Shuttered shops and diminished consumer spending power has made 2020 a turning point for the retail industry. Naturally, this isn’t the sector’s first rodeo with significant change, but the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of never-before-seen challenges to high streets across the UK future. 

Whilst social distancing measures and rolling lockdowns look set to continue for the foreseeable future (even despite talks of a vaccine), there is light at the end of the tunnel for retail businesses. This is an industry that has stared down countless periods of change in the past, and the very best retailers understand that they must adapt to survive. 

As the retail landscape shifts once again, here are some of the best-guess predictions for what businesses can expect to see and do in the future. 

eCommerce will continue its climb to the top

There can be no doubt that the events of 2020 have seen ecommerce grow massively. As a measure of online retail space success, consultants have predicted that ecommerce has picked up an additional £5.3 billion in sales during 2020 alone.

Now whilst this trend will almost certainly continue at least until the coronavirus pandemic is brought under control, it would be remiss of any commentator to suggest that things will return to normal when the global lockdowns come to an end. Consumers have now made online shopping a part of their everyday lives, and with businesses having pumped investment into the development of new and improved ecommerce platforms, selling online looks set to become the default for retailers. 

Outside of changing our approach to logistics and fulfilment, the sustained rise of ecommerce presents a number of unique challenges. For one thing businesses need to ensure that they stand out in what is an increasingly crowded market, but it’s also important for them to get the basics right with things like delivery and payment solutions. For the latter at least, there are secure and reliable eCommerce payment gateways that can be deployed with very little hassle – but not all problems will have such a readily available answer.

Re-commerce gets an uptick too

Thinking back to the months before the world was gripped by COVID-19, the media focus was very much on the environmental crisis and the devastation caused to parts of Australia and the USA by wildfires. This news prompted a wave of renewed and reinvigorated support for environmentalism – a set of values that has been influencing the direction of retailers for years. 

Looking forward, the environmental crisis shows no signs of abating and it seems likely that future consumers will ask even more of retailers who want their patronage. For businesses to perform, they will need to consider any sustainability issues in their supply chain and think more carefully about their overall footprint. 

In addition to these commercial concerns, traditional retailers may find themselves competing for their market share as sustainability and upcycling driven re-commerce businesses grow and multiply. From Depop and eBay through to standalone app-based marketplaces, consumers are turning to pre-loved goods as they seek out more affordable yet environmentally conscious goods. 

Whilst the pandemic may have given people cause to think about sanitation, it doesn’t seem to have damaged the growth of the online resale trend.

Contactless will become the default 

Even the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a dramatic shift in favour of contactless payment technology, and the growth of this payment solution looks set to continue long into the future. 

Making life more convenient for consumers whilst simultaneously cutting down transaction time for businesses, Euromonitor has reported that contactless was used by some 22% of global consumers during March 2020. Those are huge numbers, but this popularity has been a while in the making. Despite initial scepticism from some, contactless has proven itself to be the secure, safe, and reliable payments solution for buying almost anything.

Social distancing has acted as a major catalyst for contactless, too. As people become more conscious of touchpoints throughout their lives, retailers need to consider how they can address the concerns of the health conscious. To this end, retail businesses that wish to survive must now consider their payment solutions and whether they are fit for purpose. For those retailers that are still making do with cash or an old clunky card reader, it only makes sense to invest in a contactless-enabled, COVID-secure card reader. They are not only easy to use, but are surprisingly affordable – and can any business really afford to miss out on custom due because of an outdated approach to payments?

Monopolies could grow larger in Future

Perhaps predictably, the future may well be bright for some of the world’s largest retail brands. With Amazon and Alibaba already holding a combined one-third share of the global ecommerce market, it seems that the grip of these giants will only grow tighter in the years ahead.

As their scale makes it easier for them to operate and invest, it goes without saying that the end of the coronavirus pandemic will likely see a marked increase in the release of new products and services from these brands. For smaller and more traditional outlets to compete, they’ll need to innovate and perform as well as they can across all service areas.

Preparing for the future

The world of retail is fluid, and it’s little surprise that there are a few twists and turns instore for the businesses that occupy this commercial space. As consumers attempt to adjust to a post-COVID world, businesses must consider how they can do the same. 

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