Editor’s Note: This article reflects the opinions of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of Star Cloud Services.
With 2017 nearly half over, we thought it would be a good idea to review some of the top retail trends we are seeing so far this year.
Retail technology is featuring high on the list of what independent and local retailers can now do to improve their in-store offers.
As such, we’re on the leading edge of the intersection of retail and the Internet of Things, with a unique ability to turn the paper and digital receipts into loyalty-marketing and monetizable advertising that produces ROI.
Retail is evolving now at an exponential rate following in the footsteps of machine intelligence, connected devices and new software integrations, that were previously not possible.
So what are the big retail trends in 2017 that independent retailers should know about?
1. Provide Unique In-Store Experiences
As Vend POS mentions, in-store experiences are one of the major changes in retail which adapts itself to consumer preferences.
This requires the new level of campaigns, creativity, and events to attract customers to come to the store. The way small business retailers think about seasonal campaigns must shift.
2017 is seeing a new emphasis on creating in-store experiences that delight shoppers. New retail hacks the fact that the new consumer enjoys experiences and not only products. These can boost retail traffic and provides added value to the all-important customer experience.
2. The Augmented Cloud and Mobile Point of Sale
For retailers, your favorite POS solutions are improving their partnerships and API integrations with ISVs (independent software vendors). Whether it’s added loyalty features, analytics or improved management of employees – everything counts.
I believe these integrations, sometimes called “add-ons” is reaching a new stage of maturation in 2017. What we are seeing is a combination of better software, improved machine intelligence and greater emphasis on valuable partnerships in the POS space.
Before choosing a POS solution, therefore, it’s wise to carefully review what integrations and apps are compatible with you preferred cloud and mobile POS.
3. Store Closures set Records in 2017
It’s hard to dispute the first half of 2017 has already seen major spikes in retail big-chain store closures approaching (2008) recession levels. This is particularly interesting since unemployment in the U.S. is at very low levels.
While this has resulted in the “Retail Apocalypse” meme that’s trending; this is a natural consolidation that’s taking place. However, it is resulting in a weaker than normal retail job market.
4. Big-Box Retail Makeovers
Wal-mart is improving it’s e-commerce and BOPIS offers (buy online pickup in store). Meanwhile, Macy’s is becoming a discount store. We are seeing a lot of other retail chains are closing stores and optimizing their strategy for the new consumer.
5. Pure Play Extinction
As top e-retailers open up stores to do showrooming and for added brand awareness, pure-play e-retailers are becoming less common.
As the divide between online and offline disappears, more e-retailers are opting to open up physical stores. Here is a list of some of the top e-retailers who have made the transition to physical stores as well.
6. Showrooming Spikes
How retailers let their customers “try on” their product in-store, without have stock in-store is producing surprising conversion increases.
Therefore “showrooming” is becoming more mainstream now in retail verticals where it wasn’t seen before such as apparel.
This amounts to the opposite of BOPIS, try in-store buy online (TISBO).
7. Leverage Artificial Intelligence in Brick-and-Mortar Environments
The age of personalization moderated by machine intelligence is near.
Even brick-and-mortar retailers must now use tools to leverage customer analytics to their full advantage. Store sensors such as Dor technologies enable your POS to be smarter. The democratization of data affords even small business retailers to become “data natives” to offer their customers a better in-store experience.
As the internet of things (IoT) begins to become more salient to retail, artificial intelligence will become more ubiquitous. Customers are getting accustomed to algorithms recommending them products, and as predictive analytics evolves, greater levels of personalization will produce great results.
8. The End is Near for Sears
The writings on the wall for Sears.
Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD) is going bankrupt and it’s uncertain how much longer it can survive. The decline of the American Mall is a major story in the last decade of American detail that has led to a retail store cull.
While some believe Amazon has killed the need to go out and shop; that’s not necessarily the case for SMB retailers that are more local community-based. With major e-retailers like Amazon and Alibaba moving towards opening physical stores, a new retail is rising in response to the new consumer who is digital natives.
9. Rise of the New Consumer
There’s a lot of debate in 2017 about a very tangible shift in consumer behavior. As more GenX and boomers are starting to behave themselves like “digital natives”, new online opportunities are taking place.
The new consumer is not just a discount shopper, they are mobile natives in-store. They are hyper influenced by new kinds of “word-of-mouth” such as influencer marketing. As the attention span of mobile devices moves content to video, how retailers reach their customers online is changing too.
10. Retail Storytelling on the Rise to Adapt to GenZ
The way we see customer experience is adapting to the preferences of the next-gen of shoppers. A new emphasis on transparency, authenticity and corporate social responsibility is being highlighted as retail brands attempt to sync with the values, and not only the behaviors, of the new consumer.
A new emphasis on visual storytelling that cuts through the noise is required to engage us accompanied by better video marketing by retail brands.
11. Advent of the Store 4.0
What’s being called the store 4.0 is arriving. This refers to omnichannel fulfillment centers that provide, according to Deloitte:
Retail experiences and environments. Is your store up to the mark?
As Facebook Messenger chatbots become more popular, the entire way we do conversational commerce will change. Shopify acquired the chatbot Kit, that is now popular on their app store.
Chatbots can help with customer service 24/7, help retailers with marketing and help augment small businesses with artificial intelligence. In the near future, the way small business owners manage their business with automation will be greatly improved.
13. Voice User Interface
Amazon Echo and Google Home now are officially on the scene in many North American homes. This means the VUI has a great potential to impact conversational commerce as well.
There’s some consensus that a post-mobile ecosystem is beginning to emerge, where artificial intelligence enables the consumer to be less tethered to their mobile devices.
Since “Alexa”, Amazon’s personal virtual assistant is scaling in skills that are app-integrations very quickly, retailers and service providers can ride the wave with their own APIs. Amazon expects this to become a multi-billion dollar industry in the near future.
14. Mobile First Offers
It goes without saying that in 2017 shoppers access mobile devices in-store.
Retailers have to leverage this trend in new ways to boost customer retention and create offers that improve customer loyalty that leads to higher customer lifetime value from the right customers.
This is one of the reasons we’ve offering SMBs omnichannel solutions via our cloud-connected printers.
Loyalty-marketing that’s mobile-first allows retailers to tap into customer-centric channels that were previously unavailable that are facilitated by QR codes, digital receipts, and mobile coupons.
15. Next-Gen Tech will Influence the Future Store
A wide array of future technology will impact retail including new consumer orientated augmented reality offerings that should arrive well before 2020.
The evolution of VR, 3D-printing, robotics, drones and dozens of other verticals will impact the retail industry. New advances in shopper-tracking, digital signage, smart mirrors and more sophisticated use of beacons is already occurring.
The future of the store is evolving and computer vision facilitated by LIDAR is an important component of that as well. We are seeing ourselves, that QR codes and RFID tagging are becoming more common place.
These trends are impacting the pre-post sales customer experience in new ways. Each year, showrooming in VR becomes closer to being a reality.
As these tech advances occur, what we term e-commerce today will be even more ubiquitous to the new consumer.
16. Amazonification of Retail Continues
Following the best retail news outlet, RetailDive, it becomes apparent just how much Amazon innovates on a monthly and quarterly basis.
Recently, Amazon’s launch of its third-party subscription marketplace already features services such as Fitbit, The Wall Street Journal, Disney Story Central, Dropbox and other pubs such as the Chicago Tribune.
Amazon is not simply an e-retailer; it’s scaling to become the dominant online ecosystem of the future.
Amazon is moving beyond being an e-retailer and has entered the realm of artificial intelligence as a global corporate behemoth with advances in logistics, Amazon Prime and Alexa, among others. Therefore, for retailers, Amazon is worthy of constant study.