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Top 5 retail experience trends to follow in 2022

It’s no longer enough to provide a great experience. Customers today are choosing the brands that deliver the best experience. While it’s a simple principle, it’s not the easiest goal to achieve. Your customers have a highly personal definition of “best” and it’s constantly evolving.

Understanding how the pandemic and other disruptions have accelerated digital transformation and changed consumer behavior is important, and brands are responding in increasingly innovative ways. Here are five strategies retailers can adopt to stay in front of these trends and keep customers engaged, interested, and loyal to your brand.

Build the best omnichannel retail experiences

We now live in a world where it is expected that our most basic needs can be performed from the palms of our hands – so for retailers, that means everything from answering a question to returning an item can be done without even entering a store. But this digital retail experience has to fall within a larger, more comprehensive omnichannel strategy, allowing consumers to move seamlessly between every interaction channel, from your social media platforms to your SMS messages, chatbots, apps, websites, and brick-and-mortar locations. Your customers expect to research, transact, and communicate in a way that is consistent and familiar no matter where, how, or when they’re engaging with your brand.

With these consumer expectations, coupled with the density of players in the market (and more entering every day), the delivery of an exceptional, frictionless omnichannel experience is table stakes for retailers who want to remain competitive. Smart customer experience design strategies that incorporate best practices in commerce, interactions, journey, data, and system integration, enabled by the right commerce solution, are key to delivering the best omnichannel retail experience.

Reimagine the in-store experience

While consumers are once more spending time in stores, their expectations for in-person experiences are much higher. The most successful in-store experiences are extremely engaging, informative, and interactive. Take Target as an example: while the brand has made major advancements to its digital and mobile capabilities, they have also made investments toward its in-store experiences with its collaborations with the likes of Disney and Lego, partnership with Starbucks, and in-store-only seasonal and low-cost product displays at the front of their stores. Target, Walmart, and many other stores have introduced strategies like these to build a unique experience that consumers can only get at the physical store. These types of innovations have helped these retail giants stay profitable, with Target reporting year-over-year increases including a 9.7% rise in store sales and a 29% boost in digital sales.

Make personalization mandatory

Delivering the best omnichannel retail experience requires owning a deep understanding of your customers. Personalization helps pull in new customers and keep existing customers loyal to your brand, by creating experiences and offers that speak to their unique needs. One study reported that 60% of consumers are more likely to become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a retailer. We expect that percentage to rise dramatically in the next couple of years, making this one of the retail experience trends with real staying power.

A 360-degree view of each customer is informed by data on their buying habits, preferences, and behaviors. To adapt to new expectations and continue to deliver an exceptional customer experience, you must also track this information as it evolves and changes over time. Personalization drives your ability to engage and delight your customers, build strong rapport, and provide responsive and dependable customer service.

Apply nimble cost-cutting strategies

Many retailers are building stronger bottom lines with clever ways to streamline their businesses. The cost of goods and services continues to rise due to inflation, and the current labor shortage is raising expenses as well. To stay in business in this tough market, retail brands will need to find ways to reduce spending while still creating more innovative, engaging omnichannel experiences. For retailers like CVS, this means adding more self-service checkout capacity. Others are experimenting with shorter in-store hours or closing lower-performance retail locations permanently. Store-within-a-store (SWAS) is another concept gaining considerable momentum. Skincare brand Bubble, for example, has lowered its cost of regional expansion by introducing a presence in Walmart stores instead of adding more brick-and-mortar locations. SWAS also creates new opportunities for the host store by driving more traffic to their storefronts, as has been seen with the significant growth Kohl’s has experienced since launching their partnership with Sephora.

Shift to intelligent automation

Retail executives often credit automation innovation as the top way to survive changes within the industry. Advancements in AI, robotic process automation, and other intelligent automation technologies serve to reduce friction for customers and staff, elevate service and eCommerce outcomes, and optimize complex operations even as the labor force becomes increasingly tighter.

Identifying tasks where humans can be taken out of the equation and replaced with intelligent automation technology simultaneously raises the bar and lowers costs when it comes to your customer experiences. Retailers are going beyond mere self-service with virtual and augmented reality technologies that are highly personalized and interactive, while others are leveraging innovations like smart shelves, which use RFID technology to automatically track inventory to reduce the amount of labor required for high-impact operations. Intelligent automation also delivers more digital exhaust which can then be used to increase personalization, cut costs, and improve the omnichannel customer experience.

Trends in automation, cost-cutting, in-store experiences, personalization, and omnichannel retailing all need to be considered when creating the strongest strategy for your brand in 2022. Only the best strategy will result in delivering your customer’s best experience, the most important goal for any brand in today’s competitive market.