What will the store of the future look like post-Covid?

26 May 2020

The future of bricks and mortar retail is more under threat than ever, as Covid-19 pushes consumers online at a pace that would have taken years pre-Covid. What will the store of the future need to look like to attract consumers back and mitigate the risk of the death of bricks and mortar shopping?

In our final week of our look at the post-Covid environment, we focus on the store of the future through the lens of different sectors. We start the week with a view on the trends we can expect to see across all sectors with our Group Strategy and Marketing Director, Gordon Neil.

"Bricks and mortar retail have played a big role in all our lives, but Covid-19 has changed all that, forcing all of us online faster than ever before. To survive, bricks and mortar retail needs to draw us back, giving us a reason to be there and rebuild our love and trust in the physical shopping experience. I’ve picked out 6 trends that I expect to see across all sectors to help bring consumers back:

1. The rise of open spaces and a focus on cleanliness

Health conscious consumers will look for open spaces and cleanliness as the essentials to be drawn into a store. If we look back to pre-Covid, it’s surprising how many consumers were willing to accept shopping environments that weren’t as clean as they should be; not necessarily unsafe, just not ‘clean’ to the standards we’re all setting for ourselves now. Open spaces that give consumers a sense of room to breathe will also be important, how those open spaces are used to increase dwell time comes later in this list…

2. A remodelling of retail footprints to fit the demands of consumers - when smaller is better

The consensus that local is better in the post-Covid environment could suggest that smaller retail footprints will be successful, as neighbourhoods are filled with retail environments catering for every need of the local community. I don’t believe that we’ve seen the end of large store footprints, but I can see how those large footprints will need to be remodelled to deliver a range of micro shopping opportunities and experiences within one environment.

Some of the UK and Ireland’s largest retailers are well placed to capitalise on this, using the space they have to drive dwell time and entertain consumers with unique experiences that can only be achieved in-store.

We can also expect to see a remodelling of stores to fit the demands of the new consumer in terms of what they buy. Food stores and technology stores are good examples of sectors where demand for different categories has changed significantly during lockdown, and some of this will be permanent change, forcing retailers to rethink their layout to match demand and retain product availability.

3. Showrooming in every sector, not just a select few

With consumers moving online in droves, we can expect bricks and mortar retail to be the place consumers go to experience and learn about products before buying. The technology sector in particular was used in this way pre-Covid, but if feels like this is a trend that will now apply everywhere.

For example, the exponential growth we’ve seen in home cooking and baking provides retailers with the opportunity to showroom and showcase ingredients and products to consumers that provide them with ideas and inspiration.

4. Technology drives everything from customer safety to engaging experiences

Continued social distancing measures and the health conscious consumer will see further growth in the use of technology when it comes to retail. Think areas like controlling customer numbers through technology like Count Me, store navigation apps and payment options.

We should also expect to see faster adoption of AR and VR to provide consumer experiences, but also in a practical sense, for example, virtually trying on clothes vs traditional dressing rooms. In the fashion sector, the combination of shopping through ‘touch’ whilst being able to virtually try on lots of outfits without the need to visit the changing room could be the future.  

5. The resurgence of the in-store experience, delivering what you can’t get at home

The in-store experience isn’t only here to stay, it could be the driver to bring consumers back. People will thrive at the opportunity to personally engage, as long as it’s delivered in a safe way. Retail is a great environment to offer that, with big events some way off and consumers wary of being in large groups when 2 metres has become the accepted social distance.

Test and learn will be key in understanding how to make experiences engaging. Think areas like product demonstrations and getting the most out of the products you already own.

In an environment that’s become bland and sterile in recent years, product demonstration and sampling can make a comeback. After all, shopping is a sensory experience that should stimulate all the senses, not simply relying at the consumer looking at a product on a shelf.

Helping consumers get the most out of their products is something we’ve seen little of in physical retail, but as a way of driving loyalty it could become key. In sectors like technology, helping the consumer get the most out of their new purchase through engaging education, either paid or unpaid, will make sure they remember the brand experience and come back next time.

Lastly, none of this will succeed without retailers and brands working together. Retailers will need brands to support them to bring consumers back, and vice versa. If there was ever a time to work in harmony and create a 1 + 1 = 3 equation, it’s now.

Join us through the rest of this week when we look at the impact of the changing face of the shopping environment through the lenses of food and concession stores, before finishing the week with a look back on everything we’ve talked about in the last few weeks. Follow our LinkedIn page  to be kept up to date with our latest views or contact us for more information. 




For more information on Gordon Neil, Strategy & Marketing Director, visit his LinkedIn page