The health of the retail industry in the UK has been questioned over the past year and for good reason. Between the uncertainty brought about by Brexit not to mention declining footfall and sales, many are wondering how the retail industry would perform in the coming year.
We may not have a crystal ball that can tell us exactly what the future holds for retailers, but looking at the latest research and happenings give us a better idea of what retail trends independent stores should prepare for in 2020.
1. Expect more retailers to be part of the circular economy, in an effort to minimise waste and promote sustainability
Today’s consumers are big fans of sustainability. A survey by InRiver found that 62% of young consumers in the UK said that they would consider buying from brands that were more transparent with their environmental impact. What’s more, 63% mentioned that they stop using brands that are harmful to the environment.
And it seems that UK retailers are in the same boat. Research from the ITE Group found that independent retailers in the United Kingdom said they are hoping to increase sustainable products by 33% in 2020.
One of the ways they’re doing that is by participating in the “circular economy,” a system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources through reusing and recycling.
An excellent example of the circular economy in action comes from Isle of Skye Candle Company, which has 5 stores across Scotland. The company is constantly finding innovative ways to make the manufacturing process more sustainable, including offering incentives. Customers are given discounts and loyalty points in return for bringing back their used products. Isle of Skye then clean and refill the products, to avoid sending extra waste to landfills.
2. Community-building and participation will be more important than ever
Retailers are finding that creating a sense of community can help brands set themselves apart and build stronger relationships with their customers — which, in turn, drives sales and loyalty.
Consider the example of We Built This City, a London-based retailer that showcases and sells works from local artists. We Built This City cultivates relationships between London’s artists and customers by creating an environment in which people can meet and learn from artists directly.
“Our point of difference is that we have this incredible artist community who can come and showcase their talents live in-store and connect with our customers in a truly meaningful way,” says founder Alice Mayor.
3. Payment flexibility will continue to be paramount
Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to payments. While cash and credit cards won’t go away anytime soon, consumers will continue to look for more convenient and flexible ways to pay.
Mobile payments will gain even more steam, as will “buy now pay later” solutions such as Klarna.
“The importance of offering an array of convenient payment options that allow customers to better manage their finances, shouldn’t be underestimated. In fact, our latest consumer research revealed that 66% would spend more with a retailer if they offered more payment options, with 63% saying that being able to buy now and pay later would make them more likely to keep more items,” said Luke Griffiths, General Manager, Klarna UK, said in a statement to IMRG.
4. Values and social responsibility will be more important than ever
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than just a buzzword. More and more retailers have come to realise that giving back isn’t just helping to make the world a bit better, but that it’s also good for business.
A study from InMoment found that UK consumers are leading the way when it comes to prioritising Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
As such, we can expect more retailers to invest in CSR efforts to ensure that they’re making a positive social, environmental, and political impact in their communities and the rest of the world.
5. Backoffice technology will be a bigger priority over fancy, customer-facing tech
While “fancy” customer-facing technology like virtual reality and touch screens are having an increasingly large presence in modern-day retail, the coming months will also show that retailers are prioritising their backend tools for inventory management, supply chain, and customer data.
Retail tech that enables the “behind the scenes” action like ensuring retailers have the right products at the right time are critical to every merchant’s success.
Hampshire Cultural Trust, an independent charity that manages and supports 26 art and museum attractions across the country, serves as a shining example of how a tight back office can streamline a retailers’ operations.
Nick Seagrave, Digital Transformation Manager, helped modernise the operations of Hampshire Cultural Trust with the help of Vend ePOS.
“We had a range of point of sale systems in our venues, some of which were analogue. Cloud-based applications enable us to work and manage our gift shops and cafés, and have complete oversight from any location.”
His advice for retailers? “Understand how your systems and software can talk to each other via APIs and ultimately help you make decisions and save you time. Get your finance team on board and be sure to provide thorough onboarding and training to front of house staff.”