risks with new business models and technologies to become more efficient and accessible, so it’s easier to engage shoppers everywhere they expect to find their products. The right set of omnichannel tools is key for meeting new customer demands and enhancing the retail experience through personalization. By trying out new ways of doing business and streamlining each step, retailers are staying ahead of the curve.

“Retail is no longer a question of online or offline – it is a holistic approach for businesses to meet their customers wherever they are and to communicate with those customers precisely how they want to be spoken to,” states Brandon Levy, general manager of inventory, fulfillment and merchandising at Square.

“These changes, in particular with the rapid expansion of social selling, are dramatically shifting how retailers merchandise products and generate content. By fine-tuning their message on all social channels available, retailers have a unique opportunity to meet millions of potential new customers and reach existing customers to help drive additional sales.”

How will online shopping change?

The future of retail isn’t moving all online – it’s moving everywhere customers are.

Selling online is now table stakes, and it requires an omnichannel solution that can tie each touch point together – for shoppers on the front end and business owners on the back end. Using integrated tools, successful online retailers are syncing their inventory, tracking orders, offering loyalty programs, and selling on social media. In the survey, 48 per cent of customers who shop online said they made a direct purchase through social media over the past month.

With everything in one place, creating that connected, personalized experience across channels makes online and social commerce a complement to the in-person shopping trip.

From social media selling to chatbots to text message checkout links, retailers are connecting with customers everywhere they want to shop, using technology to automate operations, opening up more time to invest in marketing, design, staffing, and new business ideas. In fact, 47 per cent of retailers currently sell products via text or chat – or plan to in the next 12 months. For today’s retailers, connecting with customers at each touch point is leading to higher sales and the flexibility to adjust and grow.

What is next for brick-and-mortar stores?

Customers want to return to in-person shopping, and they want what they can’t get anywhere else. By making the in-store experience stand out through community events and allowing customers to pick up online orders, retailers are using brick-and-mortar locations to build their brands and deepen customer loyalty.

To pull this off, store owners need to hire the right staff. As retailers work through new challenges – from supply chain issues to learning new skills – a strong team will help them navigate each milestone. One way business owners are investing in this work is through their tech stack. A strong majority (93 per cent) of retailers surveyed use or plan to use automated tools so staff members can spend less time on hands-on tasks like order tracking and managing customer loyalty programs.

For more retail insights and trends, download the full Future of Retail report.

Advertising feature provided by Square. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.