How Retail has changed in the last decade: the evolution from 2010 to 2020

The 2010s have been the decade that has really transformed the way retail operates with different technologies, consumer habits and expectations shaping the industry. It’s safe to say the way consumers approach shopping is a distinctive contrast to how they did 10 years ago, but have retailers kept up?

The high street looks very different 10 years on, the growth of e-commerce has brought significant opportunities and threats to the industry. Although the “retail apocalypse” over the decade has been overdramatised, there is no denying some of the brands who led the high street 10 years ago have disappeared. The brands who failed to innovate are no longer relevant for the savvy 2020 consumer. Presenting the same merchandise in the same format and not reacting to trends can’t compete with retailers that have a fully integrated digital and store experience.

Mobile shopping or ‘m-commerce’ has become more popular as smartphones have gone from being a novelty to an everyday essential with highly versatile functions. Yet even in brick-and-mortar stores, mobiles are so relevant to retail in 2020. Apps such as Google Pay and Apple Pay allow users to pay by phone and Amazon has gone one stage further with cashierless technology, all increasing convenience for the consumer.

Yet mobiles present shoppers with a valuable research tool; where 10 years ago, customers might walk blindly into a store, 88% of consumers now browse online before they hit the highstreet (Kenshoo Ecommerce). Some shoppers even use their phones in store to check product reviews and compare competitors’ prices to ensure they are maximising the money they spend with the best deal.

The widespread use of social media and the rise of new platforms over the decade have also influenced retail. Both the “vampire economy” and social media influencers have led to a shift in consumer behaviour. 10 years ago, it would have seemed impossible to click on an item on Instagram and immediately purchase it, yet now this is a convenient way for shoppers to find the styles they like and quickly purchase them. 37% of customers site these platforms as their main driver to purchase items (talk-business.co.uk) showing how shoppers are motivated differently than a decade ago.

Social media means retailers can build up a community of fans online and instead of sharing positive experiences of brands by word-of-mouth, as was the norm in 2010, people will take to social media platforms and share their favourite brands there instead. Social media has created opportunities for innovative start-ups such as Glossier to develop a brick-and-mortar presence. Millennials and Generation Z do still visit stores, but they need a compelling reason to do so. 2020 customers demand experience, whether that is an “Instagrammable store”, virtual reality or artificial intelligence, stores need to act as a showroom to incentivise people to go inside.

Consumers have grown to expect personalisation over the last decade, they are used to websites suggesting items based on their search history so in-store technology that allows this to happen in-store means they will be more likely to be loyal to the brand. Where consumers might once be influenced by a shop floor assistant’s opinion, they want real recommendations that suit their personal preferences.

This convenience is also now expected in terms of receiving their products. Ten years ago, delivery took time and returns processes were often complicated. Now, because of the likes of Amazon, getting things almost instantly is expected and being able to conveniently return them is key to meeting consumer demand. Stock management is more important than ever in 2020 and the pressure on retailers is high. There are, however, technology solutions such as RFID that help simplify the process. The omnichannel experience needs to be seamless and data needs to match up from the online store to the physical store. Consumers expect product availability to be accurate and conveniently available, so they only purchase products that are actually in stock. Technology solutions such as RFID can simplify getting this right for retailers.

In the last 10 years, retail has transformed and brands that have stayed successful have really needed to innovate, creating a seamless presence across online and offline platforms. In order to stay ahead of the game over the next 10 years, it is likely retailers will have to continue to innovate. For information about how Retail247 can help, get in touch.