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What Is Retail? Exploring the Definition, Functions and Trends



Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

March 15, 2023

7 min read

Retail businesses sell consumer goods and services through different channels. The industry has evolved, and businesses have adopted new technologies and strategies to stay competitive. In this article, we will discuss what retail is, the different functions of a retail business, what is supply chain and why it is essential, recent trends in the retail industry, and more.

What Is Retail?

Retail is the process of selling consumer goods and services through different channels. Retail businesses purchase products or services from manufacturers or wholesalers and then sell them to customers at a markup. Retail businesses operate in multiple channels, including physical stores, eCommerce platforms, mobile apps, and social media.

Different Functions of a Retail Business

The following are some of the essential functions of a retail business:


Merchandising is the process of selecting, purchasing, and displaying products to maximise sales and profitability. It involves carefully considering product design, pricing, placement, and promotion factors. Effective merchandising can increase customer engagement, drive sales, and lead to greater business profitability. Retail businesses must carefully curate their product assortment to meet customer demands while balancing inventory costs and sales performance.

Sales and Customer Service

Sales and customer service functions are critical to retail businesses. They are responsible for engaging customers, answering their questions, and providing them with the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. Good customer service is essential to building a loyal customer base and driving repeat business.

Marketing and Advertising

Marketing and advertising functions are responsible for promoting the retail business, its products, and its brand. They must develop and execute marketing campaigns that communicate the brand’s message and engage with customers across various channels.


Operations functions are responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the retail business, including store management, logistics, and inventory management. They ensure that products are delivered on time, inventory levels are maintained, and the store is well-organised.

Finance and Accounting

Finance and accounting functions are responsible for managing the financial aspects of the retail business. They must ensure the business is profitable and financially stable, manage cash flow, and prepare financial reports.

Human Resources

Human resources functions are responsible for managing employee recruitment, training, and retention. They must ensure the business has the right people with the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver excellent customer service and drive sales.

What Is Supply Chain?

The supply chain is the series of interconnected activities involved in producing and delivering goods and services to the end customer. It includes sourcing, procurement, manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, inventory management, and distribution. Supply chain management manages these activities to ensure that products and services are delivered efficiently and effectively to customers.

Why Is Supply Chain Important for a Retail Business?

Supply chain management is essential for retail businesses to maintain their competitive edge and meet customer demands. Here are some reasons why:

  • Efficient Operations: An effective supply chain management strategy enables retail businesses to operate efficiently. It ensures that the right products are available in the right quantities at the right time, reducing the risk of stockouts and overstocking. This, in turn, helps to reduce inventory costs, improve cash flow, and increase profitability.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: Supply chain management is crucial in providing an excellent customer experience. A well-managed supply chain enables retail businesses to meet customer demands quickly and efficiently, providing a seamless shopping experience. This leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Increased Agility: Retail businesses must be agile to respond to demand, supply, and market conditions changes. An adequate supply chain management strategy enables retail businesses to react quickly to changes in demand and supply, ensuring they have the right products available when customers need them.
  • Cost Savings: Supply chain management enables retail businesses to reduce costs by streamlining their operations. It helps to eliminate waste and inefficiencies, reducing costs associated with inventory management, transportation, warehousing, and distribution.
  • Competitive Advantage: Effective supply chain management can provide a competitive advantage for retail businesses. It helps to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance the customer experience. This, in turn, helps to differentiate retail businesses from their competitors and increase market share.

The retail industry has undergone significant changes in recent years, driven by technology and changing consumer behaviours. Here are some current trends in the retail sector:

  • Personalisation: involves tailoring products and services to individual customers’ needs and preferences. Retail businesses use data analytics and artificial intelligence to provide personalised customer experiences.
  • Sustainability: consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and retail businesses are responding by adopting sustainable practices. Retail businesses are reducing their carbon footprint, using eco-friendly materials, and implementing recycling programs.
  • Omni-channel Retailing: involves providing customers with a seamless shopping experience across different channels. Retail businesses use technology to enable customers to buy products online and pick them up in-store, among other omnichannel strategies.
  • Social Commerce: this is a growing trend in the retail industry. Retailers use social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to showcase their products and sell them directly to customers. As customers increasingly use social media for product discovery and shopping, retailers must develop a social commerce strategy to reach customers where they are spending their time online. Social commerce can provide retailers with valuable customer data and insights, enabling them to personalise their marketing efforts and improve the customer experience.


Retail is a critical industry that provides products and services to consumers. Retail businesses perform different functions, including merchandising, marketing, and customer service. Supply chain management is also critical for a retail business to ensure it has the right products at the right time and place. The retail industry has undergone significant changes in recent years, driven by technology and changing consumer behaviours. Retail businesses must adopt new technologies and strategies to stay competitive and meet customer expectations.

If you are a retailer looking to optimise your operations and improve your supply chain, consider partnering with a reliable logistics and shipping platform like Shiprocket. With its powerful tools and services, Shiprocket can help you streamline your logistics processes, manage your inventory, and provide customers with a seamless shipping experience. Don’t let logistics and shipping challenges hold your business back – take advantage of the latest trends and innovations in the retail industry with Shiprocket.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

How can retail services benefit small businesses?

Retail services can benefit small businesses in several ways. First, they can provide access to a wider customer base through online platforms and other marketing efforts. Second, they can provide valuable support in areas such as inventory management, product sourcing, and customer service. Finally, they can help small businesses to compete with larger retailers by offering unique products and services.

What are some emerging trends in retail services?

Some emerging trends in retail services are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to improve customer experiences and personalization. Retailers are increasingly using social media and influencer marketing to reach customers and build brand awareness. Besides, retailers are exploring new models, such as subscription services and experiential retail, to engage customers and differentiate themselves from competitors.

How can retailers use technology to enhance their retail services?

Retailers can use technology to enhance their retail services in several ways. For example, they can use mobile apps to provide personalised recommendations and offers to customers. They can also use virtual reality to create immersive experiences for customers and allow them to visualise products in a more engaging way.

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