The term “retail apocalypse” has been tossed around in grim conversation ever since ecommerce came on the scene, changing the game for brick and mortar shops indefinitely.
What used to work to increase margins or customer loyalty doesn’t cut it anymore, and navigating new customer expectations is a challenge all on its own. In fact, this marked shift in consumer habits can be seen as clear evidence that technology has surpassed traditional business practices and rendered them inert.
But, don’t worry.
This isn’t a doom and gloom situation for store owners, or their brands. Recovery has already been initiated by savvy retailers who embrace the very technology solutions that once delivered such crippling blows to their businesses in the past.
Retail is destined to be transformed in the ever-evolving digital landscape with these big trends making a splash in 2018.
Multi-channel marketing used to be king in retail. Businesses were interacting with customers by offering many platforms, for example, coupons in a newspaper, a basic website, social media pages, customer service portals.
In 2018, the focus is less on how many ways you reach out to your customers, but rather how to connect all those channels. Retailers who silo their different marketing efforts and shopping experiences will learn the hard way that there is no divide anymore. Online and offline shopping behaviours have merged, and consumers expect one cohesive experience. Furthermore, they often use multiple devices during their purchasing journey.
Enter the new standard, omni-channel marketing: A fully integrated shopping experience that puts your focus on engaging with customer needs. A well executed omni-channel marketing strategy will be seamless, and work consistently across multiple devices.
Picture this. You’re a retailer for stylish athletic wear, and a customer checks out your products on their phone before entering your store. A great example of an omni-channel experience would be “smart fitting rooms” or a “fitting room cart” that allows your customer to preselect items online that will be ready to try on when they come to your location. Talk about convenience!
This also gives your sales people a chance to go the extra mile, offering recommendations based on the outfits your customer chose online. Even better, your business will be armed with all the data and analytics associated with this cross-channel shopping experience, like which items are most popular online vs actual in-store purchases.
Mobile payment options
One of the biggest new trends to expect from the retail sphere is that the traditional checkout counter will be going the way of the dinosaur - and soon. Mobile pay is the future of retail sales.
73% of American consumers hate the checkout process, even though more than two thirds like shopping in real physical stores over online ordering.
Mobile payment solutions are different from physical self-checkout terminals, which still trap your customers in cringe-inducing lineups, and there are now a range of ways to apply new technology depending on what kind of ease-of-use best suits your business and your customers.
Some stores have provided the experience of “roaming tablets” (think Apple Store) so that purchases can be made at any point, and in any part, of their store. Allowing for tap, digital wallets can also expedite the checkout process.
However, a business with a customer base of app-centric users, QR or Quick Response bar codes will offer even more flexibility, as you don’t need to link your terminal to a central database. Most mobile wallet apps include a QR scanner, and your customer can make an immediate purchase without ever needing to present items for payment at checkout!
Accurate inventory control is crucial when you’re a retailer. Customers are shopping differently, they’re paying differently, so it stands to reason that your inventory and supply chain approach needs to do some evolving of its own. Inventory management went digital years ago, but it’s not enough to ditch paper invoicing and manual ordering.
Recognizing underperforming products or staying on top of low inventory items in real time moves your inventory forecasting from guess work to data-driven pre-cognition. Since there are often many supply chain players that affect your inventory processes, workflow alerts that automate emails and orders work to seamlessly connect suppliers, distributors and manufacturers.
Easy restocking is only one benefit of applying software that works with data algorithms. Automation and AI solutions can be applied to every product and inventory cycle, but the real impact comes through pattern recognition that you can use to make better choices for your customers and truly engage with them outside of the warehouse. You can adapt to changing customer preferences in a heartbeat.
While retail has evolved to reduce any “helicopter” approach or “hovering” from sales people (as customers tend to want to be left alone to shop) a digital or mobile experience is rife with opportunity to make real-time, responsive and personalized suggestions for your customers.
Despite the rise of technology, consumers are speaking up about their needs, telling retailers time and again that they crave a more authentic and HUMAN experience with the brands they love.
Proximity marketing (like beacons) can help you increase sales and foot traffic by sending personalized messages based on geolocation and even the weather. This taps into the instant gratification cues that customers respond so well to.
Custom apps are another great way to build loyalty with your customers, who will opt in for discounts, faster checkout, personalized product recommendations or alerts.
This is an exciting and solution-focused time for retailers. Our connected retail solutions mix digital strategy, technology and automation to build a dynamic experience for customers of all demographics. Interested in finding out if next-gen technologies are right for your business? Contact us today to set up a chat.