Technology

Trends That Will Shape the Future of Brick and Mortar Retail

Bobby Maramhat, CEO of Raydiant — an innovative platform that delivers a personalized and unique in-store experience for your customers

Brick and mortar has evolved more in the past two years than in any other recent span of history. The in-store experience underwent drastic changes, with customers learning how to shop without actually entering stores. Many of these sudden shifts in the consumer experience have stuck, and serve as the foundation for prevailing brick-and-mortar trends in 2022.

Brick-and-mortar retail had some of the most drastic job losses in 2020. Unlike retail job losses during the Great Recession, though, businesses adapted quickly to pandemic-related challenges, prompting a strong hiring rebound in 2021.

As we enter 2022, a brick and mortar revolution is well underway. Visionaries view wholesale changes to brick and mortar over the past two years not just as a response to the times, but as a launching pad for further change. Brick and mortar will continue to evolve with changing consumer tastes, for one. But, as the National League of Cities explains, retail’s ongoing revamp falls in line with wholesale redesigns of American cities.

The tides of brick and mortar’s prevailing trends are strong. More than ever, it’s vital that retailers and restaurateurs be adaptable to the changing waters.

Five Trends That Retailers and Restaurateurs Can’t Afford to Ignore in 2022

The list of noteworthy trends in brick and mortar could fill a Costco. For now, let’s look at five trends I believe will define retailers in 2022.

1. Investment in supply chain-related resources

How many consumers could have told you what a supply chain is—with any real confidence—before 2020? And how about today?

With product delays and rising prices being blamed largely on kinks in the supply chain, the typical shopper now knows the term all too well. And no, they don’t want to hear about your supply chain breakdowns. They just want their products.

Many supply chain woes will exist beyond your organization’s control. It didn’t take long into 2022 for forecasts of worsening supply chain crunches, to emerge. While many such woes are a symptom of a globally-connected economy, there may be steps you can take to un-kink the supply chain on your end.

Executives are now keenly aware of their supply chain operations, and are looking to upgrade order management systems (OMS), inventory management systems (IMS), and other supply chain components. They are even testing how artificial intelligence can help unify and streamline their supply chains.

Once a little-discussed feature of brick and mortar operations, a hectic year in factories, canals, and ports have brought supply chain solutions to the forefront.

2. Investment in technologies that make employees’ jobs easier—and more rewarding

Customer service has the capacity to make or break a shopper’s in-store experience. Unprecedented economic conditions have triggered a phenomenon known as the Great Resignation, defined by record number of retail employees quitting. A reported 685,000 retail employees tendered their two-weeks’ notice in September 2021 alone.

When a good employee calls it quits, customers notice their absence. To avoid a dip in their operations and negative perceptions from customers, organizations are investing in technologies that make employees’ jobs easier. Solutions that democratize scheduling practices, automate repetitive processes, and take items off of the employee’s to-do list are all of interest to retailers.

3. Greater emphasis on value creation as inflation erodes buying power

Along with supply chain issues, inflation will be a pressing concern of brick-and-mortar merchants in 2022. With the price of goods continuing to rise at the year’s onset, shoppers find themselves with less disposable income. This generally means fewer trips to the store, and more selectivity in which stores to visit.

The typical shopper has always gravitated towards value. Inflationary times only enhance the magnetic pull of a good deal. Providing value in retail isn’t all about price, though. Shoppers assign value to positive, memorable experiences in brick and mortar stores. If you can create a distinct, worthwhile experience for the customer, you’ll reap rewards even when consumer budgets are tight.

4. A shift from practical to tech-driven, experiential in-store experiences

No longer is it enough to provide customers the items they want. Nine other stores in your area and countless e-retailers offer the same goods as you do. In 2022, retailers must deliver novel experiences to attract customers into their stores and restaurants.

Retailers must ask themselves: are we offering compelling individual experiences? Many retailers are turning to emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality to offer experiences customers have never had before. Others are considering how fresh, digital signage can evoke positive associations between customers and their brand.

Once upon a time, all the local store needed to stay in business was milk, hardware, or another good sought by the customer. In today’s crowded, hyper-competitive, and interconnected economy, one-of-a-kind experiences have become key to success. Even in a time when customers seek value, they’ll pay more for a truly worthwhile in-store experience.

5. Further lowering of the walls between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar 

Though e-commerce will never be mistaken for brick and mortar, brick and mortar has successfully adopted features of e-commerce. Consumer studies have found that consumers like purchasing items online or in-app, then picking them up curbside or in-store. Self-service kiosks allow shoppers to checkout completely on their own, just as they would when shopping online.

Many shoppers like the convenience of e-commerce, but prefer the experience and immediacy that brick and mortar provides. For this reason, you’ll see retailers continue to adopt features native to e-commerce in their brick-and-mortar operations throughout 2022.

Conclusion

“Trendy” typically means temporal, referring to a fad more than a groundswell. The trends I’ve highlighted here, however, will prove enduring among market-leading retailers and restaurateurs. 

Even steps like augmenting supply chain operations and investing in employees should be long-term. Supply chain crunches will hopefully abate, but retailers’ eyes have been opened to the sudden, impactful nature of supply chain issues. Employees may become more loyal, but organizations now know that their staff will quit if they feel undervalued or overused. Lasting investment in employees and supply chains is a sustainable, necessary strategy.

While 2022 has much more in store for brick and mortar, you can bank on these five trends continuing to shape the industry.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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