With the pandemic fundamentally changing the retail landscape and accelerating the move towards eCommerce, more and more consumers are navigating their shopping experience across multiple sales channels today. This has led to a growth in hybrid, or omnichannel retail operations to meet the expectations and demands of the modern consumer.

As this hybrid model of retail reshapes the industry, it’s not just the big international retail players that need to enhance their sales models. In Australia and New Zealand, there has always been a push to support local, independent and boutique retailers – and there is a vital need for these retailers to expand their online presence to serve consumers’ comfortability with omnichannel shopping experiences.

So, how will the changing role of local retailing shape the customer shopping experience in 2022, and what can these retailers do to gain themselves a competitive edge in today’s hybrid retail landscape?

Hybrid retail is the ‘new normal’

With habits, assumptions and loyalties disrupted across retail supply chains, no one can afford to take their customers for granted. Shoppers who were previously steadfastly loyal to certain retailers are suddenly flexible to changing loyalties. So, what can retailers do to stand out from the competition? The answer – they need to be agile and able to adapt to the ever-changing nature of how and where consumers shop, and more importantly, they need to capture the attention of the consumer.

Consumers have responded to the changing retail environment by changing what they expect from the merchants they buy from. For instance, some of SOTI’s latest research, discovered that 38% of Australian consumers prefer to shop online rather than in-store, while 43% reported they had increased their online spending for products that were delivered directly to them.

A lot of these transactions are happening on devices such as mobile phones. However, this shift in online shopping does not shift the responsibility for reliable mobile technology for consumers. In fact, the onus is on the retailer to deliver a seamless transaction with every purchase, whether it be online or in-store and regardless of the device type. This can mean investing in more social media sales channels, better logistics partners and more solutions to manage and maintain the uptime of these investments.

Hybrid fulfilment helps meet customer demand

Just as consumers become accustomed to a hybrid model of shopping these days, retailers themselves must also move to a hybrid fulfilment method that blends eCommerce and in-store resources together. Rather than just fulfilling orders from one centralised warehouse that may be in an inconvenient location, hybrid fulfilment, where online orders can be picked and shipped from a retail store with the assistance of mobile devices, has proven to be significantly beneficial.

Hybrid fulfilment offers retailers increased flexibility by enabling them to pivot, scale, adjust and respond to market changes. For instance, many customers prefer ‘click-and-collect’ options of picking up online purchases in local stores, which satisfies their insatiable demand for immediacy and flexibility. Furthermore, ship-from-store is vital in an age where eCommerce orders are booming, and brick-and-mortar functions are operating at much lower levels. For example, it makes little sense for a retailer to ship a large electronic item from their Brisbane based warehouse to Victoria, if that same item is already available in a retail store in large volumes in Melbourne.

Mobile technology can help meet customer demand

In the current operating environment where many brands and retailers are facing significant supply chain issues, many businesses are rethinking their approach to customer relationships and go-to-market strategies. They are prioritising technology and systems that engage consumers and navigate disruption. 

With the majority of consumers now seeking retailers out and shopping via mobile devices, social commerce and engaging and accessible sales channels are more important than ever. For retailers, having a strong mobile strategy in place has never been a more significant determinant for customer satisfaction.

Mobile technology can help retailers to improve both communications and customer experiences across all relevant channels and media. By ensuring they have mobile-enabled operational intelligence, brands and retailers can diagnose problems quickly and adapt fast to meet developing consumer needs and preferences.

Michael Dyson is vice president of sales for Asia Pacific at SOTI.