With advancements in technology and ever-changing customer demands, the retail industry is evolving at a rapid pace. Embracing and adapting to these changes have become essential to developing and maintaining a competitive edge in the cutthroat world of retail.
So, what are the latest key trends that modern retailers need to keep an eye out for?
1) Artificial Intelligence
The retail industry is one of the first to fully adopt data and analytics to achieve operational efficiency and squeeze out increased margin. Today, retailers are again leading the adoption of the latest innovation in data and analytics – Artificial Intelligence.
AI is already being used to predict shoppers’ needs so that the right products are available at the right time, personalized recommendations are provided while shopping online, etc. From in-store lighting and music to online ad placements and product suggestions, AI can uncover a plethora of new ways to personalize every aspect of your service cycle.
One business that owes Artificial Intelligence for its growth is an online retail giant, Amazon. By using what is known as Machine Learning – a set of algorithms that learns and improves over time – it has improved its customer experience, selection, speed and quality.
What’s more, AI-powered Image Analytics is currently being utilised in fashion retail to boost sales by better identifying the latest trends in shopper preferences. Algorithms are used to process images and identify product characteristics that drive better traffic and conversions.
Image Analytics is also used to offer better product recommendations. For example, if a person is browsing an image of an outfit on social media, this data can be used by you to suggest similar products for the shopper to choose from. It can also be used by you to recommend alternatives to out-of-stock products on your website in order to retain customers.
2) Hyperlocal is now global
From prioritizing the closest supermarket to preferring express check-out tills, customers have long sought convenience above all else. The modern equivalent would be shorter delivery times. When Amazon first introduced their Prime service, which promised 2-day delivery, it made a huge splash among consumers.
Today, due to the nature of the buying behavior in grocery, online grocers have had to extend this benefit further and promise same-day deliveries or even deliver in a matter of a few hours. Here, leveraging competitive intelligence at a ZIP code level becomes more critical. No longer is it sufficient for you to compete with a few competitor websites, but you are compelled to compete effectively in each region to provide a consistent shopping experience and retain customer loyalty.
In fact, Amazon even famously began experimenting with drone delivery to meet this demand.
Find opportunities to optimize your supply chain and improve delivery times as consumers today are only getting less patient with time!
3) Ultra – Personalization
The age of providing aggregate experiences is over.
A few years ago, customized experiences were limited to large geographic regions like cities or states.
With shoppers increasingly relying on mobile apps, highly personalized shopping experiences are becoming the new normal. As shoppers also get more and more time-poor, technologies that help them make a purchase decision faster are the need of the hour. Today, ultra-personalization has become one of the most essential components of driving improved conversions.
Especially in verticals like Fashion, consumers have come to rely on e-commerce platforms to recommend their next purchase. Buying preferences are analyzed along multiple perspectives, by studying the way they interact with the online portal, analyzing their reviews, and dissecting the purchase habits to eventually provide personalized product recommendations, promotions, ads, etc.
The sooner you jump on this bandwagon, the better are your chances of retaining customers and gaining market share.
4) Voice Search
Voice command tools are fast becoming integrated into our daily lives. As more and more customers use Siri, OK Google or Alexa to assist in their quest for products, Voice Search Engine Optimisation will become increasingly important to a retailer’s success.
In fact, during this year’s Prime Day Sale, special discounts were provided to shoppers who shopped using Amazon Alexa. Also, twenty percent of Google searches on mobile are a voice.
Not surprisingly, Google and Amazon are the dominant players in this space. Hence, understanding and keeping up with their
5) Innovative media content
As millennials now span the 20-40-year-old market, they hold a huge chunk of purchasing power and remain a big focus in the marketing and retail industries. Also, millennials respond best to stories and experiences.
Utilizing AI-powered 360-degree video to tell stories and provide experiences both online and in-store will be key to converting customers – for example, a 360-degree image or video of a model wearing a dress.
Video and rich media content provide new and interesting ways for shoppers to discover new products and engage with the e-commerce platform. When appropriate, you can also utilize animated GIFs to better showcase your products, its utility and its benefits.
6) Checkout-free stores
First, there was self-service checkouts – an alternative option to being served by a human. Now, propelling the in-store shopping experience even further into the future is the introduction of stores that are free of checkouts altogether.
Earlier this year, Amazon opened its first ever checkout-free store in Seattle, Washington, in an experiment to test the capacity for technology to manage consumers “offline” as well as “online”.
The store, known as Amazon Go, relies on cameras and sensors to scan people and track exactly what they remove from the shelves and what they put back.
Before entering the store, a customer must scan their Amazon Go app which holds their credit card details. Once in the store, they are tracked and sensored – if they remove something from the shelf, the item gets added to their virtual cart, and if they put it back, it gets taken out of their virtual cart. If a customer passes through the gated turnstile with an item, they are billed for that item.
Although there have been problems reported from this experiment – namely the inaccuracy of body-scanning and the inability to keep track of items moved by children – this advanced technology has paved the way for a more efficient shopping age, where long checkout queues are a thing of the past. Expect checkout-free stores to become the norm in the not-so-distant future.
With never-ending advancements in technology, the possibilities really are endless. Don’t be afraid of change; instead, experiment and adopt newer technologies to offer customers unique and innovative experiences that address their evolving needs. Remember, if you aren’t doing it, somebody else is beating you to it!