This year has seen headlines dominated by the alleged fall of the high street. With November trading cited as the worst on record and retail players such as Mike Ashley predicting some retailers will soon be “smashed to pieces”, the eve of a new year is the perfect time for retailers to sit up and take notice.
From regulation pushing for a better way to handle payment disputes, to AI putting the consumer back at the centre, it’s clear that the retail industry is gearing up to make a comeback in 2019. Here are just a few of the trends that retail experts predict will be making waves next year:
IoT Will Become More Engrained Into The Running Of Retail:
Martin Hodgson, Head of UK & Ireland, Paessler
“Over the past year, we’ve seen more of our retailers’ beginning to understand the benefits of implementing more integrated IoT projects.
“As we enter 2019 the number of connected devices will only increase as more retailers begin to realise the benefits of IoT technologies. Consequently, next year will see the birth of a smarter IoT – whereby fully connected businesses will begin to pull data for more predictive use.
“Industries that are proactive in connecting more of their devices will benefit from increased insights into their critical infrastructures’ performance, in turn helping to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. The benefits really are a no brainer. With the ability to implement predictive maintenance solutions, improve production on the factory floor and reduce downtime, in sometimes peak shopping periods like the Christmas season – we can see why IoT will become further engrained into retailers businesses over the coming year”.
Regulations Will Be Shaking Up Retail
Gabe McGloin, Head of International Merchant BD at Verifi
“PSD2 is coming into effect in September 2019, and there’s no doubt that it is going to dominate the hearts and minds of everybody in the ecommerce sector. But, while the regulation is driven by acquirers, there’s still confusion about what this means for merchants.
“Clearly, there’s a market trend emerging which is pushing for a better way to handle payment disputes. PSD2 is shaping up to be that resolve, but there’s a chance that it could fall flat and become yet another band aid solution that doesn’t actually scale disputes.”
AI Will Bring Back The ‘Human-Centric’ Appeal
Ian Matthews, Data Evangelist at NGDATA
“The in-store buying journey is changing. With the rise of omnichannel shopping, customers expect their experience with a retailer to move as fluidly from online to in-store as they do. This puts the pressure on retailers to have a holistic view of each customer that walks through their shop doors. What’s surprising is that a substantial number of retailers still haven’t implemented technology which is able to efficiently collate all of their customer data into one place to be used for personalising the customer experience. Quite frankly this is hurting traditional retailers, especially when it comes to selling products and services that rely on superior customer experience to help differentiate from competitors.
“The irony is that you can’t provide the right service and experience to each customer in store without technology. Customer data should give retailers all the information they need to tailor every individual’s shopping experience. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not moving away from a ‘human-centric’ to ‘tech-centric?’ approach. Rather technologies such as AI are showing retailers how to provide the most personal and human of experiences in-store.”
Smarter Shops Will Take The Spotlight
Manu Tyagi, associate partner for retail and consumer goods, Infosys Consulting
“Next year will see a renaissance of the bricks-and-mortar store on the high street, as retailers build their key advantage over online-only retailers. Shops will get smarter, with retailers using technology such as in-store heat maps and aisle planning to ensure better traffic flow and shorter queues. 2019 will also bring the opportunity to take part in the ‘gamification’ of the shopping experience – creating an unforgettable way to shop that simply cannot be replicated online.
“Apps that bring online and in-store together in aisle-hunting challenges, for example, will start to make their way onto our high streets and supermarket shop floors. Take the Pokemon-inspired AR project we created which uses micro-targeting and gamification, known as ‘Shopemon’. This is one example of how retailers can use technology to create a unique shopping experience which will make the customer value a visit to the store – and make e-tail seem distinctly old-fashioned by comparison.”
Frictionless Customer Experience Will Come To The Forefront
Ajmal Mahmood, Propositions Lead at KCOM
“Over the past few years, we have been promised many different technologies that will change retail forever. New methods of data collection, digital identities and cloud-based data stores, to name a few, have transformed the customer journey. In 2019, we can expect these technologies to come together to offer a frictionless customer experience.
“It could be that your browse online for an item of clothing and find that it’s out of stock. This situation is inconvenient, for both yourself and the retailer. You have missed out on an item, and they have missed out on a sale. Going forward, we can expect to see shoppers walking past the stores they were browsing in, and receive a notification on their phone, telling them the item they were previously looking for is now instore and in their size.
“How realistic is this store of the future? We know that Amazon Go already uses computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion to automate much of the purchase, checkout, and payment steps. A completely frictionless customer experience could be right around the corner, if only retailers manage to connect the dots that make up frictionless customer experience.”
Retailers Will Balance Fun And Simplicity On Mobile
Nikki Baird, VP Retail Innovation, Aptos:
“In 2019, we’ll see retailers making an even greater effort to improve the mobile experience. In 2018 we saw some retailers aim to offer fun or ‘cool’ experiences through mobile, such as making digital outfits or virtually trying clothes on. However, organisations should be careful, as shoppers tend to look for a simpler customer journey when on mobile (vs desktop).
“Once the basics have been grasped, it is time to start thinking about what will make your mobile site or app stand out from competitors. Retailers should always ensure that they are finding a balance between fun and simplicity, and are always putting customer experience at the centre of decision-making.
“To succeed in 2019, retailers should ensure they are getting the basics right, such as designing apps ‘mobile-first’ and checking that all of the capabilities they offer on desktop – like wish lists or e-Gift Cards – work on mobile.”
Retail Will Be An Experience, Not A Service
Marcus Harvey, Sales Director EMEA at Targus
“Retail has traditionally existed as a service-led industry. Changing consumer needs however, call for shopping locations to shift towards being more experiential and exist as destinations for consumers to hang out, connect with friends, interact with surroundings, catch up on social media or even get stuck in with some work. In 2019, retailers will experiment with artificial intelligence (AI) and VR technologies to provide their customers with an immersive experience in-store, so as to extend their dwell time on-site.
“Retailers must also think about how they can elevate the experience further through customer interaction. Countries such as Japan and China are achieving this by including QR codes on a vast majority of retail products. This allows both retailers and customers alike to access a world of information by simply scanning the code via QR readers – which most smartphones today double up as. This allows customers to make well-informed decisions and choose the right option. UK retailers must follow suit and redefine their offerings or pay the price by losing market share or worse still, their place on the high-street entirely.”