After a transformative year, brands are emerging as more robust, forward-looking and digitally savvy businesses.
Recent headlines do not paint the full picture – retail’s future is looking brighter than many may suggest. Brands and retailers alike have emerged from a highly challenging period carrying valuable lessons, having repeatedly adapted digital and selling strategies over the past 18 months to keep pace with a rapidly changing market. Those companies that have survived have been transformed into more robust, forward-looking, digitally savvy businesses that are primed to thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Brick-and-mortar shops may have faced harsh conditions thanks to repeated lockdowns, but brands that sell online have flourished thanks to a surge in e-commerce. Consumers initially forced to shop online out of necessity have embraced e-commerce’s convenience and many are likely to stick with online shopping under some guise well into the future.
As restrictions in the UK have lifted, there has been a significant return to in-store shopping. While many are now flocking back to the high street to make up for a lost time, it does appear that the future of retail is looking like a more hybrid affair, which should inspire a healthy degree of optimism across the sector. Innovative brands and retailers will use their stores to provide complementary experiences to their digital shopfronts.
Recent research from ChannelAdvisor contrasting current consumer behaviour with pre-Covid habits found that 56 per cent of UK shoppers are undertaking more research online before shopping in-store. This rises to 72 per cent for those aged 18-25. Retailers can learn from this and enhance their websites as research resources, providing shoppers with information on product pricing, availability near their location and the option to click and collect or reserve for fitting in-store.
This period of upheaval has also highlighted the significant impact that a data-driven strategy can have. By understanding consumer habits and applying gained insights across product lines, brands and retailers can make informed inventory decisions, re-allocate marketing budgets and offer personalised promotions to their customers, reacting in real time to meet new demands and provide the best service.
Deploying these smarter, data-driven strategies over the course of the pandemic has proven to be a winning methodology. ChannelAdvisor recently surveyed 304 Chief Marketing Officers working at UK brands that sell items online – 92 per cent said their brand has attracted a significant number of new customers since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, while 82 per cent said their brand is seeing higher sales than pre-Covid and 27 per cent said their sales are significantly higher.
Brands may have vastly enhanced their own D2C offer over the past 18 months, but their relationships with retailers will remain a crucial element of their day-to-day business for some time to come. The new power wielded by brands means that this relationship will be altered – but both sides should see the opportunity here.
Developing a D2C infrastructure has provided brands with an array of fresh experiences, from improving logistics capabilities to how best to market their products online, and this will help discussions with retailer partners to become far more informed. Rather than acting as a straightforward supplier, brands can behave more as business partners, led by mutually beneficial conversations. Retailers can offer brands more valuable, useful data around which products are selling, how quickly and to who. At the same time, brands can discuss strategy with retailers and may even be able to utilise their newly significant channels to benefit retail partners. By working together to reduce negative e-commerce experiences for their customers, such as poor reviews or out of stock items, brands and retailers can boost product performance and improve together.
No matter how strategies develop in response to the changing retail landscape, brands will remain confident and bullish. In the ChannelAdvisor survey, 92 per cent of the CMOs said they expected it to become even easier for their brand to attract and retain online shoppers across the next 12 months, while 91 per cent said they feel confident their brand’s revenue would grow over the same period.
It is impossible to predict what the next 12 months may hold for the retail industry, especially after such a disruptive period. The past year has been truly transformative for consumers and businesses alike. As the world returns to a new normal, innovative brands and retailers will continue to adapt their hybrid-business model in line with feedback to optimise how they meet their customers’ needs.
To find out more about ChannelAdvisor, visit www.channeladvisor.com/uk
By Vladi Shlesman, Managing Director, EMEA at ChannelAdvisor.