Future of retail

Technology is continuing to change the retail sector. The accelerating shift to online and omni-channel retailing challenges businesses to be resilient and creative in meeting customer expectations.

Online retail affects the customer decision-making process in numerous ways. Meanwhile, physical stores have a new, advanced role in creating retail experiences that work in tandem with online channels. The Retail Institute provides valuable insights to our network that help them anticipate future innovations, consumer behaviour, and demand for products. We also draw from the extensive knowledge of Leeds Business School academics to offer advice on retail strategies and marketing techniques.

Warehouse shelving

Retail technological innovation

Technological innovation throughout the supply chain enhances products. This can be functional purposes like improved tracking or extended shelf-life or for marketing reasons like creating new tactile coatings or interactive labels.  While functional innovations produce a quantifiable return on investment, the economic benefit of attempts to attract and persuade consumers is harder to define.

We help businesses in both the identification of potential new technologies and in the analysis of their value to consumers, using a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Our research tries to better understand the link between hedonic appeal and financial return.

Multi-channel customer engagement

The acceleration of e-commerce growth, including grocery retail, has made consumers more entrenched in multi-channel brand relationships. Purchases may be inspired in one place, researched in another channel, and completed in yet another location. Understanding how consumers use multiple channels to interact with the retailer, and how retailers use omni-channels to manage customer relationships, is vital to product design, category management and retail strategies.

We use our business strategy and marketing expertise, combined with research into consumer behaviour, to update and advise businesses on the evolving consumer and the new techniques retailers use to engage them.

Engaging the ethical, healthy consumer

Consumers want to know more about the products that they buy; what it contains, where it’s from, and how it was made. Environmental and ethical concerns are a key concern for many shoppers and they are increasingly careful in managing their health and the specific food they consume. Therefore, people want products that tell them, clearly and quickly, whether a product matches their values and needs. Packaging labels vary in their effectiveness and a range of other techniques can help to communicate product credentials to customers.

Our membership outputs provide the latest thinking on what works in customer communication and we also develop bespoke research to investigate specific messaging approaches.

Data analytics to understand the customer journey

Different stages of product development call for different kinds of consumer insight. Generating data on the products people want to see, what attributes those products should have and whether a new product has met those requirements successfully, involves various data gathering and analysis techniques including surveys, experiments and focus groups.

The Retail Institute’s network of consumer research experts also offers advanced techniques such as Kano analysis and social media content analysis to achieve deeper understanding of what is truly important to shoppers. Knowing the value of different kinds of data and the best way to analyse it is a key area of the expertise that we offer to businesses.

The guys at The Retail Institute are a unique bunch in that they provide a new language for designing packaging for the future. Their multi-disciplinary approach, their enthusiasm, coupled with their strong science base allows them to translate fuzzy future trends into a powerful and clear design requirements for leaders in design to delve into. All round, an excellent package!

Brian Crombie Sun Chemical

Join our community

Become a retail institute member

Join The Retail Institute and access research, insights and advice led by a team with over 20 years of experience in retail consultancy and innovation. As well as expert guidance, you’ll receive access to a range of publications, such as reports and quarterly bulletins, networking events and special interest forums.

Vegetables on a supermarket shelf
Woman smiling sat at a window