Retail is in major flux. Department stores have lost more jobs than coal mines have, and it’s not a phase. Digital transformation is key to exploring uncharted territory and maintaining a competitive edge in the modern retail landscape.
Here are 5 trends currently driving the evolution of retail:
Mass marketing continues to be overshadowed by more effective one-to-one experiences. Many brands have already begun to integrate big data. Increasingly, it will merge with other technologies to deliver hyper personal, in-store and online customer experiences. Store terminals and devices are en route to becoming aware of in-store interactions, enabling marketers to reflect on individuals’ purchase histories. Modern associates can use omnichannel clienteling to access customer profiles and purchase histories, and send personalized messages with clickable recommendations to customers. With customer data integrated in an app, automated reminders can even be sent to associates so follow-ups with customers are perfectly timed, be they on or offline.
2. Omnichannel culture
78% of retailers say it’s critical to integrate e-commerce and in-store experiences, speaking to the importance of an omnichannel journey. Retailers don’t have web/mobile departments anymore and have no choice but to reconfigure their companies to work both on and offline. New roles and approaches to inventory are needed, such as the endless aisle: an associate should not lose a sale because they don’t have the stock in-store. Instead, they should be equipped to order it online for the customer. A customer can walk out having purchased exactly what they want, even though their product may arrive at the store or their home a day or two later. This practice of combining physical and virtual product purchasing is the ultimate sales strategy. A recent study revealed that 90% of retailers will implement “buy online, pickup in store” by 2021.
3. Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT devices provide the most direct pathway for retailers to connect devices to actionable data that can be used to drive traffic and sales. Customers can now receive personalized notifications on their smart device immediately upon entering a store—a special coupon, for example, based on items they’ve browsed or purchased before. IoT enabled devices and apps can also tell customers what’s in stock, show them similar brands, or allow them to view product pricing histories, driving them to shop online or in-store. IoT’s true value is in the data that can be used to connect online and offline activities and raise audience insights. Walmart, for example, uses weather data to anticipate grocery sales!
4. Tomorrow’s store associate
Shopping experiences are changing, which in turn transforms what it means to be an associate, and how one should interact with customers in-store and online. Associates should be empowered with the digital tools that allow them to connect and foster relationships with customers across all channels, and retailers must acknowledge that the growth of virtual associates is most definitely a trend leading us into the future.
At Saks Fifth Avenue, in-store associates can recommend and sell across mobile, web, and in-store, and customers can chat with them live online. In addition, Saks “Style Advisors” can help customers find items, answer styling questions, and send newly arrived products to be tried out. By combining personalized recommendations online with in-store associate engagement, Saks is ahead of the game.
At Chico’s FAS,’ associates can order from the store’s distribution centre or from other stores as needed. The retailer also happens to collect customer data on over 90% of its sales, which means better informed associates.
At L’Occitane en Provence, personable “Beauty Advisors” are on hand at in-store social events to talk about products. They even hold open mic nights where visitors are invited to share thoughts. “The hard sell is not what anybody wants these days,” says vice president Paul Blackburn.”If you do that right, the sales come naturally.”
5. Artificial Intelligence
AI combines enormous data sets with deep-learning algorithms to reveal valuable insights. AI comes in many forms, including robots manufacturers, delivery drones, automated checkouts, and advanced chatbots. AI has two chief uses in retail. First, by using AI plugins to anticipate customer purchase behaviors, associates are better-enabled to make relevant product recommendations and offer suggestions that results in higher sales. For example, H&M’s Kik can ask customers questions via chat to narrow down what they want, and then automatically send relevant information, facilitating a purchase. Second, AI can be used to help associates better engage with customers. If a customer has an inventory question, AI technology can generate an appropriate response or recommendation, making it easier for associates to efficiently serve customers online. Associates can use data from AI forms or bots to make effective recommendations online and off. When associates work together with AI, retailers are unstoppable.
Customers are more than ready to engage with the above retail trends in tech. Be ready to meet them where they’re at while staying a step ahead of ever-changing retail trends!