My third day at NRF Expo’2019 was devoted to the future of retail. With all innovations, what can we expect from commerce in some 10 years? Ask the futurist – and you will get the picture of the smiling robot knocking at your door to hand in a perfect-fit suit you virtually tried on halfway around the world a day before.
But though there is nothing impossible in this alternative, should the businesses rely on it while developing plans and building strategies? Does it reflect the needs of customers and their most desperate desires? Here we come back to the thesis you could repeatedly hear from different speakers at NRF Expo’2019: modern commerce is not an art, it is a science based on a deep and profound analysis of data. Want to be successful tomorrow? Study the trends and search for vacant niches today. For these are clients’ expectations that shape the future. And only those novelties are worth efforts which enhance customer loyalty.
With this in mind, here are the four magic words from the NRF wizards you need to remember and repeat as a spell while building your business strategy:
- customer experience
Let’s see how the future of retail is to be built on these cornerstones.
Shops of the Future will Sell Experience, Not Products
It is hard to impress anybody with the assortment these days. Goods are available as simply as never before and new products are launched every day. This stimulates advanced retailers to bet on experience more than on products. Customers prefer things that either have a story behind, or create a special lifestyle, or highlight their individuality. Expert state that shops of the future will become more like places where retailers will build relationships with the shoppers creating opportunities for people to connect with the product.
Rather than just visiting the store to buy and leave, people want to be entertained and amused, to have some kind of social experience. This reminded me of Apple’s recent “town square” store concept: a place for shoppers where they can meet friends, have fun, and try new gadgets. Another fascinating example is The Dreamery by Casper, the place where you can book a nap session (during which you will actually try out a new mattress and maybe even decide to buy it). Such shops set a trend which has already got the name of “retailtainment”.
And here we come to the second variable which will define the future of retail in the forthcoming decades: convenience.
Customers Will Favor Retailers Who Will Offer More Convenience
The focus of reports of FIS, Excentus, and Shell representatives at NRF Expo was on enhancing brand loyalty while providing more convenience for the customers. This includes improved payment, flawless and consistent service, and better personalization.
Technologies like POS systems, beacons, image and voice recognition, AI, and AR already make shopping more user-friendly. Amazon Go replaces checkouts with AI-driven Just Walk Out technology. It allows making all payments in the store using Amazon account. Another nice recent example is IKEA’s new app that leverages Apple’s ARKit. With it, users can preview how the items from IKEA shop will fit in their accommodation.
And the line between real and virtual shopping experiences will become thinner and thinner. Most experts agree that, on contrast to previous forecasts, brick-and-mortar stores will not totally disappear. Though most of them will face great transformations turning into what is called a phygital store – that is, a combination of physical and digital space and developing a fluid web-to-store customer experience. The others will become more of a showroom or switch to BOPIS model. What should be taken into account is that different segments of the target audience need different approaches to service modernization.
New Niches Will Be Occupied by Those Who Consider Inclusion
The constant challenge for the businesses is finding new market niches. One of the solutions proposed at NRF Expo was considering the groups which have been long staying in the shadow. Thus, Microsoft has started to pay special attention to disabled customers making services more accessible and convenient for people with disabilities. In his report, the company CMO Chris Capossela gave an example of how valuing inclusion and diversity can become a part of a brand strategy. Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is designed entirely for players with mobility impairments.
But the disabled are not the only group still waiting for more attention from the retailers. Think of ethnic minorities and, not surprisingly, women.
Statistics says women drive 70 to 80% of all consumer purchases. That is because they often buy on behalf of other categories, including children, elderly parents, and even husbands. Recently, women’s buying power has surpassed men’s. So, by prioritizing female segment, companies can win a lot. Want inspiration? Study the case of Soda Says, a retail brand selling smart tech to women, or making their life teccessible, as the company’s slogan says. Their data-driven approach to the study of true needs and preferences of female consumers shows it’s not just about coloring everything pink.
In terms of ethnicity, Asian-Americans represent a fast-growing buying power, especially in housing, public transportation, and education. Understanding in what categories this segment of customers is ready to spend more can give insights on how the companies can work more effectively to occupy this niche.
Environment Consciousness: The Everlasting Fashion
As society is becoming more environmentally conscious, the circular economy is gaining ground as another promising trend in retail. Progressive companies receive popularity by supporting environmental sustainability, and not necessarily with the cost. Consider, for example, a luxury fashion brand Elvis & Kresse. The business started as an attempt to tackle a ten-million-ton-problem of leather scraps which need to be disposed of in London annually. Now the company produces a full range of leather accessories from what previously was buried in the ground.
Other companies, like Starbucks or Best Buy, set on to reduce packaging or even build eco-friendly stores. This includes energy-efficient lighting and water consumption, using solar and wind power, and recycled and low-carbon-emitting construction materials.
Can technologies help retailers to become greener? Sure. Consider, for example, the use of IoT. This technology is already gaining ground in agriculture where it helps to reduce the number of pesticide fertilizers and so on. In retail, the use of sensors can reduce energy costs (due to more efficient lighting and temperature regulation, for example), enhance supply chain management, and help the customers make healthier and greener choices when shopping.
Let’s Sum Up:
Building a successful business strategy implies the understanding of how things are going to change in the course of time. The future of retail is defined by the most promising trends we are observing today and is tailored to the needs of different groups of customers. As it was shown at NRF Expo’2019, the companies which want to succeed in retail in 2030, should organize their business processes and technical modernization keeping in mind such crucial ideas as emphasizing customer experience, ensuring convenience of services for various target groups, providing inclusion, and staying environmentally conscious.
Hope the presented ideas and tactical trends will be useful for you and will help you to chart the course for your business. Stay prosperous and flourishing!
If you are interested in hearing more about the future of retail, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂