By Emma King, Editor, The Retail Hive
“Retail isn’t dying, it’s reinventing itself” said Tim Ceci former Vice President, Retail Stores & Operations Management for CÉLINE, at our Omnichannel Customer Journeys in an Amazon World meeting in New York last September.
It was an apt way to describe a retail sector that seems to be more in flux than ever.
2018 was another shaky year for retail; with political turmoil, tight spending, and changing consumer habits all having an impact on the industry – both on the high street and online.
Yet, the overwhelming message from our Retail Hive meetings throughout the year was one of positivity; a feeling that while retail might not be on steady ground, it is in a transformative stage – one that brings exciting opportunities to innovate and gain a competitive edge.
Here, we look at what could be in store for 2019 as retail continues its transformation – and it’s not all about technology…
Apps might be a brilliant tool to connect with your customers, but it’s important not to forget their purpose as just that: a tool to connect. It’s not enough to just make an App and assume customers will use it: you need to make it worth the precious mobile memory storage and give compelling reasons to use it, regularly. For 2019, Apps are a core channel to invest in, but only with a holistic strategy in place. If you can’t do this, your money may be better spent elsewhere – such as making your website truly mobile-friendly or creating engaging content to reach those younger more hard-to-reach customers.
Internal client mentality
Retail workers are unsung heroes – and with digital, our demands on shop floor staff are greater than ever. They are now expected to work with data, deliver customer experience, and support digital strategy in-store (the dreaded online return is a particular bugbear on the retail front-line). A recurring theme from our meetings during the second half of 2018 was ‘internal client mentality’, and we anticipate that it’s going to be a key trend for retailers this year.
Take time to think about your shop staff’s role in the customer journey: what training do they need? Are they aware of changes that are being made to stock technology or online strategy, and have you listened to their comments and concerns? Your shop staff have an important role as the face of your business: they are a hugely valuable representation of your brand, so make sure they have the tools they need to deliver an excellent service in line with your customer expectations this year.
Content, content and more content
Did we mention content? We know it’s nothing new, but content is becoming more important than ever, and in an increasingly crowded online space, retailers need to keep a competitive edge over the competition. The good news is that creating content that’s fresh and engaging doesn’t mean you need to break your budget: 2019 is going to be the year of authentic, lo-fi content. Think simple product shots, videos that are natural – not polished, and off-the-cuff blogs that are exciting – not over-thought.
On a similar note, authenticity is key for the year ahead. Customers (and the Advertising Standards Agency) are getting wise to ‘influencers’ and their affiliations with brands. If you’re going to use influencers – especially for international markets – tread carefully and make sure they are authentic, with a genuine following. The damage to your brand could be monumental if not.
Automated delivery bots have been on the periphery of the mainstream retail market for some time, but how close are we to implementing them as an everyday retail technology? There are a few high-profile case studies going viral on social media (such as Domino’s driverless pizza delivery car and Amazon’s drones) but are they really going to be a popular option by the end of 2019?
One of the biggest barriers to their take-off (pun intended) may soon be lifted, with NATS – the UK’s leading air traffic control service – stating that routine, out of sight drone operations could be starting as early as this year. It’s dependent on whether reliable technology can be developed that allows air traffic control to communicate with drones effectively – and whether retailers are ready to start using the technology.
It wouldn’t be a list of retail predictions without AI – or machine learning: an application of AI that provides systems with the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience; predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed. It was a hot topic of 2018 and shows no sign of tailing off in 2019, but whether there will be any further significant developments this year remains to be seen. It’ll be a key point of discussion at our Data, Analytics and the Connected Customer event in San Francisco this April, so if AI is high on your agenda for 2019/2020, register here.
However, as Commercial Director of The Hive Network, Noj Mather, commented earlier this year: “I would argue that a business’ culture and agility are the most transparent measures of innovation, rather than whether AI has been adopted or not.”
We’ll be hosting Retail Hive meetings across the UK, Europe and the US throughout 2019. They’re a unique opportunity for you to join your senior retail peers and collaborate in a private, personal setting (the Chatham House Rule applies at every Retail Hive meeting).
To find out more, click here and one of our Network Managers will be in touch to find out more about you and your business goals for 2019.