The past 2 years have resulted in some major changes to the retail industry, such as a significant increase in online shopping, the rise of localisation and other changes in consumer behaviours. The question we need to be asking is what is next for the retail sector?

Pre-pandemic, engagement with global environmental issues was mired in a false sense of security and widespread apathy. Brands were unsure how to authentically drive their environmental agenda, and customer engagement was hampered by sporadic profiling.

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During lockdown, while fundamentally removed from the ‘white noise’ of social engagement, individuals had time to reflect on the external world and reassess their internal motivation and life choices. The fall-out of the pandemic shattered long held perceptions of personal security, economic stability, and social systems – so we sought comfort in shared values to reinforce a sense of stability.

As we emerged from the pandemic, we started to rebuild and redefine our relationships, including those with brands. Our reflection and personal accountability has challenged brands to respond in an authentic and engaging way. Technology is helping to clarify customer aspiration that was lacking pre-covid and hails a clear call-to-arms for brands

The smart brands are responding with a human-centric focus, engaging with common values, whether they’re based in wellbeing, sustainability, or inclusivity. They’re investing time, money and effort – they’re experimenting and learning and curating genuine friendships with their customers.

Leading the way however are ‘Parent’ brands, the ones that will eschew simple ‘friendship’ with the customer to garner a deeper, long-term relationship. ‘Paid Returns’, for instance, introduces a psychological cue in the online purchase process. Correctly presented, it prompts the customer to truly invest in their decision to buy, enhancing perceived value and loyalty and allows brands to prevent wastage throughout the whole-life cycle.

It is a bold and mature move and it may not be consistently popular in the early days, but which Parent is?

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