In the past 5 years, there has been a huge shift in the way that consumers view and value retail spaces. Now more than ever, shoppers want a consistent shopping experience, whether they choose to browse in-store or online, without much difference between the two. Covid massively changed how we both shopped and viewed the notion of shopping and it is the lasting legacy that the creation of a welcoming and comfortable shopping experience is absolutely essential to getting custom and, for a lot of consumers, this comes from online shopping.


With more online retailers than ever before offering products, services and experiences, brands and businesses must create an experience that benefits not only them but their customers also. It is this thought process which is largely behind the ongoing change in shopping habits and is slowly, but surely, seeing more and more high street stores and retailers close their doors. 


But what is it about online shopping that is changing so much about how we buy products, and why are more retail spaces closing than ever before? Let’s take a look at the future of retail spaces and whether or not online shopping will continue to affect physical store premises.


The Omnichannel Strategy

Retailers who are looking to compete directly with solely online retailers and look to win over the consumer are finding that they must create a sense of new value for their customers, going much further than simply just selling to them. Many commercial property agents predict that, in the future, retail spaces will end up becoming a blend of both physical and digital spaces and shopping experiences, which will then allow consumers to have a genuine and experience-driven reason to visit the store again.


One way in which retailers can look to achieve this is through the creation and implementation of an “omnichannel” strategy, which is where they need to aim to be absolutely everywhere and constantly in the eyes and minds of their consumers. It is a marketing and consumer model which requires retailers to stop thinking in a single way about how they can use digital and physical channels to connect with their customers. Omnichannel strategies rely on the use of data to create an experience which is focused on the consumer and the consumer only. The result of this is having both physical and digital spaces which then work and collaborate with one another, delivering an experience that delivers more for consumers than just one single channel and across a number of shopping occasions, such as Black Friday or holiday sales.


However, some things won’t ever change. In every retail space, retailers should continue to create brand and shopping experiences in order to increase demand for goods and services. No matter if these interactions take place in a physical store or online, it’s important that retailers create a space which is supported through omnichannel marketing. Omnichannel marketing is only adding to the constant battle to gain the attention of consumers and create a space which they will continue to choose to visit in the future. 


The Reimagination Of Physical Spaces

The Covid pandemic caused a huge uptake in online shopping and home delivery services and, since then, physical retail premises have found that their traditional role of being the go-to place for consumers is on the decline. It is highly likely that the traditional retail space will never return. This is why it is crucial for brick-and-mortar stores to now find another purpose in which they can attract customers, which is every bit as, if not more, important than being a sole shopping space. 


The solution for this approach is for retailers to create a space which is not only flexible and multifunctional, allowing for products to be shown in a range of different ways, as well as having the potential to be a place in which events can be enjoyed, or where different services can be put on offer. Whether this is to open up a space for community events, leisure activities, lifestyle, sports or learning workshops, there are so many different opportunities at your fingertips. It is important to ensure that whichever avenue you choose, they all add purpose to the space and provide a unique and exciting experience which will then help with the longevity of the use of the space. 


It’s important that, as a retail space, you carefully consider the transition from a sole shopping venue to a valuable dynamic physical space. Retail owners should take a wider view of the role which the space they have can play amongst the wider community and strive to make this experience right for their consumers. For example, in the past, VANS stores have doubled up as skate parks, whilst food stores have doubled into cooking classes. 


Mobile Apps Will Replace Traditional Loyalty Cards

Mobile apps are continuing to emerge and revolve and, when it comes to consumers and the shopping experience, it is perhaps one of the most powerful tools that a brand or business can have. Apps offer seemingly instant access into the world of the brand and bring consumers directly to the forefront of a retail space. It has been known for many years that retailers have undervalued mobile apps and, in just 2021, only 33% of brands had usable apps in place. 


However, many apps fail to give consumers the benefits and access that they require, such as live and updated stock inventory, exclusive member promotions and live chat functions. As a result of incorporating these different features, apps can, and should, look to be a bridge between online and offline retail shopping experiences, whilst making sure to reward their most loyal customers and consumers with exclusive offers and discounts.


Whether this is allowing those consumers to scan in-store QR codes to get access to exclusive discounts, or providing unique offer codes or free shipping promos in the app, there are many ways that retailers can integrate both online and offline shopping experiences. A number of retailers are also looking at ways in which in-store shoppers can scan their products through their dedicated app and then checkout through this, often without even having to speak to someone in-store, but still providing the shopping experience that many consumers still desire. This seamless back-and-forth shopping experience can help retailers better unify their experiences for consumers, all under one shopping umbrella. 


Retailers can also use apps to better understand their consumer base and learn just what their customers are looking for when shopping online. They can then use this data to provide a better shopping experience for their customers, as they have valuable information and knowledge into exactly what it is their consumers want.