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We live in a hybrid world. In this episode, Women in Retail Leadership Circle Co-Founder Melissa Campanelli joins BigCommerce’s Meghan Stabler to discuss digitizing the offline experience. As we enter a post-pandemic world, some consumers are eager to experience offline retail again, while others prefer shopping online.
Learn how brands can create a unified shopping experience across both channels. Plus: Holiday 2021 predictions for a hybrid retail landscape.
Meghan Stabler: We’ve gone through tremendous downs and ups over the past year and a half. So how would you describe the current retail landscape, and what’s it looking like for the future?
Melissa Campanelli: “I feel like it’s looking brighter. Retail has survived the immediate pandemic triage period (I call it), but it’s still present unfortunately, and it will continue to shape the year ahead. I feel like the pandemic is like a thread weaving through almost every trend the industry faces in 2021. And in some cases it’s speeding up changes that many retailers have been in the process of making and others sparking any unexpected developments.”
MS: What are you seeing as to how retailers now have to adapt to and adopt these new consumer expectations?
MC: “Just as Amazon sort of created a new consumer when it became such a huge part of our world (I don’t know how many years ago at this point) — I feel like the pandemic has also kind of done that and it’s fueled a surge in online shopping and in-store and curbside pickups. So I feel like it is accelerating in a trend toward a hybrid retail model. And I think that will continue.
“Retailers are expecting when they go into a retail store that they’ll be able to pick up something that they may have purchased online. The store might allow for onsite returns, but at the same time, they do want be able to touch and feel product, and they maybe want to get some customer service advice from a salesperson. A hybrid store is the future. I can’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.”
MS: Let’s talk about how that physical experience now has to change because of this hybrid model. What do you say to a physical retailer on at they need to be thinking about for an in-store experience?
MC: “You’re right. The retail experience is definitely going to change. It’s going to start, obviously, with stores that are going to have smaller footprints. And they’re going to have some safety precautions and things like that, but they’re also going to be more tech-enabled. There’s going to be more Wi-Fi in store. There’s going to be the opportunity to do online shopping in the store. In-store and curbside pickups. All this is leading toward a hybrid retail model.
“The hybrid store of the future is also going to be able to handle multiple forms of fulfillment and returns. They’re just going to be sort of a different model than what I think we think of today and what we think of as a traditional retail store.”
MS: Are there any other retail trends that you’re seeing that should be top of mind for brand owners or ecommerce managers or the store owners?
MC: “Sure. I mean, we talk about this all the time, both in my work with Total Retail and Women in Retail, there has been a huge surge in buy-online-pickup-in-store. I think this trend is going to continue, and I think retailers that aren’t doing it now really need to take it seriously.
“In 2021, I think augmented reality is finally going to be a thing that’s going to allow customers to virtually try on clothes. I’ve been hearing more and more about vendors popping up that offer that kind of service. I feel like it’s just going to become more popular and the technology is going to get better.
“This is an ongoing topic that I’ve been talking about for like the last 10 years, but it’s personalization — delivering brand messaging and content that’s tailored to individual customers. I mean, it’s always been an important part of a retailer’s marketing strategy, but thanks to data advances or AI technology advances, I think it’s easier to achieve and can become even more popular in 2021.
“And then this one is livestream shopping. I feel like that’s been popping up more. I just actually had a call about it before this call. And this obviously was hot during COVID, which as you know, it means consumers can buy products directly via a live stream.”
MS: What do you see as being sort of the big predictions for 2021 coming up and the holiday season?
MC: “The 2020 holiday season actually did post better-than-expected retail sales growth. And obviously it’s because of ecommerce. So I’m assuming that the outlook for 2021 is solid as well. Although I have heard that retail may see a hit because more and more people are going to start to travel and spend time outside at restaurants and concerts. But I really do think that retail is going to be gangbusters this year.
“So how should they prepare? I mean, they should obviously prepare for large volumes of online shoppers. So, they really have to make sure that their online area is ready to go. They should obviously always make sure their websites are up to speed. That’s always a great idea to test beforehand. They should obviously get the word out about shopping deals earlier than later.
“But I also feel like a lot of the retailers that I’m talking to are starting to become very concerned about the whole what I like to call the ‘Third Party Cookie Apocalypse’ — which I think it’s already started. But I think it’s going to start in earnest in 2022, which we all know is going to make it more difficult to advertise online and measure effectiveness.
“So, I think many are planning to start — maybe not quite holiday, but maybe before holiday — start sort of figuring out ways to rely on other things besides cookies, and sort of create a data strategy that they’ll be able to use going forward. So, that is definitely something that people have been talking to us about.”