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  • 21 January 2022 11:12

Manhattan Associates Predicts 5 Retail Trends to Shape the Customer Experience in 2022

key predictions include sustainable delivery, returns management, a war for talent, micro-fulfilment, and visibility and forward planning

Manhattan Associates Inc. (NASDAQ: MANH) predicts five key technology trends that will impact Australian and New Zealand retailers and supply chains in 2022.

“The retail landscape is significantly challenged today. With supply chain issues impacting on stock levels, increasing volumes of returns and increased customer expectations in relation to online deliveries - local brands will have a hard time in satisfying customers in 2022," said Raghav Sibal, Manhattan Associates’ Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand. “As a result, retailers will find that they quickly need to adopt new systems and approaches that help meet the consumer demand for a seamless and more personalised shopping experience today and into the future.”

1. Sustainable eCommerce delivery to become a bigger issue

Due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, home delivery is now the preferred purchasing option for the majority of Australian online shoppers. However, consumers are not prepared to just accept the convenience of delivery at the cost of the environment, with research showing that 60% of Australian consumers are open to receiving goods at a later date if it meant that it was delivered more sustainably.

Consumer research also shows that over half (60%) of Australians often receive their online order in multiple shipments, and 81% of them said that they think this is an inefficient and unsustainable way of delivering goods. In fact, the same number (81%) also said they would prefer to receive their order at a later date if it meant that it would arrive in one consolidated delivery.

“As online shopping delivery rates and the corresponding impact on the environment continue to rise, retailers and 3PLs will need to make sustainability a bigger priority. Those retailers who don’t make sustainability a core part of their business will likely find that down the track they lose out on this potential competitive advantage and drive environmentally aware consumers to other retailers,” said Raghav.

2. Returns management will increasingly impact consumers’ perception of retail brands

While eCommerce has served as a lifeline for retailers over the past year, the ever-increasing volume of returns is posing significant challenges, including impacting consumer perceptions of a retail brand. The returns process can regularly make or break the overall brand experience and savvy retailers are increasingly viewing the return process as an opportunity to further engage with customers, providing as it does, an additional touchpoint to enhance the overall customer experience.

“In 2022, retailers will need to have greater visibility and more intelligence around their inventory, regardless of where it is currently residing in their network. Smarter front-end omnichannel systems capable of efficiently dealing with customer enquiries and greater insight into data around transportation processes will be the key areas for brands looking to solve the challenges presented by the growing returns trend,” said Raghav.

3. The war for talent will put pressure on supply chain operations

Given the extent to which a positive or negative customer service interaction can have on a shopper’s perception of a retail brand, the war for talent and need to retain high performing staff will create additional business pressures in 2022.

In such an environment, organisations need to focus on selling themselves as an employer of choice and create and promote initiatives that set their business apart in a competitive hiring field.

Given the need to retain IP in a challenging hiring market, more employers are focusing on career planning and succession internally to ensure adequate support and training for workers to move up the ladder. Many supply chain and retail organisations are also offering financial support for further tertiary education studies or providing retention bonuses to ensure continuity.

4. Micro-fulfilment will help drive supply chain efficiencies and cost savings

“As eCommerce and ‘store to door’ delivery continues to grow, many retailers are struggling to turn a profit from online sales. The challenges of the last two years didn’t just fast-track eCommerce uptake, they also accelerated advances in technology, pushed businesses to revaluate traditional models, and forced many to rethink relationships between retailers, disruptive start-ups and automation; setting the scene for a radical shake up of fulfilment strategies in 2022,” said Raghav. One of these fulfilment strategies, and one of the most cost-effective trends retailers and supply chains are adopting is micro-fulfilment. Micro-fulfilment involves moving out of large singular DCs to smaller and more local and convenient hubs. By expediting the fulfilment process, micro-fulfilment gives brands the opportunity to get goods to their customers quickly ; whilst also providing convenient collection point for consumers. With the adoption of this kind of smart fulfilment method, retailers can get their goods to consumers faster, cheaper and more efficiently.

5. Visibility and forward planning will help future-proof retail and supply chain operations

With supply chain issues leading to stock level challenges for many retailers, the last thing any business wants is to run out of stock – or worse, to later find out that the stock they needed was in the warehouse the whole time.

“To mitigate this, operational visibility and forward planning remain fundamental to retail and supply chain continuity and efficiency. To gain these insights, solutions like a Warehouse Management System (WMS), which integrate all sales and distribution channels into one place are required. With innovations like a WMS, retailers have absolute transparency around their goods and are able to review the rules of stock allocation, temporarily giving priority to in-store stock over warehouse stock, thus, freeing up any trapped inventory confined within closed stores,” said Raghav.

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