January is always the time where everyone puts together their ideas for the trends in the coming year and while trends don’t always materialise, they are a great way to help guide planning. In retail, there is always the element of the unknown – some new product, service or concept that takes over. But there are also some things that are pretty certain to feature prominently in 2017 and here we look at some of the most important ones.
The unified experience
This is one of the market trends that almost everyone agrees will be hugely significant for 2017 and probably even into next year two. The unified experience is a fancy way of saying that online and offline worlds will work together to give customers a better experience, access to more services and to gather more data from a combination of the two.
Click and collect is a prime example that has taken off in 2016. The ability to shop online then collect your stuff from a shop of your choice has great appeal for many consumers. You can shop after work, after the kids have gone to bed or in the middle of the night if you want. Then you can pick up your purchases after work, during the day or whenever you want.
Importance of technology
Another of the current trends that will continue to dominate will be the use of technology in new and innovative ways. The use of virtual reality is one example – shops creating ways for customers to virtually try on an outfit and see themselves wearing it to make the decision process simpler and quicker. Or travel companies offering you a VR view of the potential location you want to visit to make sure it is the right one for you.
The use of technology for the in-store experience will also flourish this year. The so-called omnichannel experience involves using tech in stores to allow a seamless integration of online and offline worlds. Examples include using scanning devices in supermarkets to scan your shopping as you go and save that long wait at the checkout along with the unloading and reloading of all of your goods.
Different payment options
Customers now expect to be able to pay for their goods in different ways and retail sales are very driven by this option. From contactless card readers to devices to use Apple Pay or other smartphone payment wallets, customers now expect that they have choices about how they pay. It is likely that people may stop carrying cards and this means if retailers don’t offer these payment options, then they won’t make the sale.
Super fast shipping
Companies such as Amazon already offer next day shipping for customers and this is definitely the way things are going. Working alongside click and collet schemes, super fast shipping will be key to grabbing the customer’s attention. No-one wants to wait a week for an item to come and retailers need to find ways to do this without charging massive delivery charges.
In fact, there are numbers to prove it. A study by Temando saw 80% of shoppers saying they wanted same-day shipping from their bands and a huge 61% said they wanted something even faster – say within 1 to 3 hours of placing an order. Of course, this isn’t practical for all retailers but speed of dispatch and delivery is definitely key for the next year.
Personalising the experience
Industry trends show that people want a personal experience from their brands and to do this, brands need to collect data both online and offline. Key to personalising the experience is learning what customers do and what they like and this can now be done in store as well as online. Customer analytics software collects information as customers move around the store and lets retailers build profiles of what works and what doesn’t.
Loyalty schemes are another way that personalisation can expand. Rather than just sending loads of vouchers and hoping the customer uses some, stores are increasingly gathering data on what customers buy and even what they show interest in. This allows targeted discounts and promotions that offer relevant and interesting items for the buyer based on their past purchases. The use of AI to help with this is already being done by stores such as The North Face and as digital footprints become longer, it is easier for brands to offer this level of personalisation.
Engaging the customer
In addition to personalising and offering a unified experience, retailers will need to engage their customers in new ways. For some, this could be through the use of influencers and celebrities while for others, making their brand stand out from the crowd could be the key. Examples include highlighting where their products are made as there is a growing interest from customers about country of origin.
Another big trend area is that men are set to take the lead in spending for the first time, jokingly called the ‘Men-aissence’ by some. The menswear market is already set to grow by around 8% this year and it looks like men will overspend women by in excess of 10%. This means that brands need to be engaging men where appropriate just as much as they do women.
Understanding that data
As new ways emerge to collect data, the importance of understanding and interpreting it will be huge for 2017. Just as websites collect information about what pages customers visit and at what point in the process they abandon their cart, physical stores will be able to see what items people pick up but don’t buy and what areas of the shop they visit and what they ignore.
Understanding and interpreting the data will affect areas such as staff rostering, promotion placement and what products to have on what shelves. Using data collected from Wi-Fi settings on mobile phones and from CCTV cameras, stores will draw up a picture of their customers and be able to understand what they want and expect during each visit.