The Changing Landscape of UK Retail – How is Consumer Preference Shaping the Industry?

We have the privilege of talking to millions of UK consumers every year on behalf of our clients and it’s clear that their changing shopping habits and preferences are fundamentally changing the landscape of the UK retail industry. Reviewing your customer service strategy should therefore be a priority for your business, to keep up-to-date with your consumers.

We love to shop online

2018 has seen a greater acceleration in big brand store closures across the UK as retailers are transforming the shape of their business models and real estate portfolio in answer to the growth in the consumers’ preference to shop online. Retailers are now understanding that they need to provide customers with a model that fits with the customers’ expectations and preferences. The benefits of price, choice and convenience has seen online shopping’s popularity soar from 11.6% in 2012 to 24.1% in 2017.

…and still want to go in-store

Stores still have a role to play, as demonstrated by the growth in in-store shopping from 40% in 2015 to 44% in 2018, but in a market where online continues to outperform the rest of the channels, there is bound to be fewer stores, more competition amongst them for in-store customers and more competition for the best people, locations and experience.

…for seamless shopping experiences

Customers still appreciate the social and sensory aspects of in-store shopping and face-to-face advice but they also want their online and in-store experiences to complement each other. They want to be able to order online the car they see in the showroom and they want to be able to access the same free samples and discounts from in-store make-up counters that they can get online. Successful retailers will be those that are thinking of the entire customer journey and how they can link all the shopping outcomes for the best customer experience.

Shoppers know their value

Customers are sophisticated shoppers and now more than ever realise their value to retailers. In this highly competitive market they’ll only settle for close connections with brands that know their preferences and the incentives they require to keep them loyal. Retailers are having to readjust to invest in areas of the business (brand, product development, technology, AI, environments) in order to evolve and compete in such a competitive landscape.

…and want to know what their peers think

The number one choice for inspiration for purchases is social media. Customers want to know what their peers think and will go online to canvass their opinions so retailers investing in authentic social media activity and their online presence will benefit.

24/7 expectations

Online retailers and courier delivery has fueled shoppers’ rising expectations for fast, reliable, 24/7 service. Consumers now expect same day or faster delivery, free returns, instant customer services and one hour window delivery. These expectations are driving soaring investment and innovation in the retail industry.