One of the key events that we have experienced from being quarantined in our homes is a shift in the way people purchase goods and services. Say goodbye to the days of walking into physical stores, and instead, say hello to buying our groceries, household appliances, or even our favorite pair of shoes within a few clicks of a button on our mobile phones. As more retailers are using technology and cloud-based business models to adapt to evolving competition and consumer behavior, online retail will continue to be defined by its ease of use.
For business, the future of online shopping will optimize the customer experience. Firstly, brands will prioritize seamless experiences to win new customers. Whether people are scrolling through Instagram or searching the depths of a brand website, customers now have access to nearly unlimited products, complemented by customer reviews and even manufacturer information.
Secondly, brands will build creative new digital experiences to unlock the future of retail. Shopping will feel incredibly personalized, and one is likely to see your digital mannequin quickly change outfits, depending on the products you have selected.
Third and lastly, retailers are looking toward the use of virtual reality, artificial reality (AR), and 3D technology to interact with customers. A virtual ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience can be applied to a diverse range of products and across numerous omni channels, including websites, apps, and social media. Imagine testing to see how a new coffee table or couch fits in your living room or a pair of sunglasses on your face; these are customer experiences that are likely to reshape the future of online retail. The consumer is the focus.
Businesses, therefore, are shaping their supply chains and operations for the improvement of the customer experience.
An important aspect of online retail for the future is a greater emphasis on sustainable practices and greater consciousness about our environment. Already, consumers are gravitating to brands that offer fast, free, and sustainable shipping. As seen in Europe, almost one-quarter of consumers would change stores if they did not think that the available products were sustainable. Greater focus on hygiene, organic products, and sustainability have become much more important than ever before in light of the novel Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, brands are designing a future customer experience that places people’s social needs, such as feeling a sense of community, at the forefront of their product offerings. For example, Walmart is already changing the marketplace experience by enabling more branding opportunities like lifestyle photography to replace a massive product dump.
With 38% of consumers already intending to shop online and visit stores that provide greater experiences, it is likely that a community-focused approach will be the norm.
More importantly, it cements the future of online retail in our daily lives.
Looking toward the future, greater emphasis will be placed on online retail. Brands are no longer looking to expand their brick-and-mortar stores. Adapting to changes in consumer behavior and greater consciousness of our environment, brands are investing in the online experience. E-commerce is currently at an all-time high. As countries locked down and retailers were forced to close, e-commerce had 10 years of growth in 3 months.
In the future, e-commerce will only grow and improve.
Nevertheless, in recent years, online retail has attracted severe criticism due to excessive forms of pollution. Researchers in the United Kingdom have estimated that shopping at brick-and-mortar stores for frequently bought items results in lower greenhouse emissions than ordering the products online.
This is because shoppers purchase more goods online, which produces more carbon emissions through packaging waste, transportation, warehouse activities, and delivery.
In order to combat the environmental impact of online retail, Walmart and Amazon have provided electric vehicle chargers at more than a hundred of their store locations and have worked with suppliers to reduce emissions from their global supply chain. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has also announced a more general plan to fight climate change by making the company carbon neutral by 2040 and meeting the Paris climate agreement ten years early.
Although online retail poses many risks to the environment, the world’s largest retail companies have taken proactive measures to ensure the sustainability of their products and services. Hence, the future of consumption promises benefits for the user and the world.
Thus, looking at the key trends that will impact consumption in the future, it is clear that three stand out. One, sustainability will be at the forefront of important public and private decisions, impacting the food and retail industry. Two, technological advances promise greater efficiency and effectiveness to produce a more engaging consumer experience. Three, in the digital space, the retail industry will prioritize consumers, designing online applications to improve consumer retention.