Why looking to the future is more important than ever for retailers

By Robyn Scott on April 21, 2020

As we all know by now, the high street’s doors are slammed shut until further notice.

Whilst many retailers will be feeling the loss of a physical presence, e-commerce and online continues to thrive, and has never been more important. I wanted to take a look at how artificial intelligence (AI) can help businesses take the steps they need to adapt to the ‘new normal,’ and how they can prepare for the new future of retail.

Changing consumer behavior

It all started a few weeks ago, with depleted shelves and out-of-stock hand sanitizer. It spiralled from there; the panic buying of toilet paper, and the sparse availability of everyday food items in major supermarkets. It’s no secret that our supply chain’s have been placed under incredible pressure off the back of the current pandemic.

For me personally, I’ve had to look at ways in which I can keep on top of my daily beauty regime, how I can spruce up my yard with plants and pretty things, and – finally – purchase and put up those shelves that I’ve been meaning to do for the last six months!

As we all huddle round laptops and smartphones to keep in touch with colleagues and loved ones, new fashion trends are also emerging. I recently heard the term ‘bisounge’ for the first time, which is the notion of teaming a smart top with sweatpants or PJs. This in itself is already making me rethink my online shopping habits – how many pairs of jammie bottoms do I need to complement the smart shirts I still want to wear for work?!

We’re in the fifth week of lockdown now, and lifestyle changes have certainly taken effect as we continue to adjust. Beauty and cosmetic regimes, in particular, have changed. We can no longer visit hairdressers, beauticians and barbers (good luck with those DIY fades, guys!) Demand for products such as hair clippers, home hair dye and nail polish, for example, are seeing a sharp rise in demand, with online searches for these items increasing significantly. The cosmetics industry, in general, has reported a 24% surge in nail polish sales during lockdown.

The Google Trends data speaks for itself…

is the future of retail powered by online? The COVID-19 Google Trends data would suggest so


How will COVID-19 effect the future of retail?

AI: a helping hand for the present and the future

There’s no doubt that I’m not alone in altering my shopping habits over the past weeks, and this will only continue to evolve in new ways as lockdown continues. The question for businesses is around how they can effectively acquire new customers during this period – and, looking further ahead, keep their loyalty once we transition back into some version of normality?

Keeping customers loyal

It's vital that business leaders think about the long-term implications of the lockdown and not just the short-term impact of our current restrictions.

 Zach Thomann

Executive Vide President & General Manager, PFS

For those businesses who introduce AI and place a greater focus on the importance of their data, navigating the new world can be made more straightforward. AI and machine learning are powerful tools that can help you personalize the communications you have with your customers (new and existing) to drive more impactful campaigns and marketing activities. This includes utilizing data on factors such as propensity to purchase, brand and style preferences, and potential lifetime value. 

Customer acquisition is most likely your business’ priority right now, but it’s also important to be thinking about the ways AI can help inform your retention strategy in the long term. It’s a great way to make sure you’re maintaining customer engagement, and keeping your newly-acquired customers happy when the world starts to turn normally again!

If you want to learn more about the future of retail and the ways AI can help you in both the short and long term – whether it’s through making every penny spent on paid search count or understanding your customer LTVs – we’d love to hear from you. Alternatively, you can download our Customer Intelligence solution guide to find out more.

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