The year 2017 was a transformative year in the industry which saw the world of retail introduced to many technologies designed to help retailers channel their customer experience. Many retailers are entering this year with the hope to understand what retail technology trends will dominate the next 12 months, and what that would mean for their business strategy.
Much like last year, the retailers that will flourish will be those who are able to adapt to new trends and align their strategy towards providing more of a customer-centric experience. Success in retail will also rely on the ability to use as many facets of retail technology as possible to provide a personalised shopping experience, especially in today’s competitive market which is heavily influenced by the needs of customers.
There has been much uncertainty in retail as a result of Brexit and how this will affect the industry as we enter 2019. Nevertheless, consumer confidence has grown as retailers look past the undisclosed effects of Brexit towards another successful year of retail. This is highlighted by the fact that seasonal spending continues to break records and the number of retail store closures has plateaued. After all, more shops were opened than were closed in the first quarter of 2017 according to Growth Business. So what does this mean for you and your business? To help, below are three trends in retail to keep in mind for 2018 as you look at building on the success of last year.
Whilst it’s hard to say whether brick-and-mortar stores will be around in 3018, it is safe to say that, despite developments such as Brexit and the growth of the online shopping experience, brick-and-mortar stores will continue to thrive. Just when we thought ecommerce could spell the end of physical locations, stores have witnessed a regeneration in retail — highlighted by Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods for $14 billion, enabling them to tap into a physical retail market.
Instead of the traditional format for retail stores, retailers should tailor their strategy to provide the most memorable experience, which has and will remain at the forefront of success. Retail technology has become an intrinsic part of the in-store experience — whether using beacons to understand which areas of your shop are most visited or which inventory items your customers interact with. There are also advanced electronic point of sale systems that manage customer data, social media and store operations to create a more efficient way to shop. For independent retailers, this will prove essential to the success of your business. Small investments such as this equip your business with the same tools used by larger brands to understand the needs of the customers at a fraction of the cost, presenting you with an opportunity to thrive in what will be a very competitive retail market in 2018.
A personalised brand spells success
As part of the push towards a more customer-centric shopping experience, retailers who are able to fully customise their consumer journey will not only retain customers, but also attract new ones. The formula for this? Create an experience they cannot get anywhere else.
Today, the customer is always right because more emphasis is placed on the in-store experience and beyond, with purchases taking a back seat. So create a service that tells a story, or one that fits into the lifestyle and beliefs of your customers. For example, brands that are aligned with health and wellbeing, or that are environmentally-friendly illustrate to consumers that there is something deeper within the service you provide or the items you sell. A sense of purpose goes a long way.
Large brands such as Nike & Coca-Cola have owed much success to personalisation — the ability to design your own Nike branded trainers, or having the option of ordering a can of coke with your name on it, even though it costs more, has kept shoppers coming back due to the uniqueness of this shopping experience.
Retail Technology: data will rule
In order to create this personalised service, you need data and this should be used to make any business-critical decision. Only the most successful retailers will find ways to collect and leverage data in their sales, marketing, customer service, and day-to-day operations. Data combined with retail technology will put you at the forefront of the industry this year and position your band as an innovator. The possibilities are endless — monitoring the popularity of products, automatically replacing inventory that you are low on, or even using feedback to develop campaigns. After all, using feedback illustrates to your customers that they are represented in your strategy and guarantees they will come back. This is really where data makes the difference.
Big Data is the golden child of large brands, who can tailor social media and other engagement campaigns based on readily available information. But with the low-cost of social media, independent retailers can build their brand anywhere in the world and makes personalisation possible when you understand your customers, regardless of what you sell.
All the trends mentioned above all signal towards one thing — creating an omnichannel experience for your shoppers, and one that is convenient and memorable. That is, creating an environment where your customers can shop when they want, how they want, and whenever they want. So give them exactly that.
This is an exciting time to be in retail. In the realms of both in-store and online, each of these trends could mean you may have to completely change your business strategy if you haven’t already. However, the process of seeing how you can attract, engage and interact with your customers and beyond will be fun, insightful and profitable.