Retail practices have been revolutionized over the past couple of decades, trying to catch up with the changes in shoppers and their new shopping journeys and behaviors.
Advancements in technology have been true game-changers for the retail industry. The old means of selling products have been taken over by modern processes. New trends in the industry have pushed brands to utilize artificial intelligence-based (AI) software and tools to maintain their solid standing in today’s dynamic retail market structure.
No surprise, 2019 will be a year when emerging technologies begin to transform the retail industry from different angles. A year when shoppers can interact with their favorite brands differently, explore customized shopping experiences, and witness a different battle between top retail brands in the world.
Here are some of the top retail trends and predictions that will reshape retail in the coming year.
1 – Retailers prosper by offering customized products
Technology has made it easy for brands to customize products for their shoppers. No, I am not talking about letting customers put their initials on products. I’m referring to personalization that actually lets consumers design a product completely from scratch, enabling them to customize a product to the very last detail.
The trend has recently gained popularity among consumers from all over the globe and more and more retail brands are inclined towards it. Nike and Dresden are amongst the popular brands that have set next-level personalization for their buyers. Nike’s Nike By You lets you start from a blank canvas where you can pick from any style – lifestyle, training, running, basketball, and soccer – and choose the design and color scheme. The company manufacturers to a customer’s exact design specifications and delivers the shoes within three to five weeks. Dresden, meanwhile, lets shoppers pick from a range of lenses and frame parts to design their own pair sunglasses.
The results? Increased sales, higher customer retention, and profitability!
2 – Brands use augmented reality (AR) to market products
A wrong purchase usually ends up giving customers a lot of discomfort. It mostly happens when consumers make big purchases, like with furniture. They get confused about whether furniture will fit their room’s layout, and if they make a wrong purchase, it can ruin the room’s entire aesthetic.
To help customers in these sorts of situations, popular brands like Wayfair and IKEA have started using augmented reality apps that allow a shopper to pick an ideal product, as it fully renders 3D models of furniture pieces in the shopper’s own home environment. And that’s not all; customers can view the furniture from more than one angle to make the most suitable purchase and be 100 percent satisfied.
Utilizing augmented reality technology has helped these retailers gain a high market share in their niche, engage a diverse customer base, and ultimately offer high levels of customer satisfaction.
3 – Retailers use social media to thrive
The increase in social media users around the world has increasingly allowed brands to reach new and expanded target markets. Apps like Facebook Live and Instagram stories allow retailers to connect and interact with shoppers and potential buyers much more easily. Brands like Birchbox and Born Originals are using social media platforms as key components of winning marketing and shopper engagement strategies.
Birchbox regularly streams on Facebook Live, allowing team members to interact with consumers around the globe, facilitate Q & A sessions, and even hand out prizes and gifts, all while drawing a huge amount of attention from social media users and attracting potential customers towards Birchbox products.
Born Originals, a producer of customized leather goods and sneakers, has a dedicated Instagram account where it regularly presents gorgeous photos of the company’s products, and the brand makes very good use of Instagram stories as a powerful tool for branding its products to a wide range of online consumers.
Researchers believe the power of social media can let retail brands do very well in handling fierce competition from one another.
4 – Retailers rely more on robots
Expect the use of robots to continue to rise in the retail industry. In 2019, we will see more and more robots speaking with shoppers, guiding them through stores, and even carrying their selected items.
Amazon, for example, has made huge investments on AI technology and has come up with robotic technologies that help pack and ship its items. The company now has over 100,000 robots in action around the world and plans to add more. The robots – 16 inches tall and weighing 145 kilograms – perform multiple jobs in the company’s warehouses.
Additionally, Hilton Hotels introduced Connie, the first ever concierge robot in 2016, and now Henn-na Hotel in Japan operates as the world’s first hotel completely staffed by robots.
Similarly, more chatbots will be used to answer consumer queries. Expect retailers to use platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to interact with purchasers where chatbots can speak with the shopper or customer, provide information on different products or services, and even retrieve shipment and service information using AI.
5 – Cognitive computing makes its way to stores
Cognitive computing is a technology that analyzes and processes information faster than the human brain. The technology stores a huge amount of data and allows real people to naturally interact with computers and suggest different options and solutions. The technology, like IBM Watson Commerce, has already made its way into different online merchandisers and customer service departments, allowing them to improve their customer engagement initiatives.
It’s not far off when retail brands will leverage cognitive computing to provide their shoppers better, faster and more effective customer service.
The retail industry will keep evolving, and brands proactively adapting to the needs of shoppers will surely prosper. Understanding shoppers’ needs and the quickly changing technology trends of the industry will allow retailers to grow in 2019 and beyond. And, one thing is certain – if growing and thriving in 2019 is high on the priority list of any retailer, staying stagnant is definitely not an option.
About the writer: Kirsten Pike is a tech specialist writer at 6 Pound Essay. She has over 10-years of working experience in the professional writing industry and has been a source of inspiration for new entrants in the industry. She enjoys her free time, reading and contributing on different online platforms to educate her audience on different tech-related topics.
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