Five Trends Shaping the Future of Retail
If we could predict the future, we might be more likely to turn to “Back To The Future”–esque betting rather than internet research about new retail trends — but we can’t. Instead, we do the best we can with the second option. Unfortunately, the retail landscape has a billowy dynamic: It can seem calm one moment, and in the very next a new technology or product can turn clear skies into a thundering storm. This storm could either sink you on the spot, or put a breeze in your sails that pushes you ahead of the competition.
We’ve caught wind of some of the newest trends, and compiled them here for you to read and get yourself up-to-speed.
New Retail Trends
We’ve known about survey fatigue for a number of years, but haven’t done much to avoid causing it until now. Every business needs to collect information, but pushing too hard, or for too long, is likely to drive away your customer base.
Market Force Information is testing an alternative to simply writing shorter surveys and accepting less information. Instead, their efforts work to shorten surveys by inferring responses for aspects not directly asked about based upon the answers given for other questions.
Visual Search Technology
Visual search technology is an alternative to word-based search queries. It can find and recommend products online based upon matching aspects such as texture, pattern, shape, and color, and locates relevant products more quickly than a traditional search.
The idea of augmented reality has been floating around since the dismal induction of Google Glasses. Now, however, we’re getting some practical applications for the technology beyond phone-based Pokemon games.
In 2013, IKEA unveiled an app that allows you to position 3D models of its products on a real-time feed of your phone’s camera. With this, you can simply point your phone at the corner of the room and see if that new recliner you have been considering would fit. Several hardware stores have done the same, allowing you to shop for a new door or window without leaving your home. You can see exactly what it would look like once installed merely by standing in front of your house and positioning it in your camera feed.
Increased Dependence on Robots
We may not have robotic clerks wandering store aisles while stocking shelves and answering questions, but we do depend heavily on machines behind the scenes. Warehouses are increasingly dependant on robots even beyond drop-shipping operations, streamlining the supply chain, lowering overhead costs, and improving work efficiency.
The best retailers are available on multiple channels, including onsite, online, and mobile technologies such as store-specific apps. These do not merely provide multiple means for customers to make purchases, but also integrate with one another to create a more comprehensive experience. Instead of leaving home to look for a product, a customer can use the internet or an app to discover exactly what it is they want, and then find the closest location that has it stocked before driving to pick it up that same day.
Having multiple channels makes you more accessible, and each access point you provide is another place that you can draw information from to make more informed decisions in the future. Make it easy for people to give you money and pay attention to what they are paying for, and you can continue to improve both your customers’ experience and how and where you provide it.
Retail Moving Forward
We may have an unexpected calm in stores for the coming fiscal years, or we may be blown about by a new technology that unveils additional threats and possibilities. All we can do is navigate as comprehensively as possible, taking in and learning from every source and applying what we’ve learned to outmaneuver the competition. The five tips above will help with that, but you’ll still need to keep your ears open and eyes peeled for whatever comes next.