When it comes to the modern customer experience, expectations simply do not stand still. The retail industry has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade, and it continues to morph. From greater convenience, to better value, more excitement, novelty, meaning, status, relevance, authenticity, and compelling social connection, forever evolving expectations are the driver of every change in retail we’re seeing today, and 2019 shows no sign of pause. Translation: retailers must take the proverbial bull by the horns to keep pace!
Here are 3 key retail trends to treat as golden opportunities in 2019 and beyond:
1. The multidirectional magic of mobile
It’s hardly news that mobile is king. But the power of mobile has now moved beyond customers simply visiting a well-designed, user-friendly online store from their phones. For example, pictures and videos viewed online can and should lead customers seamlessly to a waiting shopping cart. Additionally, many consumers expect to have retail experiences from their smartphone, tablet, smart speaker, laptop, desktop, or any other device they happen to possess. In-store, numerous magic points of sale are needed so customers can engage any way or place they want. By equipping your associates with the right digital tools and devices to satisfy this need meaningfully, your associates can succeed at knowing their customers, engaging them meaningfully, and ringing them in on the spot. Seamless transactions are sought after transactions.
2. Insta-personalization: the gravity of data
Fact: the presence or absence of data gives everything shape. Customers are beginning to expect their chosen retailers to make use of new forms of data—emotional data, eye tracking, and DNA, to name a few—in order to offer meaningful personalization that proves they really do know their fanbase. Take it from Knorr: they offer personalized recipes based on their customers’ Instagram feeds, and it’s a hit. Bottom line: having quick, efficient access to your clients’ search, purchase, browsing, and conversation history in order to deliver beautifully personal offers via email, text, and in-person is no longer simply a nice extra, but key. To achieve this, better direct-to-consumer apps with advanced omnichanneling capabilities are a practical requirement. The ability to connect customer data with direct-to-consumer features puts retailers at the forefront of customer experience creation. More and more, retailers will have to find ways of transitioning from customer experience (CX) to intimate experience (IX).
3. AI…but with humanity
Even though the US subscription e-commerce market has grown over 100% a year over the past 5 years, make no mistake: the backbone of retail is still personal, and anything but faceless. In fact, human is in, and likely here to stay. While it’s true that many consumers have no problem at all with the undeniable convenience that hyper-automation affords, they still want that personalized, human touch. So while it’s true that a rising number of consumers are becoming very comfortable outsourcing large portions of their retail decisions to AI and smart assistants, retailers should utilize customer context and location data to automate the purchasing process in whatever way will up engagement the best—by taking advantage of every opportunity to facilitate 1-on-1 interactions between customers and locally based associates. The slowly but surely emerging sweet spot is a combined approach. The best of both worlds, if you will: AI with a human touch. For instance, if an associate is equipped with the AI-obtained knowledge that a customer has purchased a pair of shoes and multiple dresses in the past, it becomes much easier to predict what they’re likely to buy in the future, and what type of offer will entice them. If an associate sees this data in a mobile app, they can use clienteling to make a well-informed recommendation to just the right person at the at just the right time. By providing your associates with access to the type of data that AI can capture, you are enabling them to make bigger, better, more informed recommendations, more quickly and relevantly than ever before. And that’s extremely good for business.
As frustrating as nonstop-morphing tech trends in retail can be at times, we happen to live in an age which represents more potentially golden opportunities than ever before. Led by advancements in digital channels, 2018 has been very kind to the US retail industry, with the market reporting growth every single month. So rather than viewing new and emerging trends as difficult challenges, try seeing them for what they really are: a forever expanding list of ways for your ROI to grow and flourish. Why not start by arming yourself with a powerful clienteling, digital shopping, and social engagement tool like Salesfloor?
Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2019!