Insights from Jack Mason, Group CEO of Inc&co
As Group CEO of Inc&co, I’ve witnessed first hand the necessary transformation of the retail industry to keep up with constantly evolving consumer behaviours; particularly in the space that we occupy, purchasing distressed businesses that have fallen behind in their knowledge of changing trends. What will be the future of retailing?
The rise of technology and innovation is only going to increase, and retail is going to be at the forefront of this rapid change. Traditional retailers face constant challenges to remain competitive, and if they are to survive, it is more vital than ever to keep up with the latest trends, embrace innovation, change tactics and marketing outputs, and have the ability to respond quickly to changing consumer preferences.
Online and Offline Integration
One of the most significant trends in contemporary retailing is the integration of online and offline channels. The exponential growth of e-commerce over the last decade has forced traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to adapt or disappear. To remain relevant, retailers who have realized the importance of creating a seamless experience for their customers across both channels are the winners.
Even the mighty Primark now has an online click-and-collect store, and Ted Baker, who had been on the verge of bankruptcy, was bought out last year after improving their digital experience. Many favourite high-street shops no longer exist. Would Mothercare still have a UK presence if it had been more agile and operated an e-commerce site that had the customer at the heart of its user journey? Could other high street stores that have lost their physical presence, but re-structured into online-only operations, including Athena art and HMV, have remained more relevant if they had moved faster and integrated their products better?
According to the British Retail Consortium (brc.org.uk), approximately 70% of consumers still prefer to make purchases in-store. However, 83% of consumers conduct research online before making an in-store purchase.
According to recent UK e-commerce statistics, online retail sales in the UK reached £99 billion in 2020, representing a 46% increase in the share of all retail sales. A well-executed omnichannel strategy has never been more important.
The Portas Review of the High Street notes that “If the high street is to survive – and thrive – it needs to offer something new and relevant to our modern lives and behaviour – a mixture of shops, offices, residential and leisure facilities.”
At Inc&co, we recognised this trend early on, offering shared workspace solutions through our subsidiary, Incspaces, to help businesses innovate and thrive in a competitive industry. Our shared workspaces allow smaller e-commerce organizations to conduct their operations in an environment that encourages creativity and fosters innovation, and who knows, the next Athena dad and baby may start online at one of Incspaces shared workspaces, but if managed successfully, could one day come to a bricks and mortar store near you.
Sustainability and Ethical Production
The trend towards sustainability and conscious consumerism is another significant aspect of modern retailing. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impact of their purchases, which is set to intensify in the coming years.
According to a recent study into retail by the technology giant, IBM, approximately 57% of respondents are willing to pay more for products with social and environmental benefits. This trend highlights the need for retailers to demonstrate their commitment to ethical and sustainable production practices.
In a further survey, conducted by YouGov, 62% of UK adults agree businesses need to do more to reduce their environmental impact. This trend highlights the need for retailers to demonstrate their commitment to ethical and sustainable production practices.
The Portas Review of the High Street notes that “New competitive advantage will come from stores delivering not just value and experience but an ethical dimension – in products, sourcing, messages and behaviour.”
Retailers like Maker&Son, who use only ethical and sustainable products in their furniture manufacturing, have set an example for other businesses to follow. The shift towards sustainability in retail is not just about reducing costs or improving public relations, but it’s an essential aspect of meeting the consumers’ evolving preferences.
At Inc&co, we invest in businesses that prioritize sustainability and ethical production and believe it’s a win-win situation. These businesses resonate with the changing consumer attitudes and provide excellent social and environmental returns.
The trend towards experiential retail is a crucial aspect that retailers cannot ignore. Customers no longer desire only to purchase goods; they crave unique shopping experiences that leave a lasting impression. According to Retail Customer Experience, 74% of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences over products.
The Portas Review of the High Street notes that “Experience will become the biggest thing we sell in our shops.” At Inc&co, we understand this trend, and Incspaces has been designed with the intent of creating exciting experiential retail spaces. Our shared workspaces feature an immersive, stylish, and inspirational design, all in a welcoming and fun environment. Our focus is to tap into the growing business community in towns and cities across the UK. Young, vibrant businesses are provided with a creative and inspiring space for the innovators of tomorrow.
Creating an atmosphere through shared spaces that incorporate sustainable designs, interactive shows, street art, and fashion can bring synergy to innovation, collaboration, and ultimately lead to success.
Agility and Capacity
Agility and capacity are crucial abilities for retailers to remain responsive to changes in consumer trends. Retailers must be proactive, anticipate shifts in customer preferences, and develop new strategies and contingency plans to adjust to changing demands.
According to The Harvard Business Review, retailers who quickly adapt to dynamic customer behaviour generated 10% more sales growth and 20% profit growth than their slower counterparts. Being agile, demonstrating the ability to pivot quickly, and manoeuvring within the marketplace can be the difference between success and failure.
The Portas Review of the High Street notes that “A successful high street is sociable, entrepreneurial, and ambitious – it is where people come together to meet, shop, be entertained and connect.” For retailers to remain agile and competitive, they must stay on top of evolving trends, create unique experiential retail spaces, and prioritize sustainability and ethical production.
At Inc&co, we’re committed to providing businesses with the support they need to remain agile and competitive in today’s market. Our shared workspace, Incspaces, is designed to cater to the needs of a wide range of business sizes, and our flexible designs allow for rapid changes in capacity when needed. This capacity for agility can be a game-changer for businesses looking to stay competitive in today’s retail environment.
We’re devoted to staying ahead of the trends and providing all our businesses with the support needed to prosper. We encourage sustainability and ethical production, experiential retail, and our shared workspaces are specifically tailored to e-commerce businesses. By doing so, we equip our own retailing division and those who use our shared workspaces to take on any challenge in an ever-changing environment, embracing trends in real-time, and ultimately succeeding.
With constant technological advancements and emerging market trends, the future of retailing is bright. However, for retailers to succeed, they need to embrace innovation, agility, and have a deep understanding of customer expectations. The Portas Review of the High Street notes that “In today’s fast-paced world, successful towns, cities, and shopping centres are more than just places of transaction – they are complex communities that pull together social, cultural and economic aspects of life in a place.”
Retailing is a vibrant industry, and with the right approach, businesses can navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by the market and technological innovations. The future of retailing is full of possibilities, and it is up to innovative businesses to lead the way.