Retail 2022: It Begins With E

Image: Author

It’s December and we know what that means. No, not trying to decide whether to go plastic or real this year or organising a socially distanced Christmas Day gathering. No, because if it’s December, that can only mean one thing; retail predictions for the coming year.

Now, I’ve been doing this for a good number of years, however, such is the state of flux which retail currently finds itself in, that perhaps this time around, it’s harder than ever to make predictions with any kind of certainty, but that shouldn’t stop us trying!

Here are four of my retail trend predictions for 2022, the four E’s if you will. I’ve deliberately kept to what I believe are the more mainstream rather than some of the eclectic but nevertheless exciting ‘micro-trends’ that will inevitably appear over the course of the next year.

These are mine, I’m sure you will have yours.

Experience

We seem to have been discussing retail experience for almost as long as retail has been around. Certainly over a hundred years ago, Harry Selfridge understood the value of giving his customers a great experience. But it seems that it’s in need of a much needed injection of fresh thinking.

Because, let’s face it, a juice bar and a DJ don’t really cut it these days.

You’ll be familiar with the image above of the National Gallery. Here’s another well known institution of an entirely different kind:

Image: El Osceola Star

Unrelated? To me they have something deep in common with not only each other but also represent something which retail can learn from.

Most of us have been to a theme park or a museum or a gallery many times in our lives; and what was the abiding memory from the experience? Just that, the memory of the experience. More than anything, retail is now in the business of creating memories. Hopefully good ones.

Engagement

Every poll (of which there seem to be many these days), every survey, every opinion piece is talking about it, so is digital enablement finally upon us? I prefer to ask a slightly different question; why digital?

After all, hasn’t analogue served us so well for many decades, so why invest millions in digital?

It’s almost trite to ask that question but of course what we actually need to understand is the purpose of digital. There might be many reasons but for me the primary one comes down to one thing; engagement.

Because your customers want to feel engaged like never before, and that means meeting them whenever and wherever they may be. And not only that — and here’s the hard part — it means earning the right to become involved in their conversations.

Done well, this opens up all kinds of opportunities, done clumsily, it alienates customers and results in them instantly switching to their next favourite brand. It’s a tricky thing to pull off and I predict that much effort will go into this during 2022.

Check out the likes of Critizr, Oktium or Maybe* to understand different ways to better engage and understand your audience.

Empowerment

Problem is, all that digital enablement is going to be wasted without one vital — some would say, primary — ingredient. Your store teams.

For decades seen as a cost burden, store teams are now the number one differentiator in making your brand stand out from the rest. Why? Because retail is all about human engagement and interaction, and your customers all just happen to be……human.

Image: Situ Live / WW

And if you want to see a perfect example of this in action, check out Situ Live at Westfield London. The team there are all aspiring actors, and they bring the venue to life with conversations, storytelling, performances and demonstrations.

It’s just about as far away from traditional retail transactional selling as it’s possible to get, and all the better for it. A glimpse into the future of retail? Quite possibly.

Emotional

Still the best description of online goes to Boxpark MD, Roger Wade when he described it as “being like watching fireworks on TV”. And this perfectly sums up the clear advantage that physical stores will always have over their online competition.

Because when we shop, we’re now shopping for experiences and those are best enjoyed via all our senses. And just as great attractions, theatre or concerts stir our emotions, so too should retail.

No longer the transactional relationship, retail has so much more to offer and the good news is that we are only just scraping the surface.

As I said, I’m sure you will have your personal favourite trends for the coming year, however one thing is clear, opportunity for retail beckons like never before.

And the best part is that all this requires is a culture of experimentation, of trial and error and being tolerant of failure.

Perhaps Harry was right all along.

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Global Industry Leader Retail at Software AG, founder Retail Reflections, best selling author, former Forbes contributor, global retail influencer.

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Andrew Busby

Andrew Busby

Global Industry Leader Retail at Software AG, founder Retail Reflections, best selling author, former Forbes contributor, global retail influencer.

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