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If customers were demanding before the pandemic, the increased need for online shopping and digital retail during lockdowns has made them even harder to handle.
The past year has seen firms which have never before considered being online taking to digital in a bid to change with the times.
A drop-off in some types of shopping as a result of the pandemic, alongside cost-of-living increases, has made 2022 a tough year for the retail space, with more uncertainty to come.
A number of different retailers were looking for more talent in the beginning of the year as their technology remit increases.
Ikea said it hoped to fill 150 tech roles across Europe in 2022, while Amazon announced the intention to create 1,500 apprenticeships, and John Lewis said it had plans to hire 150 tech workers.
Freelancer Ben Sillitoe found many retailers are on the lookout for tech talent, including Ann Summers and Boohoo Group.
Online sales took a hit at the beginning of the year as consumers settled into their new shopping habits. The start of 2022 saw slow sales growth for online shopping, with a 24.4% year-on-year (YoY) drop in online sales in the first month of the year, according to the Capgemini/IMRG Online Retail Index.
Capgemini put this largely down to the pandemic driving up online purchases as more people had to operate their day-to-day lives at home.
Since Amazon launched its checkout-free store Amazon Fresh, which allows consumers to shop for goods and leave the store without going through a till, others across the globe have followed suit.
Early in the year, discount supermarket brand Aldi opened a similar concept as part of its ongoing tests into “frictionless shopping”.
Aldi wasn’t the only one experimenting with this technology over the past year – according to Ben Sillitoe, European supermarkets such as Ahold Delhaize, REWE and Tesco are also looking into the tech.
As the global restrictions brought in as a result of the pandemic begin to lessen, we start to see what remains and what does not.
During the pandemic, stores often became hubs for sending orders to customers became a habit of many multi-channel retailers, with the likes of Morrisons, Waitrose and Pets at Home using store locations to ship to customers in the stores’ surrounding areas.
For some, this seems like a digital adoption that’s staying, while for others these changes are being scaled back now consumers are back in stores.
Retailers have been through a lot over the past 10 years, with customer habits constantly changing, especially with the increase of digital adoption.
At the Retail Tech Show 2022, Mike Logue, former CEO of Dreams, talked about his nine-year stint at the retailer guiding it through its adoption of a customer feedback app, new website and focus on data.
By the time he left the firm, it had been sold for around “£533m”.
In the modern age, it is more unusual to hear of a retailer that does not have an online remit than one that does.
In the past, Primark has been a retailer adamantly against launching online shopping – it has a website for people to view products and compare prices, but people cannot order shopping on their website for delivery or click & collect.
In 2022, the brand said it would be trialing click & collect for a small number of children’s products to “compliment” its in-store experience.
For some older retailers, digital transformation can be difficult. The large amount of legacy technology in these organisations can get in the way of adopting new digital platforms.
But Carl Dawson, CIO of supermarket Asda, told Computer Weekly about the unique opportunity the retailer has to replace all of its technology with new, cloud-based systems as part of its refresh as it separates from Walmart.
Over the next two years, Asda will be renewing its e-commerce, supply chain forecasting, data platform and many other systems across its 29 distribution centres and 650 supermarkets.
The pandemic affected businesses in unexpected ways – especially those relying predominantly on physical commerce.
At the 2022 Retail Tech Show, founder of plant-based food company Ella Woodward said the company had never planned to sell direct to consumer.
When the pandemic hit, some of Deliciously Ella’s biggest retail customers such as Costa and Starbucks were forced to shut, leaving the retailer with no choice but to sell direct to its consumers to reduce its back stock.
Deliciously Ella is not the only retailer to have faced a pivot as a result of the pandemic, with many adopting e-commerce or other digital solutions at a fast pace.
As previously mentioned, Primark, which lost money as a result of closures during the pandemic, has now implemented click-and-collect despite previously claiming it would not be embarking into online shopping.
Poundland and B&M are other previously offline retailers which have now decided to make the jump into digital.
The easing of the pandemic has led to people returning to physical shopping, but the challenges of pre-pandemic remain.
People are expecting more of their physical shopping experiences as online increases consumer expectation – leading retailers to turn to technology.
Glynn Davis talks through some of the types of technology retailers are adopting to cater to the ever-demanding customer.