In the past year, so much has changed for businesses that it may be challenging to identify the consumer trends that are here to stay versus those that will quickly fade away. Understanding what customers expect from retailers to earn their loyalty and buying power in 2022 will help make the road ahead easier to navigate. Retailers who focus on convenience, safety, and the consumer’s desire to seek fulfillment and self-actualization on a higher level are already on the right track.
Convenience and Safety Remain a Priority
Customers like the pickup and delivery services retailers began offering in earnest last year. Curbside pickup helps shoppers get merchandise faster and avoid long lines. With more people working from home, taking a quick break to pick up an order can be a welcomed diversion. It’s also easy to put the kids in the car and drive through a designated lane without the hassle of parking.
Shoppers who prefer to shop in-store expect retailers to practice precautions that visibly show them that safety is a priority. Some stores have installed plastic shields at checkout and placed markers at 6-ft. intervals to promote social distancing. Placing hand sanitizer throughout the store is convenient for customers and employees.
Digital and Physical Stores Converge
Emerging technologies accelerate change throughout the supply chain to make the pipeline respond more efficiently to consumer demand. Whether transactions for a specific store happen online or in-store, the experiences merge in the minds of consumers. They expect the same level of high-quality service regardless of how or where their products are purchased. To remain competitive small and mid-size business owners should leverage the data collected by POS systems to understand better their customers and the products they prefer to buy.
While specific product categories that need to be touched, tried-on, or demonstrated benefit more from being presented in a physical store, others thrive online. “When it comes to shopping, it’s apparent now that the consumer does not recognize any lines of demarcation at all,” says Matt Powell, senior sports industry advisor for NPD. “Shopping is all one thing to them now, no matter where it happens. The faster retailers can recognize and accept that premise, the better—and more profitable—they will become.”
More Mobile Wallets and Less Cash
Many people avoid using cash for safety because it passes through so many hands. They also follow warnings to avoid personal contact while shopping and at the checkout. Cashiers no longer touch credit cards or ask customers to type into keyboards in many stores. Cashless payment options such as mobile wallets are increasingly popular, especially with younger shoppers.
- 51 percent of shoppers in the U.S. use some form of contactless payments
- 55 percent of U.S. shoppers think a smartphone is the most efficient way to make a purchase
- 73 percent of shoppers want advanced technology for more checkout options
Retailers who have not updated their point-of-sale technology to accept this payment method miss an opportunity to acquire new customers and generate sales. Incorporating these wireless devices allows retailers to accept payments from anywhere rather than specific checkout locations.
Enhance Shopping Experiences
What customers want is evolving. Some people feel they can no longer control many things that affect their lives. They want to use their time wisely and regain the sense of comfort they’ve lost. It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to their life before the pandemic as the good old days. Feeling nostalgic has led them to buy products that remind them of childhood or revisit experiences that helped them cope in difficult times. Going to the neighborhood hardware store or home center can help get fresh ideas about a project or see a familiar face. “It will be important for retailers to produce elements of nostalgia as they envision the future of their business and the store of the future, which must not only enhance shopping experiences but also promote safety,” says Andrea Bell, WGSN director of insight.
The pandemic altered our view of the world and how each of us fits into it. In comments to the Wall Street Journal, Euromonitor noted, “The global pandemic forced consumers to reconfigure their lives and test their mental resilience amid health risks, economic hardships, and isolation. Now they are reassessing their priorities, identities, and work-life balance.”