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Five Key Emerging Retail Trends to Watch in 2022 and Beyond  

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In the wake of the pandemic, and in a retail environment that has experienced profound upheavals, retailers are emerging stronger than ever by embracing new opportunities. Here are some of the most important emerging trends in retail to watch for and which will be explored at Retail Council of Canada’s STORE Conference, that will take place next week, September 13-16, 2021.

Customers value inclusivity and sustainability

To be seen as valuing employees and being sustainable, it’s not enough for retailers to put an “our people are our top priority” or “we’re green” label on their websites. Consumers are increasingly concerned about social justice and climate change, and they’re willing to change their loyalties to brands that are more in sync with their values. They want to see retailers take meaningful steps such as protecting mental health, hiring diverse employees, carbon labelling, comprehensive recycling, sourcing products ethically and fairly.   

In the opening session for RCC STORE 21, Walmart’s EVP, People & Corporate Affairs, Nabeela Ixtabalan, will discuss how one of the largest retail employers is adapting to the new normal and the future of work.  She will also be speaking with Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global and Chester Elton, author, speaker, organizational culture and employee engagement and leadership expert about the importance of mental health and wellbeing in companies of all sizes.

In the session A better world starts at home, Michael Ward, CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer at IKEA Canada, will talk about how the furniture giant is transforming to become more accountable and transparent while also offering furniture that is both more sustainable and more affordable. 

Adding value in the supply chain

Retailers depend on supply chains, and technology offers several ways to add greater value. While some innovations still seem futuristic, like using drones or autonomous robots for last-mile delivery, automation is clearly here to stay: Sobeys uses automated warehouse processes to power their successful Voilà delivery service.

In addition to using automation to streamline the way goods are handled, retailers can also use process automation to make smarter decisions and deliver greater value. Using the Internet of Things and RFID devices for product tracking and tracing gives retailers access to real-time data, for example, and combining this with tools for predictive analytics enables a more thorough understanding of KPIs. Automating documentation can also lower costs at every stage of the supply chain. 

At RCC STORE 21, John Thorbeck, Chairman of Chainge Capital, will talk about why supply chain models in the fashion industry are outdated, and how process innovation can accelerate sustainability.

Omnichannel transforms every stage of the retail experience

Omnichannel isn’t new – even before the pandemic, consumer behavior was shifting towards ecommerce. But when stores were forced to limit in-person shopping, online ordering and curbside pickup became a lifeline for consumers needing essential goods, and for the first time, omnichannel played a meaningful role in verticals such as grocery and home improvement.

Paul Martin, Chairman of the Global Retail Group and Head of Retail at KPMG UK, in his session at RCC STORE 21 Future of Retail: How to compete and win in a post-COVID world, will talk about how COVID-19 accelerated trends in retail and how the links between stores and their ability to sell products and services are unravelling. 

Why is it so important for retailers to build their omnichannel abilities? Omnichannel lets retailers meet consumer needs along every possible channel – in-store, online, or a mix of the two. Research shows a strong link between opening physical stores and increased traffic to online stores. In addition, as shoppers embrace shopping on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, retailers can use omnichannel to reach new markets.

In the session China’s New Retail, marketing expert and best-selling author Ashley Dudarenok will discuss the ways that China’s tech giants are using social media to transform commerce, not just in China, but around the world. 

Engaging customers with experiential retail

Another important trend that’s linked to omnichannel is experiential retail. With stores open again, consumers don’t just want to shop, they want an engaging, personalized experience. As customers travel through a store, omnichannel lets them use their smartphones to access product information, sign up for exclusive events, even order customized products for speedy delivery.

Today’s savvy retailers are using technology such as AR and VR to support personalized shopping experiences, both in-store and online. Customers can use “smart mirrors” to try on clothes virtually, for example, and smartphone cameras make it possible for shoppers to see how furniture will look in their own space. Retailers are also using technology to support the personalized experiences that drive loyalty: personalized assistance, events or classes that help consumers get the most out of their purchases, and access to exclusive offerings are just a few of the ways that retailers can inspire customers and keep them coming back.

This year’s RCC STORE conference features several exciting sessions about experiential retail: Greg Neath and Eunice Chan from TC Transcontinental will share innovative ways to use in-store signage and how retailers can use it to leverage changing customer behaviors, and Joel Gregoire and Carol Wong-Li from Mintel will discuss strategies that can help retailers and food and drink companies increase their connections with customers amid a retail landscape where perceptions of value are changing rapidly.

Technology helps staff deliver the competitive advantage

Experiential retail also highlights the ways that staff are a key competitive advantage. Whether customers are shopping in person or online, interactions with skilled and knowledgeable staff are essential. With technology, retail staff can access optimized data to deliver more personalized experiences. Technology also gives staff tools to support customers in their journeys across multiple channels.

At RCC STORE, Matt Stoll from Ceridian will talk with Best Buy’s Chris Taylor and Longo Brothers Fruit Markets’ Liz Volk about HR perspectives on technology in retail, challenges in recruitment, and how retailers can maintain their culture even when staff are working remotely. This session will also discuss recent research done by Best Buy which shows the correlation between their most engaged employees and their most profitable stores.

The retail industry is looking ahead to the future, and the brands that succeed will be those that find opportunities and build on their unique strengths to meet or exceed consumers’ evolving needs. Learn more about the next era of retail at RCC STORE, a fully virtual event held September 13-16, 2021.

Time is running out! Don’t miss Canada’s biggest retail event on the year. Visit https://www.storeconference.ca/tickets to purchase your tickets. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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