In retail, January is often a time for planning and analysis. After the frantic holiday season, it's the time to understand where the trends are heading and what new initiatives you can incorporate into your retail business plan. There are many articles and opinions on retail industry trends for 2017, but in essence we can say with certainty that retail is undergoing change. The more you consider and embrace these key retail trends, the better poised you will be to generate growth in the New Year. Here are 5 top retail trends that will help as you plan your retail strategy.
Data & Analytics are imperative to drive growth.
In the retail sector, using data and analytics to drive growth is more essential than ever before. Whether you are using data from your POS retail management system, loyalty program or any other technology platform, being able to use metrics to inform your decision making process (in real-time) is the key to;
- influencing customer's buying decisions
- enhancing the customer experience
- marketing to customers in a personalized and targeted fashion
- making smarter and more informed buying decisions
- improving operational efficiencies (ie) staffing resources
The good news is, that with the right tools and procedures in place, for a modest sum you can generate a vast amount of data and in turn harness it to provide immediate actionable insight.
Shopping is no longer a linear journey.
As consumers, we shop in store, online, on social media and move through these channels with ease and flexibility. As retailers we have to understand that this omni-channel fluidity between ecommerce and brick and mortar is only solidifying. Customers are increasingly demanding an unified and holistic shopping ecosystem and those retailers that do not respond with a seamless shopping experience for customers will have more difficulty keeping customers engaged and driving sales. Retailers need to consider their channel software and hardware and ensure that they are all working together efficiently to 1) harness data 2) follow customers where and how they want to shop.
Customers demand convenience.
Whether they buy online or in store, customers are getting used to and demanding instant gratification - a "frictionless" shopping experience if you will. And they expect everyone to be able to answer their questions... think sales associate becoming an agile customer service agent.
- You want to buy online and return in store? No problem.
- Found something delightful in store but it's out of stock? No problem, we can order it to ship to your house right now.
- Need to solve a customer service issue with an online order while you're in the store? No problem I can help you, let me look up your order number.
This retail agility is becoming the new normal and retailers that are responsive to this trend will be the winners in the years to come. Luckily, with cloud based computing and developers who have software with open API's, integrations across channels and functions are increasingly accessible and affordable.
A store is more than a repository for goods.
Brick and mortar overhead is high and the trend towards more efficient and targeted use of space will continue. And, as mentioned above, technology and data can help. Eliminating cashwraps in favor of mobile POS checkout or reducing on hand inventory in favor of centralized distribution are all ways retailers are boosting efficiency.
However, there's more to this trend. Consumers are expecting more visceral and vital experiences in the stores they visit. Otherwise why would't they just order online? In store services, cafés, community events, entertainment and education are all ways retailers are enhancing the brick and mortar experience and using real estate more proactively to engage customers. Creating sensory, immersive and engaging experiences are what will keep your customers engaged and coming back time and again. Who would have thought, for instance, that a bank would become a café?
Personalization is paramount to loyalty.
Consumers are craving ways to express themselves and feel like they are heard. This trend shows no signs of abating. Whether in the products you carry or your marketing efforts, customers want to feel like you are speaking directly to them and responding to their needs and desires. In 2017 and beyond, retailers need to be able to do this in a sustainable way. Technology will be key. Loyalty programs are becoming very important again. The ability to track customers across all channels, not only to improve wallet share, but to identify and recognize behavior is crucial. Who are your influencers and how can you engage them? Proprietary products, personalized products, tailoring services, robust loyalty programs and POS systems with enhanced CRM capabilities are all critical in the coming years.
Of course, there are many more trends in retailing and interesting discussions on the future of retail. We've tried to give you a brief outline of a few that we feel are important to consider in the New Year. Want to read more? Here are a couple articles that we found to be helpful and informative. Best of luck in your planning, this is a challenging but exciting time to be in retail!
The 6 Retail and E-Commerce Trends to Watch Out For in 2017. Business2community.com