Retail in 2022 — Keep Your Foot on the Gas Pedal

If you’re like most retailers, merchants, and restaurants, you’ve had your foot firmly on the gas pedal since the pandemic upended the way people live, work, and spend money. As we get ready to turn the calendar to 2022, easing up on the accelerator isn’t an option. Consumers want journeys that are innovative and seamless, and you need a flexible, customer-centric infrastructure that can give it to them.

Here are 6 things that need to be at the top of your to do list in the new year:

Integrate your customers’ online and offline worlds

Consumers have gotten used to shopping anytime, anywhere, on the device that’s most convenient for them. It’s not just about giving them what they want inside your store or restaurant. Now, every single touchpoint — from the social media updates you post, to the text messages you send, to the push notifications you create, to the exclusive offers you provide — must align. If you don’t make things completely seamless, consumers are going to opt for a competitor that does.

Focus on boosting the experience, not just the product

Of course you need great products, but what consumers really want is an experience that stands head and shoulders above the rest. A great recent example of this is First Watch. For starters, the breakfast and lunch favorite hasn’t cut a single item from its menu — in spite of the supply and inflation issues that are growing by the day. Why? Because even the lowest-selling item on the menu is someone’s favorite. They want every customer to have the very best experience possible, even if it isn’t the most convenient thing for management.

Sticking with First Watch as an example, they are also keeping their cocktail list firmly in place. By providing alcohol, First Watch says it can create more of a brunchy, Sunday-Funday feeling that’s synonymous with relaxing and connecting with friends. It’s a simple addition designed to elevate the entire experience.

Make your loyalty program an actual differentiator

Just having a loyalty program no longer sets your brand apart. The pandemic exposed weaknesses in organizations’ loyalty strategies, and as a result, many of them scrambled to either create a loyalty program or augment an existing program.

In order to truly differentiate your loyalty program, you need to think about ways to provide faster rewards and incorporate gamification, ensure that you’re providing legitimate value for your members, and even allow members to redeem their points with different brands underneath your corporate umbrella. Most importantly, you need to acknowledge that loyalty innovation is an ongoing process — not something you set and forget.

Let the data tell the story

No matter how well you know your market, a data-driven decision is always better than your best guess. Unsiloed data that spans all of your communication and sales channels is more than just numbers — it tells a story about each individual customer. Take the time to uncover the story and use it to drive your personalized communications, your marketing segments, your campaign analysis, and your customer sentiment.

It’s also time to get your story from zero- and first-party data. Organizations have relied on third-party cookies for far too long, and as they head towards extinction, you need to have a firm idea of what your cookieless future looks like.

Remember what’s happening outside of your four walls

Unfortunately, staffing and supply chain issues won’t end when 2021 does. As the calendar turns to 2022, you need plans for growing challenges. The end result doesn’t have to be bad, though. For example, when Chipotle increased its hourly rate to $15, it had to raise menu prices 3.5-4% to offset the cost. Despite the change, Chipotle’s Q2 revenue surpassed its pre-pandemic levels, and the company said it had faced “no resistance whatsoever” from customers.

Be convenient

Now that consumers are used to having everything they want at the tap of a finger, you need to provide the same level of convenience and give them the power to manage multiple needs in one place. For example, Chipotle has an online gift shop where you can buy everything from bulk gift cards for your entire workforce to clothes, bags, and accessories that can be an easy-to-order birthday gift. This established digital giant isn’t the only one that’s thought of one-stop shopping, though. Del Taco’s web store sells hot sauce, apparel, and even dog clothes so that customers can buy fun gifts and, as an added benefit, show off Del Taco’s brand anytime anywhere.

As we’ve been saying throughout 2021, being proactive is the key. As we move into 2022, make sure you have the right strategies — and the right technology to power them — so that you can proactively surprise and delight your customers.