8 technology trends that will change the retail landscape this year.
The retail industry knows how to get the year off to a strong start. Scheduling the annual National Retail Federation “Big Show” in New York in January guarantees that retail professionals kick off the year full of ideas and inspiration.
Our team flew over to the show earlier last month to collaborate with Star Micronics to showcase some of our self-service products and even offer a VR demonstration to experience them in a stimulated store environment.
In between conversations with some of the world’s biggest retailers, our Directors and Sales team took some time to check out what else the show had to offer and we’ve pulled together a list of the trends that we think will be big (or bigger) this year in retail:
Our business is built around offering the latest in technology to retailers so it’s no surprise that our top trends of the year are technology focussed.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been on the rise in recent years and has infiltrated areas you might not be aware of. Collection of data is on the increase but until recently has required human resource to interpret. Now AI analysis of data means retailers can make better decisions on pricing and inventory based on feedback on who is buying what when.
AI can streamline the entire process from supply chain to aftercare, communicating more effectively with customers and personalising offers. At factory level, AI Is revolutionising manufacture and supply by providing real time production reporting and allowing instant tweaks to processes.
Some existing examples of AI are actually machine learning which uses a simple if-then system to answer simple questions from customers but this year we predict ever complex interactions with chatbots losing even more of their telltale “robot” answers and becoming more intuitive.
Amazon’s drone delivery plans were all over the news in 2016 but we expect to see automated delivery on the rise in 2019 as Amazon continues to dominate the retail landscape and push to deliver ever faster. With drone delivery at a standstill, Amazon’s delivery robots took to the streets this month in America and we expect wider adoption of this technology later this year.
Robots are also helping to sort and pack orders meaning that supermarket home delivery times can be cut to as little as ten minutes in bigger cities.
The retail environment will also be enhanced by robot assistance – menial tasks like cleaning, monitoring and shelf stacking can be completed by robots while store employees are freed up to offer help, support and assistance.
To Amazon again, this time in physical stores. Last year the retail giant showcased its first bricks and mortar stores featuring cashier-less check out and clever RFID product capture. Although frequently quoted as the future of retail, the store received mixed reviews by using a purpose-designed app and a combination of cameras and sensors to track purchases and take payment automatically. Rather than an immediate shift to staff-less stores, however, we predict this year will see the continued evolution of tech and human interaction forming a symbiotic relationship to offer the best solution for the customer.
At NRF we also heard how Starbucks are using cloud-connections to upload changes and new recipes to their coffee machines and access real time usage figures to understand who is buying what when. Previously, updates relied on a visiting engineer who would upload manually via USB so this upgrade adds a new level of possibilities for seasonal and one off drinks.
The rise in experiential retail has left shoppers hungry for more. In a world flooded with advertising and new product launches, consumers are now looking for personalisation and authenticity. Recent years have seen consumers willing to pay more for products they perceive to be tailored to their exact needs – the beauty industry this month has seen Clinique relaunch one of their most popular moisturisers with a game-changing personalised plug in to target specific skincare concerns.
Monthly personalised beauty box subscriptions like Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club have seen unprecedented growth as the “self care” industry encourages consumers to treat themselves more, feeling that the bespoke offer delivered straight to their door is more of an experience than a visit to an intimating beauty hall.
Subscription boxes are a huge growth market and many big brands have jumped on the bandwagon. From letterbox bouquets to stationery, dog treats and health foods, they offer convenience and great brand opportunities to reach new audiences with premium samples. This year we predict more entries to the market and ever more competitive offers.
5. Brand identity
The retail sector has a larger number of “channels” than many other sectors. The move from Multi channel to Omni channel in 2019 means that everything needs to tie together. Omni channel means all areas that the company operates in need to co-exist and present a consistent message and experience.
This includes in store, website, print, social media, brand representatives, concessions and everything associated with a brand, including in store technology and user interfaces.
In 2019 we saw both John Lewis and Debenhams completely overhaul their brand identity to make it clear what their offer is and what their brand means. This year we’ll see more retailers telling customers exactly what they stand for and then letting the customer decide if it’s for them. The “pile em high” approach of previous decades has moved online where consumer can find a literally endless inventory so in 2019 retailers need to return to desirability and exclusivity to make their mark on the high street.
6. New store sizes
In a shock move last year, Ikea opened a small-scale high street store in London. Having built their retail empire on out of town massive format, “everything under one roof”, concepts, the Swedish retailer opened a store in central London with a curated range tailored specifically to that market. What we’re seeing here is an appreciation that a large part of Ikea’s offer is smaller homewares and not just flatpack furniture and they need to reach more people living in cities who don’t own cars.
Set up as a “learning experiment”, the concept was so successful that the brand plans to roll out more this year, which is great news for the British high street.
We predict that in 2019 retailers will play more with formats including pop-ups, temporary stores and even larger stores with less stock, adapting to customer demand on a store-by-store basis.
7. Showrooms/ new store formats
This year we will see an increase in the number of stores streamlining their in-store offer to capitalise on the “showrooming” mentality of many shoppers. Through actively encouraging the browsing experience and using technology to encourage the purchase in store and capture the sale, stores like Reformation are pitching a new type of experience.
Reformation have stirred up the high street with their clean, aesthetically pleasing stores, with just one size per item on display. Emulating a high-end showroom, the stores have been able to lose the scrum of packed clothes stores and make in store shopping less of a jumble.
Shoppers choose the items they like the look of, input them into an interactive screen and then head to the changing room where the item, plus some complimentary choices picked out by store staff, will be waiting for them to try on. By keeping much of the inventory in the shop’s storeroom, Reformation are letting the garments speak for themselves.
Of course, this approach works for high-end offers where consumers have the time and inclination to take their time over shopping. Back in the fast paced “I want it now” type of stores, they can achieve a similar effect by adding in-store ordering for items that are out of stock, different colours or on a waiting list while still carrying a wide range of items available for immediate purchase
Whether as a deliberate policy or bonus extra of many of the trends we’ve seen so far, sustainability is high on the agenda. Many functions that help to streamline processes also have the happy side effect of reducing waste while improvements to manufacturing and supply chain plus advances in packaging mean a lower environmental impact.
Eco-conscious consumers will continue to push for improvements to products and services this year. Veganuary is the lead on from last year’s clean eating trend and highlights that consumers are ever more concerned about the effect of what they consume both on their body and the environment.
This week H&M increased its promotion of the Conscious range, which is made from 100% recycled materials, and pledged their goal to all of their ranges to meet these standards by 2030.
Even huge beauty brands are making an effort – Unilever launched their “Love Beauty and Planet” haircare range last year which is a positive step by a big brand towards a more sustainable future.
Find out more about how our products and services are helping leading retailers to improve and enhance their customer experience, or contact us today to find out how we can introduce these trends into your store.