03 Feb 2022

What do you need to know about hybrid retail?

What do you need to know about hybrid retail?

What is a hybrid retail store?

As we enter 2022, the January sales will pose a tricky question for retailers. Will customers be queueing out the doors as they did in pre-pandemic times, or will they turn their attention to online sales?

Rather than putting all their eggs in one basket, retailers should continue to exercise the ‘hybrid retail’ approach. One of the biggest trends to come out of the pandemic was the versatility of today’s brick and mortar store. Rather than serving its traditional purpose of browsing and buying, the store would become a place to pick up click-and-collect orders.

For the most tech-forward retailers, some stores are even a place to close the sale. Sectors such as homewares are now using augmented reality to allow shoppers to ‘visualise’ a product in their home before closing the sale in-store.

But the key with hybrid is to remember it is a blend of the digital and physical. So, how can retailers make the most of this new setup for 2022 and beyond?

The principles of hybrid retail

While our brick-and-mortar stores can act as fulfilment centres, there is more to hybrid retail than click-and-collect. You can reach your customers at more touchpoints by employing these tactics.

Partnering with local delivery companies

Logistics is tricky for any independent retailer, which is where working with local companies can really help. We saw this in action in December 2020 when Waitrose paired up with local Deliveroo couriers to deliver their ‘Donate a Plate’ campaign.

Local delivery may sound like the preserve of grocery and food outlet companies, but providing your products are mobile, there’s no reason why you cannot partner with local logistics teams. There is also the ‘local business’ benefit – drawing not only on sustainability points, but the personal touch. Retailers can follow the examples of Lush here. Labelling items such as ‘handpicked by X in Y store’ makes customers feel more valued.

Kerbside pick-up

Those retailers who are not confident re-opening their doors can blend physical and digital with kerbside pick-up. This puts the power back in customers’ hands – allowing them to order digitally, specify a pick-up time and collect their items in person.

While it may not offer the ‘upselling benefits’ of click-and-collect instore, it does give retailers more flexibility. For example, they may save on staffing and utilities costs in the short term if their store is temporarily closed, but can still turn a trade. It’s a safe alternative, particularly for smaller vendors who may be worried about infection rates.

Appointment-based retail

Speaking at the Autumn Fair 2021, retail magnate Theo Paphitis discussed his approach to hybrid retail with fashion. While some shoppers may use augmented reality to buy furniture, others still need the in-store experience: which is where appointment-based retail comes in.

Paphitis talked about booking bra fitting appointments online. This freed up time for shop floor workers and helped to maintain a safe environment. We can apply the same principles to personal shopping visits and homewares – maintain social distancing and offering that bespoke customer experience.

How you can adapt to a hybrid system in 2022

If you’d like to blend the digital and physical in 2022, your digital presence needs to be as strong as your physical. Consider:

  • Ironing out any creases with e-commerce. Do your stock levels update automatically when customers shop online?
  • Allocating resource for fulfilment. Are there teams available to offer kerbside assistance?
  • Reaching out to local couriers. Are there marketing opportunities from a local business perspective?

For more about the latest retail trends, start planning for Spring Fair 2022.

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