Retail is considered a conservative industry. However the world is changing at an insane speed and massive a player’s presence is on the market it will not always conquer: the fast will surpass the slow, for sure. Before they knew it, Blackberry’s top managers were left behind by more innovative enterprises such as Apple and Google. So retailers who weren’t interested in innovation before are now reviewing their strategies. Today, global retail has become a competitive industry which researches and introduces innovations. New technologies are associated not only with sales and customer service but also with the automation and acceleration of a business’s internal processes. Is it, therefore, still appropriate to think of retail as conservative? Let’s see what trends await retail in 2018.
According to the Apptentive study, 66% of retailers which recorded a decrease in customer loyalty hadn’t combined offline and online channels. To remain competitive in a mobile world, traditional retailers must constantly invest in work strategies through applications combining offline and online means of communication. An omnichannel model corresponds to modern buyers, who always have a smartphone in their hands and can go online anytime to select a product, compare prices, read descriptions and reviews. The main requirement for an omnichannel platform is the opportunity to buy using any method that is most convenient for the buyer.
Do you want to order dinner from Facebook messenger? No problem. Or maybe you would like to buy a new T-shirt from Instagram? Done! Are you in the mood to pay for coffee online and pick it up at the coffee shop on the way home? You got it!
For example, the giant cosmetics retailer Sephora has a special program which allows customers to view their own purchasing history and manage products they love from any device. Whether it’s a computer, smartphone or tablet, buyers will always have access to order information and will be able to manage and save to a wish list the products they want to buy later.
Another cool technology for retail is Apple’s iBeacon. This program allows the sending, to customers’ devices detected near stores, of alerts about discounts, personalized offers and so on. A potential buyer would be within reach of the radio transmitter installed in the store and have a brand app on a smartphone. This is a strong marketing tool.
Timberland is actively using NFC (near-field communication) technology. It provides wireless communication at short range. Nowadays, it is used not just for contactless payments; in retail, buyers can participate in loyalty programs, pay for purchases from their smartphones, and so on.
In 2018, buyers will be using smartphones in-store more frequently and not just to check Facebook or do selfies. They will collect coupons, tokens and gifts, follow personal recommendations and discounts, and pay for purchases using the phone. The retailer application installed on the user’s smartphone is a great advantage. The regular tracking of the basic indicators of the omnichannel loyalty program is a very important step. Measure the effects obtained by evaluating the results of the “before” and “after” launch of the omnichannel platform, the dynamics of the average check changes, the frequency of purchases and the percentage of outflow of buyers.
As stated in the latest research, the global retail self-checkout terminals market during 2018–2022 will grow by 18.63%. And it’s not surprising! People don’t want to waste time in a queue: it is much more convenient for them to purchase independently. Self-service systems help retailers to effectively use space in the store. For example, two standard cash registers can be replaced by four or even six self-checkout stations. They will be most relevant at the busiest hours and will help to reduce flow congestion in the store.
Many large retailers have already introduced them into their businesses. In 2016, fast-fashion retailer ZARA started experimenting with self-checkout stations, placing them in three stores in the chain; by today this number is much more impressive. In November 2017, American retail giant Walmart announced plans to increase the number of online order Pick-up stations by up to 500 devices.
Historically, retail has always sought to eliminate, as far as possible, the influence of the human factor on doing business. Automation of trading halls is a steady trend which nevertheless periodically declares itself. Taking into account the speed of self-service systems development and the emergence of stores such as Amazon Go, it is possible that the retail industry may witness significant changes in the coming years and transform into full self-service.
The things that yesterday seemed so far away and unattainable, today don’t cause us the least surprise—we feel like we’ve always had them. People facilitate their daily routine by introducing new technologies into their business. We’ve already mentioned some innovations in concept restaurants, and retail also has something to offer. Drones are an indisputable trend in retail which will determine the financial performance of companies in the coming year. For example, Walmart filed a patent for the use of drones in its stores. According to this idea, small drones will fly over the shelves and transfer products between departments.
American retailers have found another good use of drones. In particular, they have already tested drones which can deliver pre-ordered goods to special stop points. Other notable news was the purchase of unmanned cleaning robots. Walmart said that this will help employees focus on more important things.
In its turn, Amazon offers Prime Air delivery that promises buyers that they will receive packages within half an hour after placing an order. Sounds amazing, right? There’s one very important restriction: the weight of the package mustn’t exceed 2.3 kilograms. So yes, we are already living in the future.
Virtual reality is an extremely popular topic for discussion. 360° content is already used in the media, advertising, tourism industries, sports… Retail is also on track. The industry quickly realized the benefits that virtual reality technology can offer and hit the ground running. Swedish brand IKEA felt the trend and back in 2016 introduced an app that allows customers to discover themselves in a virtual kitchen where they can customize the colors and materials of cabinets at will.
Among the most striking cases is the Chinese giant AliExpress. The online retailer posted special tags with QR codes. They must be initiated by a smartphone or tablet; then there will appear on the screen the shelves laden with goods, so that the customer feels an actual presence in the store.
We think that augmented reality deserves special attention. Here you can recall the GAP experience, which was one of the first to open AR for retail. In the DressingRoom app, you can, to all appearances, try on anything from the store, though first the customer must enter the required clothing size into the app. Maybe in the very near future, this way of purchasing things will become a regular process and people won’t need to go out shopping at all.
Let us draw a picture of the very near future: “Alexa, I’m home”—these are the first words to pass everyone’s lips right after coming in. Alexa helps to call mom, forecast the weather, order dinner or even supplies from the grocery store. Although voice control is not the latest technology, it was widely distributed in 2017 and is not going to stop this year. In many ways, the development of this sphere is due to the Google–Amazon rivalry. The ordering algorithm looks like this: Alexa tells you if the item needed is available, its name and price. All other information is kept in the Alexa app. Next, you confirm or cancel the order (also by voice). And that’s it, it’s literally done! Alexa automatically links the address from your personal account to the shipping info. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?
Most likely in 2018, more and more people will get smart speakers or other devices that can be controlled by voice commands. According to the IFTTT poll, 36% of Americans already now prefer to make online purchases with the help of Alexa and Siri. The popularity of devices allowing you to change the experience of online shopping is growing every year. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday the number of Alexa users has grown by several million, so next year purchases through AI and voice assistance will become more familiar.
Customer loyalty and personalizing goods
Retailers will definitely continue to participate in the race for buyer attention using individual approaches to each customer. There are billions of dollars at stake so success will require maximum speed and creativity; otherwise the money will simply be thrown away.
What can retailers offer their customers? For example, personalized offers to buy goods that are combined with things purchased by the customer recently (a jacket that fits the jeans you bought a month ago) or a bot that tracks the schedule of purchases and reminds the customer when it will be necessary to update stocks.
Retailers which allow buyers to create or customize their own products will definitely thrive. Personalization will continue to be a key retail trend in 2018. It proves that the simplest marketing ideas are often the best ideas. Items with names on them (starting with T-shirts and ending with jewelry) have always been in demand. For its part, Coca-Cola decided not to reinvent the wheel and launched the “Share a Coke” campaign that became a worldwide trend back in 2014. Every bottle had one of the 250 most popular names of the 13-to-34 generation on it. The main goal of the project was to personalize the brand and engage people in the campaign. And they got it, brilliantly. Can we say that all social media were full of posts with Coca-Cola cans with user’s names?
Now people pay much more attention to the goods they buy and everyone wants to have that unique item. Therefore, it is very important to give the customer the opportunity to personalize their purchases and make them as special as possible. For example, Nike made a real breakthrough, releasing HyperAdapt—sneakers which change size right under your foot. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect sneakers, then what does?
Plenty of Internet marketing studies have shown that the fewer clicks a user has to make to place an order, the higher will be the number of successful orders. Long story short, if you reduce the number of clicks, then the failure rate will be significantly lower. That’s why more and more online stores and large retailers have implemented the one-click order. Time is the most important resource for mankind and most of the time customers don’t have enough time to fill multiple fields. For example, imagine a situation where a potential buyer flips through the catalog of products on his smartphone while sitting in a taxi or in the subway on his way to work. The probability that after seeing 8 fields to fill he will leave the order uncompleted is much higher than if he had been offered a superfast and convenient option for buying.
Amazon, as always, went further and created the Dash button. Basically, this is a small Wi-Fi gadget that ensures you have a sufficient quantity of food and household products. When a customer notices that his favorite product is used up, all he needs to do is press the button and relax. Supplies will be completed and delivered as soon as possible within a day or two. The customer receives the order confirmation notification through the Amazon App. The button allows ordering products right away, without searching for them online. The Dash button doesn’t need any special settings: it is linked to a popular grocery or household brand and ready to be used.
To summarize, we want to say that general attention in the retail segment will be directed mostly to automation. The industry giants already had the strategy years in advance; small retailers should follow the example and use techniques that could be beneficial specifically for them. Without doubt, trends play an important role. But also, is it very important to have an accounting system that will be work for your business. Every type of business needs to be run smartly, that is why every store, restaurant or nightclub needs a POS software.