Editor's View March 2018

Paths To The Future

It’s still early enough in the year to rub that crystal ball once more and see what experts have to say about retail trends and predictions for 2018. Here are insights into what is ahead this year from retail software management provider Vend (vendhq.com).
• “Chore” shopping for everyday items will become easier. Fast-delivering online retailers, subscription services and “personal assistants” like Alexa make purchasing commodities a streamlined breeze.
• “Cherish” or experiential shopping will become stronger. Consumers will seek out brick-amd-mortars for compelling products and unique experiences. Traditional, uniform format stores are set for decline. It’s those with innovative and diverse formats catering to specific locales and local customers that will thrive. More independent stores will enter the marketplace as technology makes it easier to get up and running.
• Stocking up on everything is “out”; curating your assortment specifically to suit what your customers are looking for is “in.”
• The demand for personalization is growing —not going—with consumers wanting products that tell a story, fit their lifestyles and/or are one-of-a-kind. Stores and brands that offer customizing options will have a leg up.
• Robots will be on the rise. Vend notes that in 2017 Amazon had robots in approximately 20 percent of its fulfillment centers. Mobile phone and e-commerce chatbots will increase and streamline customer communications.
• Retailers who take their social media strategies to a higher level will flourish. That means going beyond simply posting photos and updates to using social media and apps to romance products and brands, and engage with fans in real time—for example, via Facebook videos and Instagram storytelling.
• Retail decisions will be driven increasingly by data—in marketing, sales, customer service and operations. Whether it’s tracking sales and inventory with a cloud-based POS and retail management platform to identify daily top sellers or using facial recognition technology to ascertain when shoppers are frustrated so associates can open more checkout lines.
• More sophisticated augmented reality technology will be implemented—for example, to allow app users to see how products would look in their own homes before purchasing.
• Finally, on the rise will be a focus on environment-friendly lifestlyes by more consumers, the use of delivery and consulting services, and the appearance of QR codes, which will make a comeback as smartphone technology allows them to be read more easily without added software.
Being part of a successful future means planning how and acting now to make predictions like these a reality.