2021: The High Street Lives on 

High street shoppers

As the evolution of the high street continues, Andrew Howell, Global Marketing Director at K3 Business Technologies reveals his predictions for the retail industry in 2021.

With restrictions still in place, the high street has undoubtedly taken a hit. In fact, footfall is still low with data from Springboard revealing that during the first week of December numbers were still 41% below last year’s figures. But this will not last forever. Shopping, after all, is a social event and one consumer’s will not give up easily.

The rapid rise of digital that has occurred as a result of this year’s disruptive events is nothing new. It may have been accelerated but it was always going to happen. Digital is now key to ensuring those on high street are meeting the customer where they want to be met. In 2021, the high street will deliver on the consumer expectations as shops and brands become seamlessly interconnected with online retail.

As part of this, we will see a consistent growth of services such as click and collect, as well as experience stores where customers can try out the latest products or get help and advice. We will ultimately end up with a blend of the new virtual services that have been born from lockdown, with new users for high streets and physical stories. All of which is positive news for consumers.

Digitalisation of retail: it’s not just a buzzword

Over the next twelve months, as retailers continue to digitalise, the focus absolutely has to be delivering an excellent customer experience and service. This is the very backbone of retail.

In 2021 there will be two key elements to digitalisation within retail.

Firstly, we will see an increase and continued adoption of seamless integration across the entire retail chain. From the factory floor right through to the customer’s hand, the process will be harmonious, uninterrupted and smoothly interconnected. This will be crucial to enabling retailers to efficiently maintain stock levels, develop improved products and better personalise services to truly deliver on what the customer wants.

Secondly, with the emergence of new technology within retail such as AI, data analytics and machine learning will be front and centre in 2021. Coupled with improved integration, these technologies will further enhance processes and services that will build closer relationships between retailers and customers. It is important to remember that digitalisation has no endpoint; it is a continuous process.

As retailers continue on their digitalisation journey, they need to ensure that the services they offer are not tied to technology that is restricted up to a certain point.

As we head into the new year, retailers must make sure the systems, services and processes they adopt facilitate flexibility. In doing so, they can progress forward with a technology strategy that is created for growth and can continually evolve to meet the constantly shifting customer expectations.

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