Retailers have been put through the ringer the last few years.
2017 saw hundreds of store closures for many big-box industry titans. 2018 ushered in the inevitable industry-wide adoption of omnichannel retail as business owners began to adapt to meet consumer preferences in order to stay relevant and competitive.
2019 will be the year that consumers really win, as retailers compete with one another to provide the shopping experience of the future. Luckily, major advancements in technology have provided the tools for independent retailers and chain stores alike to evolve with current retail trends.
Here’s an in-depth look at what retail trends are on the horizon and how you can leverage cutting-edge technology to stay relevant and competitive:
Experiential retail is not new. Makeup counters have been showcasing their products by giving makeovers to customers for decades. What is new, however, is the role technology plays in creating these retail experiences.
Nike, for example, centered its entire new 68,000-square foot flagship store around the Nike app, which allows users to scan codes on items and have them brought to the fitting rooms.
Swedish home furnishings retail Ikea held a challenge on its Facebook page giving 100 winners the chance to spend the night in its Essex warehouse, where they were treated to massages, salons, and their choice of mattresses and pillows for a custom sleep experience.
According to Forbes, this trend has already caught on, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down.
Both augmented reality and virtual reality have made major strides in functionality, in its presence in retail, and they are both sparking retail trends worldwide. Virtual reality has been around for slightly longer, with brands like TOMS, a longtime proponent of social responsibility, using in-store VR to immerse customers in their charitable giving experience.
The adoption of augmented reality that allows users to virtually “try” items before they buy, however, is picking up pace in the retail sector as brands get more and more creative with the technology. Stylish glasses company Warby Parker uses the iPhone’s face recognition app to map people’s faces and display how different frames would look on them.
Home Depot uses advanced AR technology to allow its users to see how a paint color would look in their own room through its Project Color app, even taking lighting, shadows, and objects in the room into consideration for a realistic view.
Apple Pay, PayPal and Samsung Pay have been steadily gaining in popularity, but individual retailers are implementing contactless payment methods through their own apps.
The new Nike flagship store mentioned earlier is implementing this retail trend by allowing customers to scan desired items with their mobile phones and pay instantly with saved credit card information, Apple Pay, or Paypal.
Coffee giant Starbucks has its own mobile payments system that is so popular, it outshines even the top three mobile payments apps, and is by far the fastest way for customers to pay and receive points for their purchases.
Gen Z Driven Marketing
While the retail industry was racking their collective brain trying to figure out how to appeal to Millennials, a new generation seemed to become the driving force behind retail trends almost overnight.
More adept at technology and tuned in to retail trends than any other demographic, the best way to connect with Gen-Z is to use social, as they are 59% more likely to connect with brands they like on social media.
And just like the brands they connect with, they are interested in curating their own personal brand online, which means they want custom products nobody has seen before. Brands are cashing in on these retail trends by offering customization. Brands like Hawthorne are offering custom scents for their cologne products, and Function of Beauty lets shoppers customize their own shampoo and conditioner based on their hair type.
Gen-Z is the demographic to watch in 2019. Their growing purchasing power makes them a prime audience.
Omnichannel is Status Quo
By now, every major successful retailer is running an omnichannel operation but we have reached the point where an omnichannel business isn’t enough anymore to stay competitive – you have to do it well. This means creating a seamless experience for your customers. It means offering peripheral services like click and collect. It means giving your store associates the power to make customized upsell suggestions and mobile checkout technology to get the out from behind the cash wrap. Basically, it’s time to take your technology and use it to delight customers and create loyal shoppers.
In the past, retailers have just accepted the fact that part of the omnichannel world was dealing with disparate systems. This concept is outdated. In today’s world of open APIs and ERP integrations, retailers do not have to operate this way any longer.
The Customer Comes First
The key takeaway from these retail trends is that the customer experience will be a major driving force behind the retail landscape in 2019. The age of selling through a single channel and relying on your inventory are coming to a close.
Not only should you give your customers more ways to buy from you — online or off, but more exciting and engaging ways to buy from you. By leveraging major advancements in technology and integrating into your retail management solution, you can create a seamless, unique customer experience that will keep your brand relevant and place you ahead of the competition.