Mapping an independent retail strategy for the future

independent retail
The concept of business, technology, the Internet and the network. A young entrepreneur working on a virtual screen of the future and sees the inscription:

The impact of 2020 was felt hardest by local independent retailers who don’t boast the contingency plans or rainy day funds of big-box counterparts. Regardless, they innovated to adapt to the challenge.

Innovation isn’t solely for big-box retailers. In fact, smaller, independent retailers have the ability to be more adaptable and flexible in adopting the strategies customers need in 2021. So, as you’re mapping out your retail strategy this year, here are some trends to help you stay ahead of the curve.

Contactless payments

An increased focus on health and safety over last year, coupled with demand for more flexible payment options, caused a significant jump in the popularity of contactless payments. With more than 83 per cent of point-of-sale card transactions being contactless, it’s not a trend we expect to subside soon. Shoppers are looking for added convenience and quicker processing times at all points of the retail experience, and contactless payments enable retailers to deliver a clean, quick and convenient payment process. If you’re yet to introduce contactless payments in your store, consider popping it at the top of your resolutions this year.

Innovative delivery methods

The pandemic-induced spike in online shopping generated an 82 per cent increase in e-commerce, which simultaneously prompted a jump in delivery volumes. Due to delayed delivery times, shoppers looked to alternative options, such as click and collect and curbside pick-up, to ensure timely, convenient delivery. These alternative options will likely become the norm, as shoppers search for more convenient, cost- and time-effective options. Introducing flexible delivery and returns options will go a long way to boosting customer satisfaction and convenience, long after payment is made.

Adoption of personalisation technology

Innovative retail tech designed to deliver outstanding, personalised customer experiences should be a key focus too. While,as a small retailer, you might not be able to compete with the large retailers on price and product variety, the ability to be nimble and deliver personalised, delightful experiences is valued greatly by consumers. Innovative retail tech such as online consultations and virtual reality, combined with cloud-based point-of-sale systems that provide valuable customer insights, will take your customer experience to the next level.

Heightened focus on direct-to-consumer models

With the rise of e-commerce platforms and social media features such as Instagram Shopping, the number of direct-to-consumer brands has spiked recently. Last year’s lockdowns accelerated this, encouraging retailers to treat social media like storefront, selling directly to their engaged audience. This trend will continue in 2021, with social media shopping set to become key to promoting direct-to-consumer brands as they expand their shopping features. Recognising the importance of your digital presence, and showcasing your products directly to consumers gives you more control, on more platforms, and ensures greater shopper satisfaction as a result.

Rediscover the in-store experience

As much as innovative retail tech should be front of mind in 2021, e-commerce isn’t replacing bricks-and-mortar, but enhancing it. Google research reveals that the volume of “Can I/to buy” searches + “near me” has increased sixfold in the last two years, so don’t ignore the power of a physical presence in engaging with shoppers and providing delightful experiences face to face. Use personalisation, click and collect and other methods to encourage people to visit your store. After all, following 2020, delightful face-to-face experience could go a long way in re-establishing our pursuit of normality.

After the world changed in 2020, 2021 is about developing the savvy, safe and sophisticated processes your customers need. By considering these trends as you’re mapping out your retail strategy, you might find it that little bit easier to provide the delightful, personalised retail experiences shoppers will crave for years to come.

Vaughan Fergusson, Founder, Vend