2020 will be the year of considerate retailing, says tcc global

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By Bryan Roberts, global insights director at tcc global

2019 was full of headlines about the struggling high street and Brexit uncertainty. With so many unknowns, it’s challenging to correctly predict the trends that will shape 2020, but it’s not all doom and gloom. 

The past year has seen retailers focus on a huge range of issues, from the war on plastic to digital transformation. 2020 will bring a little bit more stability. Retailers will look for new ways to lock in shopper loyalty, an instore renaissance will ensure that the high street remains as vibrant as it can be and the sustainability trend will become more nuanced. 

The year of subscription loyalty

Shopper loyalty seems harder to achieve with each passing minute, but subscription models and premium services can form better relationships between retailer and customer. Health and beauty retailers have been offering these services for a while, but the launch of Clubcard Plus – Tesco’s first subscription service – seemed like a big surprise. Of course, e-commerce customers should be well familiar with Amazon Prime, but shoppers have not seen big grocers implementing such large-scale premium loyalty schemes. 

Clubcard Plus looks so promising because it offers genuine rewards. Shoppers can save up to 10% on two big shops a month, which many customers will see as a great deal. This offer will be enticing to customers that may have previously done top up shops at Tesco, but preferred a discounter for their bigger trips. Real rewards mean shoppers will be far more likely to remain loyal to Tesco rather than jumping ship to other retailers. It seems that Tesco might have cracked the code to keeping customers loyal. In 2020 we’ll see more and more grocers adopting similar models. 

Retailers using in-store experience to offer what digital can’t

There’s little let up for bricks and mortar stores as e-commerce continues its growth. But 2020 will see an in-store shopping revival, with retailers investing more in delivering excellent customer experience and memorable, real-life experiences.

While online shopping is virtually unstoppable, physical stores are here to stay. For example, John Lewis has recently launched an ‘experience playground’ in Southampton. The store allows consumers to shop in a social way and gives shoppers unique and tailored experiences in categories like cosmetics, fashion, food and electronics. 2020 will see more retailers focus on delivering unique customer experiences that go beyond just shopping but also offer a sense of community. 

More selective implementation of new technologies

As emerging technologies develop year on year, retailers may be tempted to adopt each new piece of flashy tech. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. In 2020, retailers need to focus on implementing new technology that has genuine relevance to a shopper’s experience. 

Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s trialled till-free shops, but the introduction of this technology resulted in long queues as shoppers attempted to pay in the traditional way. The three-month experiment ended with Sainsbury’s reverting back and reinstating checkouts. 

This isn’t to say retailers should avoid new technology. It can be used to great effect. For example, Adidas opened the “most digital store ever” to bring customers closer to the design process of its clothes and trainers. To ensure success, retailers need the technology to bring customers true value. Shoppers can be stubborn, and the newest technology maybe not be as appealing as retailers might think. 2020 will see a more practical and selective approach to implementing new technologies.

Nuanced sustainability practices

The environment has been one of the biggest topics of 2019, as consumer behaviour shifts towards more sustainable shopping. The latest John Lewis report suggests a greater focus on being eco-conscious, as Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg have inspired people around the world.

When shoppers hear that paper packaging is replacing plastic, the immediate reaction is positive. However, studies have shown that not all so-called sustainable packaging provides a smaller carbon footprint. Shoppers and retailers need to consider other variables, such as energy and greenhouse gasses associated with the production of alternatives to plastic.

We go into the new year with many unknown variables in play. However, what we have learned in the past decade is that consumers are looking for unique experiences. With many retailers understanding how hard it is to maintain customer loyalty, 2020 will see even more consideration for shoppers’ needs. From new models of loyalty schemes to memorable in-store experiences, the new decade will see huge amounts of innovation.