Convenience & Consciousness: What to Expect For The Future Of Retail And Shopping
How leaders in the industry are embracing technology and sustainability as they strategize the new shopping experience.
It’s no surprise that businesses are ramping up their operations as quarantine restrictions are in constant shifts. Among them are fashion retailers eager to adapt and innovate their business according to the needs of their customers and the world. Although each brand has its own ethos, discussing the future of retail with international and local companies reveals a common thread within the industry. In a post-pandemic world, retail will focus on creating a seamless and sustainable shopping experience for the customer. In short, the priority will be convenience and consciousness.
Creating a convenient consumer experience
Paulo Campos, the CEO & Co-Founder of online shopping platform Zalora, says that in the wake of Covid-19, retailers must “have the proper infrastructure in place to truly go digital and omnichannel.” Of course this means that smart retailers must make themselves available online. However, what’s interesting about Paulo’s comment is that digital is not the only focus. He mentions omnichannel as well—referring to the holistic approach that creates a seamless buying experience between digital, brick-and-mortar, and other channels such as telephone. Macy Tan, the owner of local fashion brand Offbeat Alley, echoes this point, observing that video content—live streaming in particular—“is gaining ground a shopping option.”
Having a robust omnichannel, Paulo and Macy both note, means adjusting to cashless transactions. Paulo says, “Mobile and online payments have become essential for businesses to continue to operate in some capacity during this [quarantine] period.” And Macy anticipates that, on top of cashless payment options, retailers will also explore “flexible payment arrangements”—the ultimate goal being a simpler, faster spending experience for the customer.
In addition to creating a more seamless browsing and buying experience, retailers are also ramping up their logistics and troubleshooting. Dan Mejia, Head of Communications at H&M, explains how the global retail giant is relaunching its local online store with significant improvements in delivery, packaging, and customer service. To do this, the company has “invested heavily on AI and Advanced Analytics” in order to predict customer needs, including “what they want, how much they want, and when they want it.” What’s important, Dan says, is that “customers should have frictionless shopping whether they are purchasing in stores or online.”
Embracing social and environmental responsibility
While post-pandemic consumers certainly want convenience, it is increasingly apparent that they also want to buy products from businesses that reflect their values. As we brace for a recession, we can expect customers to be more selective about where their peso goes. According to Paulo, a big indicator for customer loyalty will be whether a company “responded and supported local communities during this period.” In other words, businesses that embraced social and environmental responsibility will draw in new customers while retaining the old.
To do this, some retailers are underscoring their continued response to the global health crisis. Roxanne Farillas, the Co-Founder of Plains & Prints, says, “The adaptation of social distancing, reiterating the importance of proper hygiene, and being responsible and relevant in communicating to our target audience, are just a few simple ways we can adjust to the current situation.” Others are focusing more generally on the fluctuating needs of the world. Offbeat Alley strives to “be empathetic to...consumers and listen to their new priorities.” Meanwhile, addressing a wide range of the public’s concerns, H&M says that it desires to “lead and drive circularity, inclusion, and transparency in our business for a more sustainable fashion industry.”
Of course one of the most straightforward ways to ensure a socially and environmentally conscious shopping circuit is to buy local. This reduces the carbon footprint of sourcing and distribution, while also creating much-needed jobs for Filipinos. Cris Roque, the CEO of Kamiseta, is enjoining shoppers to support homegrown brands. “The call for us now is to be the most nationalistic we can be,” she says. “Life can and will go on for all of us if we keep supporting one another, and this is even more true after the lockdown.”
In the end, the future of retail is in the hands of the customers. Although companies are the ones building the infrastructure and executing the business plan, what leaders in the industry are telling us is that they are simply responding to consumers’ needs and behaviors. And for now, what this means we can expect from the Philippine retail industry is: a strong omnichannel for easy shopping, and a sharp turn towards corporate responsibility, in order to make a positive social, environmental, and economic impact within our borders.
Art by Raff Colmenar
Lead photo courtesy of H&M