In this article, Emmie Cosgrove discusses and explores how retail might change over the next half-decade.

If I ever decide to physically go shopping, I’ll usually make a day out of it. Meet up with a few friends and stroll around Oxford Street popping in and out of stores. I’ll rediscover my love for feeling materials between my fingers, but still hate the fact that if I like something, I’ll have to queue for a changing room and go through the hassle of trying clothes on in store.

Going shopping for me is rare now. Most things I buy are online. If I’m writing an article, or watching a film, I have the choice to browse for items online. I can decide how quickly I want them delivered and try them on in my room when they arrive. No queue needed. If they don’t fit, I’ll send them back. The last time I made a day out of shopping, it was also impossible not to notice the increasing amount of ‘closing down sale’ signs, taped in red across multiple shop windows. The way we shop is changing and it is changing at a rapid pace.

As consumers, we may not even realise this. In 2014, I hated shopping online. I’d make sure to go out to market stalls, charity shops and well known retailers such as Primark or Topshop if I fancied a new outfit. Each brick and motor store felt like its own community in a way. I was a part of that brand as soon as I stepped through the shop door or headed over to a certain stall at a market.

However, online shopping has taken over. The retail industry has always had to adapt to change. This time it’s digital. Technology is constantly advancing and in order for retailers to be successful they need to use technology to their advantage. Even our customer wants and needs are different. Everything must be seamless and the customer is the focus, not the products.

If brick and mortar retailers want to survive in this climate, they need to provide a seamless shopping experience and use technology to provide this. If they don’t, there is a chance they’ll be the next store taping up closing down signs into their windows. It’s the harsh reality of the retail environment.

Though some brick and motor stores will be able to adapt and survive, from 2014 to now there have already been some major changes in retail. So, what could happen in the next five years?

Changing rooms, without having to get changed

Trying on clothes will always be my least favourite part of shopping. Though if you’re in a store and able to try on clothes and have a large selection of items, you might as well. Sometimes it’s easier to see how clothes fit you and know if they don’t, there is going to be no return process. On, off and either in the basket or back on the shelf.

However, at times the queues for the changing room can be so exhaustingly long that you end up putting all your items back or taking them home and hoping they fit right so you don’t have to head back up to the store to return them. For many people, as well, not being able to try on clothes that you order online and not seeing how a certain clothing would fit on you, is one of the main drawbacks of online shopping.

Certain retailers such as Adidas are currently trialing various technology solutions so customers will be able to virtually try on clothing. Having these virtual changing rooms will help decrease the waiting times for changing rooms. It will also have many benefits for e-commerce brands. Imagine shopping on ASOS and being able to try on their clothing from the comfort of your own room.

My favourite brands are texting me

The more certain you are in your personal style and what your likes and dislikes are when it comes to fashion and clothing choices, the more likely you are to have those brands you keep going back to. With various data analytics and how easily accessible our personal information is due to all our online and social media profiles, the brands you keep shopping at know you’re a frequent customer, even if they’re an e-commerce retailer. These retailers can even get an idea of what your personal style is and what type of products you’re more likely to buy. If there is a new product range they know you’ll like, you will most likely get an email from them about this new range.

Brands can communicate with their customers in a more personal way. Even big high street retailers that don’t have a website you can shop through or are far more popular for their physical stores are able to gather customer data in order to digitally communicate with customers. Over the next 5 years, we, as consumers, will definitely see an increase of this. More retailers will be able to text us about upcoming deals, and provide personalized discounts.

If it’s your birthday in a few days a brand you like will have this information and be able to use this to their advantage to give you for instance a 50% off birthday discount. However, if you’re getting discounts and promotions from your favourite brand it feels like a win-win situation.

It’s all sustainable

2019 has been a year with one of the biggest focuses on the environment. The retail industry has a worryingly high carbon footprint and produces a lot of CO2. Fast fashion keeps getting faster and faster. We shop more than we ever have before and fast fashion up has come at a cost. That cost is the environment.

Thankfully, conversations about the environment and the concerns we have towards it are being heard. Environmental activism has become one of the biggest movements and the
giants of the retail industry are noticing this. A lot of retailers are trying to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Instead of using new materials, retailers are focusing on using recycled materials and fabrics to make their products which means recycling isn’t going to waste. If you live in the congestion zone and order from brands such as ASOS, they make sure the van they’re delivering your products in are electric fueled vans rather than ones that run off petrol.

We also have brands that are becoming increasingly popular like Lucy and Yak that put sustainability at the forefront of their brand. More and more retailers are taking action and being environmentally conscious, and sustainability in fashion and retail will continue to grow over the next five years.

Shopping: it’s about you, not what you’re buying

Instead of focusing on promoting products, and the products being the focus of brand marketing and consumerism, we now live in a time where it is all about the customer. Retailers are using digital communication and combining people’s

love for technology and the classic shopping experience to create a seamless shopping experience that puts a massive focus on the customer.

Before, in retail, it was the product that was the focus. If a new product was launched you’d hear about it on TV, sales associates may mention it in store, you’d seen an advert for it on Facebook and could choose if you’d rather order the product you’ve seen advertised online or in store. If you were lucky the website might have an in store click and collect option too. If you added this product to your basket and didn’t order it, you might get one email reminding you to purchase the product. That would be it.

Currently, you can go into a store, try stuff on and order it online. If you shopped through a certain brand’s website, add a product to your basket and didn’t check out, you could drive past that brand’s brick and mortar store and get a text saying that the product you didn’t actually buy can also be bought in that store. Though this still counts as product promotion and is a way to get consumers to purchase goods, the communication and brand reminders and promotions and discounts you can get make it feel so personal.

It’s no longer the brand’s products that are at their heart, but it’s you. The customer. Brands want you to have a seamless shopping experience with no clogs in the way. They make you feel as if by shopping with them and having a flawless shopping experience, you’ll be far more loyal to said brand. You feel at one with them. As customers, we thrive off this feeling of exclusivity and love it when brands make us feel a part of them. The seamless shopping experience and the customer being the focus of the brand has created a shift in what we want as customers and will continue to be the way we like brands to treat us and how we want to shop.

Though five years may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, our consumer behavior changes so quickly that retail has no choice but to change with it. It can feel scary when thinking about how advanced technology has become and how this has impacted the way we shop and think about shopping and fashion.

However, combining technology with retailers focus on sustainability means over the next five years there could be some really beneficial changes in the retail environment.

It’s exciting to think about and as a consumer, thinking about how you shop and the change you’ve noticed in retail is a really interesting avenue to explore.

You can read more of Emmie’s work over on Twitter @stylesemmie

Images via Pixabay and Unsplash

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