The Three Pillars of Retail’s 2021 Digital Transformation

With 2021 ending shortly and 2022 kicking off soon, we thought now is a good time for retailers to hit pause. This article represents a time to reflect on how retail is becoming more consumer-driven in new and unexpected ways. From TikTok to Nike, we highlight three key trends that stood tall and reshaped the industry for good.

1. Omnipresent Omnichannel 

Retail sectors that are hesitant or unsure of how to adopt digital consumer offerings must consider that consumers live in an Amazon-driven world. Instant, seamless and accessible shopping is the present and future of retail.

In short, consumers want options in what PYMNTS dubbed earlier this year the “bring-it-to-me economy”, a digital shift that accelerated under COVID-19 but has now taken root over the past 18 months in a wave of consumers living and working from home.

See also: Bring-It-to-Me Economy Ascends as Consumers Embrace Home-Centric Lifestyles

It’s a trend that is showing no signs of reversing, especially with omicron now raging across the U.S. and the world.

“I think people who are discovering live commerce are being surprisingly shocked at how good it is,” Arthur Veytsman, co-founder and CEO of Immerss, told PYMNTS earlier this year. “If you’re a store that doesn’t offer that, then the customer is going to move on to your competitor who’s better at servicing the client.”

Read more: Retailers Embrace Clienteling to Make the Shopping Experience More Personal

Take the grocery industry, where only 1% of paper coupons in grocery stores are redeemed.

Digital coupons, on the other hand, have 15% redemption rates, perhaps because they are much more data-driven and can be more easily personalized to reflect consumers’ varying needs.

With 46% of consumers now ordering more groceries online than pre-COVID-19, according to PYMNTS research, digital discounts not only work, but they also make a lot of sense.

Related: Grocers Can Leverage Contagion Concerns to Boost Digital Adoption

Across other non-food retail sectors, omnichannel offerings will become a seamless part of the typical consumer purchasing experience, PYMNTS predicted.

Consider, for instance, Bed Bath & Beyond wanting to modernize its supply chain and revamp merchandise operations — or the Whiplash-Ryder acquisition tied to omnichannel offerings serving over 250 brands in warehouses covering nearly 7 million square feet.

Even Chipotle is on track to be the Uber of the food business. (Also of interest, you can now apply to work at Chipotle via TikTok, part of the burrito-maker’s effort to tap into younger employees.)

Read more: Chipotle Follows in Uber’s Footsteps With Omnichannel Innovation

Digital upgrades can also be seen in the way some retailers are leveraging tech to ensure consumers can easily order out-of-stock items, as a proactive way of not losing out on a sale.

“We’re about to see just how much that enthusiasm — for cross-channel conduits and ways and means to get your meat and greens — translates onto the global stage,” PYMNTS wrote. “The trends seem in place for ‘omni retail’s’ growth to continue.”

See also: Retailers Embrace Clienteling to Make the Shopping Experience More Personal

“This is about making a deep connection with a consumer tied to the emotional thrill of a truly unique purchase that speaks to them and adds value and joy to their life,” PYMNTS stated.

Related: 2021 is the Year of the NFT and Omnichannel Auction Houses

2. We Hear You

Consumers are watching retailers’ moves and have great interest in what the companies they buy from are doing to make the world around them a better place.

For example, Nike recently announced plans to design and sell products tied to consumers’ values on topics such as diversity and inclusion, underrepresented athletes, and more.

See also: Nike Pledges Further Consumer Connection and Innovation To Extend Athleisure Trend

Also consider how the startup Future now offers a Visa card that rewards consumers 5% back on green spending, and how the banking startup Aspiration now plants a tree for every transaction made.

“We’re planting more trees than there are in Central Park every day,” Aspiration told PYMNTS. “We think of our payments mechanisms as a sustainability delivery mechanisms.”

Read more: FutureCard Offers Rewards for ‘Green Spending’

Indeed, sustainability as a delivery mechanism is a fascinating concept. It’s one many companies, such as Basware, take very seriously.

For instance, last May, Basware announced a strategy to make it easier for consumers to see which businesses were minority-owned. To do so, it granted direct consumer access to diverse data. The consumer benefit, said Basware, was that it gave them a holistic supply chain view. And companies benefit by transforming information into actionable strategies.

When consumers have what they need at their fingertips to make educated and informed decisions, everyone benefits from heightened transparency.

Related: Basware, Dun & Bradstreet Work On Supplier Diversity Identification

3. Re-Engaging With Engagement

Forget about brick-and-mortar — today, some companies are looking to engage consumers in virtual worlds, through virtual reality or the metaverse.

For example, consider how TikTok is getting into the restaurant business and is opening its own restaurant chain. TikTok announced earlier this month that it will be creating 1,000 virtual kitchens as part of a partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts.

This move, wrote PYMNTS, poses a threat to quick-service restaurants everywhere and the order aggregators who serve them.

Read more: TikTok Takes on QSR Giants with 1,000 Virtual Kitchens

With a menu that will change each quarter, TikTok Kitchen, developed alongside GrubHub, will feature menu items that went viral on TikTok.

Retailers’ forays into new and different consumer engagement tactics like this are becoming more common.

For instance, Nike is looking to dip its toes into the metaverse. As PYMNTS reported, Nike recently launched the three-dimensional immersion experience NIKELAND on Roblox.

See also: Nike Creates Virtual World Within Roblox

What’s Next 

As much as eCommerce and digital transactions are evolving rapidly, many retailers would be well-served by hitting pause and truly listening to what consumers want and need next.

Offerings that meet consumers where they are, that support greater societal morals at scale and aren’t afraid to take unconventional risks that foster new levels of community will drive the future of retail.