After another turbulent year in the retail sector, brands and consumers alike are wondering what lies ahead for London’s high streets in 2022. The past 24 months have seen a massive shift in consumer behaviour as consumers have moved away from high street shops and embraced online outlets. This consumer shift means businesses need to be agile as they transition into an online-dominant world.
Moving into 2022 the high street must be ready and adaptable to change. Many high street properties may be used as office, residential, leisure, or hospitality space. However, there is still space for retail. Now more than ever consumers feel the need for a personalised experience.
In a recent Feefo report on CX (customer experience trends), John Lamphiere, Regional Vice President of marketing company ActiveCampaign said: “Customer journeys have never been so fragmented and with the increasing number of channels to meet them on, that’s not changing any time soon. But despite all this complexity, customer expectations have never been higher. If personalisation was important in 2021, then going further to create 1:1 experiences that delight and create super fans will be hugely important in 2022.”
Moving forward the high street will embrace the concept of personalisation and become a place where experience is the primary focus. To survive stores must now provide an experience that can’t be achieved online.
Clothing brands like Nike, Toast, and Levi are paving the way. These brands with outlets on London high streets are now delivering a full customer experience in-store. Nike is offering a community-based, hyper focused customer experience.
According to consulting firm McKinsey, using predictive analytics can give businesses valuable insights which can inform decisions and assist them to increase margins significantly. Nike has drawn on the insights provided by data analysis to develop rewarding personalised experiences for customers.
In 2020, marketing platform SmarterHQ found that over two-thirds (72%) of customers would only interact with a brand’s messaging if it was customised to them. Nike have embraced this concept, and their in-store personalisation is matched by their online strategies and an advanced app, which collects personalised data on users’ purchase habits, exercise routines, and personal information.
Levi is now providing in-store repairs when customers visit what has been deemed their concept stores. These stores not only provide an experience not available online, but sell products that are repaired, reimagined, and recycled.
Toast, another leader on London’s high streets is providing a range of innovative in-store experiences that can’t be found online, hosting workshops, free repairs and a clothes swapping initiative to create a community for its customers.
Toast, Levi, and Nike are simultaneously thriving online and in-store, providing inspiring business models derived from aligning with ever-changing consumer expectations.
While these in-store experiences are tailored to what the consumers desire, data privacy is more important than ever. In 2022 the expectations will be for businesses to keep customer advantage at the forefront of their minds when using the data which they collect. Despite the need for data, customer privacy must be always be respected.
The high street will also welcome more stores from online giants such as Amazon. Amazon has already launched its Amazon Fresh brand, taking advantage of consumer desire for locally sourced produce, coupled with the innovative technology that allows the customer to fill the trolley and leave. The goods are later charged to customers’ Amazon accounts.
A similar setup in a range of outlets is predicted to arrive on London high streets in 2022. Consumers will be able to view and order products via their phones and collect them immediately in-store. London high streets will continue to move towards a cashless experience with mobile apps, self-scan and online checkouts becoming more common.
Consumers have become increasingly sensitive to the ethical behaviour of companies. They are also keen to support businesses that demonstrate allegiance with their customers’ values.
For many companies, 2021 was seen as a year for embracing change and adopting more transparent methods in a true value exchange. Yasmin Borain, Chief Experience Officer at Tribal Worldwide London, said: “Brands like Amazon and IKEA have recently increased and expanded their commitments with new initiatives to make good on their promises aligned to society’s new value system around social purpose and the environment.”
So how will London’s high streets adapt? In 2022 the high street is likely to see more brands that align with the values of the customers. In 2022 it’s predicted we’ll see the continued growth of companies that embody sustainability and care for the environment. Health and lifestyle retailers have seen a significant increase in the demand for sustainable products. This trend looks set to continue, with a rise in business from these sectors on London’s high streets in 2022.
Karen Johnson, Head of Retail and Wholesale for Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “The contemporary customer expects retailers to serve their needs: for speed, convenience, locality and, increasingly among younger demographics, for a sustainable ethos. The ability to deliver on these expectations with minimal friction – often by leveraging data and technology – will be pivotal in deciding who will win, and retain, customers in the future.”
During 2020 and 2021 many companies, both small and large, have made impressive efforts to adapt. The innovators that have adapted with agility are setting the pace for 2022 and the years to come. Small, local businesses that have not only survived but thrived are likely to remain on London’s high streets, with consumers increasingly motivated to support local businesses and consume local produce.
To assist local businesses, the government is set to continue the pedestrianisation of London high streets where possible and to expand al fresco dining and green areas. Moving into 2022, the high street in London will become a locally driven space with more personalised experiences for consumers.
Empty spaces will be utilised by creating experienced-based businesses. With consumers keen to support local business and the desire for personal experience, the high street may evolve into a more community-oriented, village-based ethos.
As we have seen over the past two years, change can occur rapidly. It appears that London’s high streets have the potential to thrive in 2022 if businesses are able to innovate and stay nimble.