Although most retailers right now are focused on executing their holiday strategies, it’s a great time to take a moment and look forward to the retail technology trends that will influence and inform the industry in the year ahead. There’s no time like the present to take stock of how 2017 unfolded and use those insights to pivot and plan for 2018.
Hyper Focus on CX
A funny thing happened in 2017: despite all the chatter about how the customer experience (CX) is more important than ever, CX actually declined or leveled off at companies across verticals, according to Forrester research. Whatever the cause for that stumble, it’s imperative that businesses put the customer at the center of their operations, and quickly. The stakes are high: according to Salesforce data, 70% of consumers say switching to a competitor is easier than ever, thanks to technology; 52% will defect if a business fails to personalize communications; and 75% expect a consistent experience across channels, from mobile to social to brick and mortar.
That level of omnichannel consistency in enabling an ideal customer experience is key to achieving the next retail technology trend.
Harnessing the Power of Loyalty
In the year ahead, retailers will double down on loyalty as a primary means of strengthening customer relationships. Loyalty is what every retailer hopes to inspire: passionate customers who not just go out of their way to purchase from a particular brand but also eagerly spread the word to friends and family (and even strangers on the Internet!) about how great the company is.
For retailers, a well-executed loyalty program will operate seamlessly across all channels, offering a 360-degree view of the customer and her specific purchasing behavior. Armed with this crucial information, retailers can address the customer on a one-to-one basis, demonstrating a deep knowledge of the shopper and providing relevant offers and experiences. With the right systems in place, retailers can get one step closer to capturing the customer’s loyalty by serving her on her terms.
Widening of the Technology Gap
Over the past year, one retail technology trend particularly worth noting is how the technology gap between retail leaders and laggards has been widening. No longer can retail companies take a “wait and see” approach to the latest tech innovations infiltrating the industry. The recent wave of digital-first companies, such as Bonobos, Warby Parker and others, that launched online with e-commerce before expanding into physical retail, have a head start in providing the kind of top-notch, user-friendly experience that tech-savvy shoppers are seeking.
Finally Learning to Embrace Data
Despite the fact that just about every retailer is awash in data, not many are making full use of all this information. So if you feel like you’re behind the curve, don’t worry too much: you’re not alone. In order to prevent a further widening of the technology gap, as mentioned above, in the year to come your peers will act on this retail technology trend by implementing systems to really put their data to work. It’s what retailers do with their treasure trove of data that will separate the success stories from the not-so-much. From improving inventory turns to transforming social sentiments into actionable insights, data can elevate nearly aspect of the retail enterprise.
Let’s not forget: maximizing retail data means breaking down traditional siloes so that information can be shared seamlessly across the organization. This is essential for creating a truly omnichannel enterprise that can execute swiftly to serve today’s discerning customers.
Your to-do list for 2018 probably is growing by the minute but don’t overlook how these four predictions will play out next year.
Which of these retail technology trends will your business act on first?