There is no doubt the retail game has undergone some massive changes in the last few years and the pace of change will only continue to grow as technological developments continue and customers demand more and more. Recently I took some time to do a little research online in this area and discovered a few different opinions on what the future trends of retail will be. I have summarized the ones I agree with below, adding in my own beliefs on what retailers can expect to see over the next couple of years.
Increased demand for experiences. Customers are increasingly expecting more from the retail environment than just products. After all much of what they buy can be sourced online for at least the same price if not less. Where retail still offers a significant advantage over online is in the physical experience - the ability to tap into all five senses of touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste. Of these five only sight and hearing can truly be matched online and even then in a relatively limited regard. The secret for the future success of retail is its ability to harness the advantages that a real world environment can provide.
We are seeing this trend in many shopping malls where mini theme parks, concierge services and unique food concepts are being used to drive foot traffic, but many retailers need to adopt more of this experience approach into their individual stores.
Education. Hand in hand with the user experience is education. The introduction of in-store yoga classes by some of the leading fitness clothing retailers is an example of this and Apple stores have, for some time, offered classes in using their computers and software.
Rent don’t buy. The shared economy has been one of the biggest driving changers in recent years. Companies like Uber and Airbnb have harnessed peoples desire to borrow, not buy and this will present opportunities for savvy retailers to tap into this trend. It will require a little thinking outside the square but is an area worth keeping an eye on.
Passion. Customers are increasingly searching for retailers who have a vision and a passion for what they do and what they stand for. They no longer feel they want just a product but to believe in what the seller stands for and represents. Doing it for the money is still just a dirty word to consumers.
Adapting for Baby Boomers. As many of us know first hand, the baby boomer generation is aging, but they will still represent a significant amount of the retail spend in the foreseeable future. This means adapting to their needs with larger more readable displays, clear instructions for technologies and an adjustment in the stores physical environment to allow for a greater number of less mobile customers.
Social Media as a shopping platform. Social media is increasingly moving beyond the social zone and is offering more and more of a shopping experience online. Those businesses that don’t take advantage of the tools being offered by platforms to turn scrollers into shoppers will lose out to those who do.
Data will become more powerful. The ability to segment your customers, know their spending history, and use that to predict trends will increasingly become the way of the future. We have the ability now to know when our customers need to buy, sometimes before they do, but the ability to harness it on an individual basis will grow further and further.
Technology will continue to grow. Recognizing this is important, but of greater importance is the ability to harness the aspects of it that will provide a competitive advantage. Online ring retailer Brilliance is already using 3D printing technology to give the customer the chance to try on their rings in advance. Bricks and mortar retailers need to be quick on the uptake of similar ideas.
Faster service. Led by businesses such as Amazon, speedier service is becoming the catch cry of the online world and off-liners need to keep up with this trend too. Generation Y and Millennials are now expecting instant responses and faster delivery times and they are the future of the customer landscape.
The rate of change for many is scary and intimidating, but change also has the ability to present opportunity and the chance to truly differentiate yourself from those with whom you are competing. It’s critical to keep yourself in the know with the developing trends in all aspects of retail and be willing to adopt those that can give your business an advantage over those around you.