TRENDING: The return to in store retail

by Louise Burgers. Will there be a rush to return to in store retail? Global pundits seem to think so.

by Louise Burgers. Will there be a rush to return to in store retail? US publication, TotalRetail, along with Napco Research, predict that there will be a “rush of pent-up in store shopping demand”. And it’s all going to come right back to customer experience – as every single trend report and expert in our industry, both local and global, has been saying for the past two years.

It is exactly because of the massive challenges the retail industry has faced during the pandemic, that retailers have to work harder to get their customers back in store. It is a fact that foot traffic in retailers and malls is rising in most regions of the world; however, they are not yet at pre-pandemic levels. “Retailers must ensure they’re creating great in-store shopping experiences. After a year when the retail industry made major adjustments, preserving a positive customer experience is essential. In today’s omnichannel retail environment, that could mean meeting customers where they are, from BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store), returning online purchases, simply browsing in-store merchandise, to curbside pickup. And, of course, retailers must also ensure the experience is as safe as possible for customers and employees,” TotalRetail reports.

The rise of ecommerce, social commerce and mobile apps, have all disrupted the retail environment as much as Covid has done; leading to a shift in shopping behaviours that are here to stay (like home delivery or curbside pick-up by customers). But, the fact remains, that customers still get the whole brand experience inside a retailer’s bricks-and-mortar store. “That is why it’s more critical than ever for retailers to reinvent physical stores for the future as part of a true omnichannel strategy,” states the TotalRetail report.

Key takeaways include actions that retailers can take to bring back customers in store:

  • Staffing: Retailers must ensure that they have enough trained staff to handle increased demand. Leverage your store teams to ensure feedback from staff and customers is captured and needs addressed. They also need to be plugged into technology to make sure all the customer’s needs are met.
  • Opportunities: Many shoppers still feel the same indifference to shopping malls as they did before the pandemic. There is a huge opportunity for mall managers to collaborate with retailers and brands, and look for opportunities together; integrating technology to provide seamless customer service and customer experiences – from the parking lot to the restrooms, entertainment, dining out, and of course, shopping.
  • On-demand: Consumers have become more demanding with the rise of digital on-demand products and services – and they expect the same instant, seamless instore now. Retailers today are competing with their own ecommerce sites in store. They need to realise that customer behaviour has shifted and they will win back customers in store with the right experiences.
  • Trust: Winning back the trust of consumers is another critical factor. Trust in the supply chain, as global disruptions continue; trust in the health and safety in store; trust in labelling and the sourcing of ingredients, as consumers move to healthier choices; and trust that good service will return.

It is indeed a new era in retail, the TotalRetail research has found: “We know from our work with more than 1,100 shopping centres in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific that the store is making a comeback. The difference this time is that landlords and shopping centre operators know they need to have a direct relationship with consumers so they can better serve them. A big part of the solution is evolving the physical shopping centre from physical marketplaces — which they’ve always been — to digital-enabled marketplaces.”

Source: TotalRetail.


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Louise Burgers is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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