Every year, the retail industry gets bigger and better and completely different. Thus, our retail trends predictions cover these changes, too.
As a retailer, you’re certainly not new to anticipating what’s coming next. With customers getting more difficult to please every passing day, what is likely to make this better in the coming year?
And with technology growing leaps and bounds every day, what transforming innovations will the next year bring with it? We are here with some predictions for what retail is going to be like in 2019.
Don’t take our word for it, because we’ve brought in the experts and what they think as well!
1. Omnichannel Retail Is The Norm
We’ve been talking about the importance of omnichannel for a while now. But guess what? It’s finally here and with a bang at that!
Today, being a retailer is not about being active in just brick-and-mortar stores or just online stores. We’ve come to a point where it’s almost imperative to have an active presence on both. You must also ensure that orders are fulfilled efficiently no matter what the touchpoint.
“Multi-channel is vital for captivating consumers and keeping them engaged from first impressions to the eventual point of sale. Focusing on providing excellent service across sales channels will pay big dividends in the coming year.” – Jia Wertz, CEO- Studio 15
How do you as a retailer achieve this, though? Ms. Wertz in a Forbes article says it requires deep integration across all channels – websites, marketplaces, social media, and brick-and-mortar. This means keeping customers engaged at every point of the purchase process till the sale actually happens.
An inventory management software like Primaseller can help you sync your inventory across sales channels (offline and online) and allow you to stay on top of your orders in real time. This will ensure timely, streamlined order fulfillment, keeping your customers happy.
2. Physical Retail Out, Experiential Retail In
“Alibaba’s Hema Supermarket is the model for the store of the future. The beauty of Alibaba’s Hema Supermarket is that it showcases a world of New Retail where shopping and buying are no longer one and the same.” – Chris Walton, Former VP of Target’s ‘Store of the Future’
In a Forbes post, Mr. Walton lays out the kind of shopping experience consumers will want in 2019. With millennials making up most of today’s shoppers, more retailers are working toward transforming shopping into an engaging experience from a “walk into a store, buy things” kind of deal.
As it happens, Alibaba has already managed to achieve this. Mr. Walton explains how the company has capitalized on the most easily available tool at customers’ disposal – their mobile phones – to create a phenomenal retail experience. When a customer likes what they see, they just scan a barcode, pay for it electronically, and leave the store fully satisfied (with the option of having the product delivered home).
He goes on to say how cloud-based Point of Sale systems are a key factor driving this. They simplify shopping experiences by giving customers the liberty of deciding how they want to shop.
Primaseller’s iPad POS does just this with its easy payment options as well as offline and online inventory and customer tracking for omnichannel retailers. If you want to provide a shopping experience like Alibaba does to its customers, convenience can reach a whole new level for your customers and they will only be left wanting more.
3. Problem-Solving With AI And Machine Learning
“Investments in AI and machine learning can result in increased revenue and better customer experiences, but the solutions adopted need to be based on each retailers’ specific strengths, weakness and customer objectives.” – Bryan Gildenberg, Chief Knowledge Officer, Retail at Kantar Consulting
Speaking to Stores, Mr. Gildenberg says that customizing AI and machine learning to solve problems is the way to go in 2019. He goes on to explain that the data collated by retailers in combination with sophisticated algorithms can enhance inventory quality as well as product recommendations.
So, you can use this to your advantage and give your customers what they want. This could mean more accurate personalized experiences than known previously that will make shoppers flock to you.
4. Heavily Automated Supply Chains
A better supply chain needs to be one of the areas retailers should invest in 2019. With consumers lacking patience and wanting the best quality products available quickly, you as a retailer need to take to inventory management systems and AI for inventory forecasts to ensure that your supply chain is as fast as your customers need it to be.
New technology including robot pickers, RFID devices, blockchain systems, and pretty much any other technology that can make your supply chain faster is the way to go. Taking to robotic process automation too will increase your supply chain efficiency and reduce costs considerably by automating repetitive tasks.
“The traditional retail supply chain is under tremendous stress to still be able to deliver the best cost-of-goods while responding to the effects of the disconnectedness between consumer demand and fulfillment.” – Brian Kilcourse, Managing Partner at RSR Research as told to Stores Magazine
5. Voice-Based Search And Voice Assistants For Shopping
“I believe one of the trends where we will see more traction will be the rise of voice assistants and its implication on shopping. Brands and retailers who want to engage with shoppers via voice will have to get on Amazon Marketplace or Google Express to not miss out on this great growth opportunity.” – Marcel Hollerbach, CMO at Productsup
Retailers always believe that the customer is king. And that’s why conversational platforms are growing today like never before. With more retailers paving the path for more engaging shopping experiences, voice-based shopping is likely to be the next big thing in 2019 as Mr. Hollerbach rightly points out in a Productsup article.
Google now allows shoppers to shop directly from the likes of Sephora and Best Buy via its Shopping Actions service, which integrates Google Assistant, Google Express, and its search capabilities. Likewise, Amazon’s Alexa is also gaining momentum rapidly.
So, if you are looking to give your customers a unique shopping experience, adopting such voice-based technologies can be the answer.
6. Greater Social Presence Is Necessary
Speaking to Productsup, Dr. Matyka reveals that he sees immense potential for in-app shopping on social media like Instagram and Facebook as long as order placement and payment is easy and mobile-friendly. It’s eventually about creating an unparalleled shopping experience on the mobile through offerings like shoppable tags, shoppable looks, and shoppable videos.
“Everyone and nobody. Everyone, because it has never been so easy to sell worldwide. Nobody, because it is getting harder and harder to raise awareness and to assert oneself as a smaller shop against the big players. Be fast, be big, or be specialized.” – Dr. Dominik Matyka, Chief Advisor at DMEXCO
With convenience becoming a crucial aspect influencing a customer’s decision to stick with you, the more unique you make your on-the-go purchasing experience, the more likely you are to be noticed and the more profits you will make.
Also, social media as a buying platform significantly shortens the sales funnel. This is exactly what you need to get more conversions. Be sure to set up analytics and monitor your sales across channels and platforms.
7. Better Consumer Insights Are Now Available
It’s all about the customer.
If you intend to engage shoppers enough to boost your conversions, you need to know each of them down to every last detail. While this might have seemed impossible in the past, smart algorithms that gather data on search history, previous purchases, and more have made life easier for retailers.
Add to that AI technology like image recognition, and every customer gets to enjoy a personalized shopping experience like never before. This personalization, however, can hit the sweet spot only when you have abundant yet accurate data.
“Consumer engagement is entering a new level in 2019 and will only be possible by investing in complex data software and exploring ways to collect and leverage data in their sales, CSR, and marketing.” – Devin Fitzpatrick, Founder & CEO, CDF Consulting
In a discussion with CPCStrategy, Ms. Fitzpatrick talked about how data from an AI program is effective only within that AI program and is not always actionable.
2019 is going to be a year of abundant possibilities in this aspect – with more retailers looking out for and investing in technology that brings together the entire customer journey across platforms to give a 360-degree view of shoppers and their shopping behavior.
Only if you act on this will you be able to compete in the highly competitive retail environment.
8. A Growing Circular Economy
The sheer goal of a circular economy is to reduce or end material and energy loops. Richard Shapiro of the Center For Client Retention explains that such an economy embraces reusing, repurposing, recycling, and upcycling.
The added advantage? It saves you costs because of being able to repurpose your goods!
With time, more retailers are looking at sustainability as more than reducing waste. They believe that it’s about making a measurable contribution that matters.
Beyond that, there’s also the consideration of a growing number of customers who want to know how their products are produced. Retailers need to be able to answer that question genuinely.
“The retailer’s (Patagonia) Worn Wear program provides generous merchandise credits for returned Patagonia clothing in good condition. The returns are sorted into three categories: “Rewear” for clothes suitable for second-hand sale; “Reuse” for well-worn items to be turned into other products; and “Recycle,” which converts everything else to textile fibers and industrial products such as insulation.” – Richard Shapiro, Founder of The Centre For Client Retention
9. Self-Checkouts To Reduce Wait Times
Self-checkouts are often introduced on an experimental basis, or at least they have been so far. Sainsbury UK implements this in some stores, but not all.
In crowded stores, such an option can help move the queue faster. Brands considering this should keep a few things in mind:
- When the speed of movement is more important than interactions at checkout, self-checkout can work. This is usually the case on busy shopping streets and stores with a huge footfall.
- When a store is relatively new or does not usually have too many customers, manned checkouts help customers interact fruitfully. These interactions can further lead to repeat customers as well.
- As opposed to fully unmanned checkouts or fully staffed ones, it is important to evaluate what works for each retail outlet and follow that path instead.
“Where, as in some of the large grocery stores, you see that you’ve got a choice – self-scan as you go, ‘10 items or less’ express queue, standard queue and self-service checkout – then, as the consumer, you’re in control of which journey you want.”- Leigh Sparks, Professor of Retail Studies, University of Stirling
We’re keen to hear which of these trends and insights you saw coming, and your on-the-ground opinion as a retailer. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. Tell us how you are prepping for the next big year in retail.