You might be forgiven for missing the important trends for retail in 2018 amid all the noise about the so-called ‘retail apocalypse’ that has wiped the likes of Toys R Us from our towns and cities. As an article on Retail Customer Experience explains, there is plenty of change at the moment, with big brands failing and ecommerce pure plays exploring physical stores.
Beyond the dramatic headlines, there’s plenty to be excited about in retail. Let’s look at some of the top retail trends making waves in 2018.
1) Individualisation is getting serious
Retailers have been a little slow to join the individualisation bandwagon. Where tech brands have had sophisticated engagement systems for years, retailers have lagged behind.
Consumer expectations mean the time has truly come to embrace this trend, moving beyond simply splitting customers into segments into a deeper understanding of the consumer’s context and preferences.
For example, if you know a customer is shopping for a beach holiday, showing them their favourite style of winter coats is unlikely to develop the relationship. Using technology to adapt your offering to customers is fast becoming essential in retail.
To succeed with individualisation, you need to be effective at omnichannel communications, understanding the finer detail of the customer journey and replacing clumsy segmentation with an approach that says more about valuing the consumer.
2) Hype about AI gives way to implementation
We’ve heard an awful lot about AI – a Forrester report in 2017 says 51% of brands are implementing, have implemented or are expanding their use of AI. Those projects will soon come to maturity and it will become clear whether AI is here to stay or a passing fad.
Specifically, it will need to be shown whether AI can help retailers make progress in developing personalised offerings. Retailers will want to see clear and transparent examples of AI driving revenue, stronger customer engagement and improved customer experience, in order to unlock investment capital.
This is the moment when AI stops being futuristic and becomes grounded in real implementation projects that will need to prove their worth.
3) Established brands will look to direct-to-consumer strategies
It’s likely that some more big high street names will be added to the list of doom before too long – established brands are realising that customer relationships are threatened by store closures and they need to act in order to protect revenue.
In response to store closures, retailers will invest in direct-to-consumer strategies in a continued disruption to the brand/wholesale relationship. This will produce strong innovation in customer engagement.
Direct-to-consumer is not only for established brands, however – new brands are springing up in this space with unique offerings and well-targeted stores. This new generation of brands will exert pressure on established names, potentially redefining consumer brands and the operation of bricks-and-mortar stores.
In this increasingly competitive space, River Island needs professionals who can innovate in Delivery & Transformation. If you know how to deliver excellence in this field, we’d love to hear from you. Why not look at our current Delivery & Transformation roles?