As many industries and business segments continue to see massive disruption from new digital technologies and innovations, retail will continue to evolve in 2018. Companies that want to be successful in an ongoing way will need to pay attention to trends and determine the best way to move forward. Not every company will be able to embrace every new technology as it appears; what works for one business will be dramatically offputting for the customers of another.
Whether or not a business decides to embrace a particular technology for a particular market, however, it’s important that companies know what’s out there – and what their customers might be getting from the competition.
Continued Ease of Returns
One key factor for customers is the ability to bring back what doesn’t work. As convenient as online shopping is, there is a higher risk factor than brick and mortar shopping, especially in certain sectors. Monitors distort colors, fabrics may feel different once the customer has them in hand, and so forth. Being able to return products purchased online at a physical store is crucial for customer satisfaction.
Shopping online has been a huge part of how consumers shop for years, and that trend isn’t expected to change any time soon. But an interesting trend is that customers are more likely to browse a store’s offerings on a mobile device, but cross over to their desktop when they’re ready to buy.
There are a few different reasons for this. They may find it easier to do multi-tab research into background information when they are at their laptop or desktop. They may believe that these devices are more secure.
Or many companies may need to move beyond mobile responsive websites and move into websites that are optimized for mobile commerce. This means streamlined shopping, buttons instead of drop downs, and simplified payment options. No one wants to try and type their credit card number into their phone screen, even if they have a phablet.
Some purchases are just hard to make online. Furniture and home decor is one example. Customers may struggle to imagine what a particular product will look like in their home, and it may hold them back from making a decision.
Some companies, however, allow customers to scan the part of the room where they’d like to put furniture with their smartphone. The site can then show the customer what the piece of furniture would look like in that corner. Augmented reality and virtual reality are becoming cheaper for companies and more common for customers. Businesses that want to thrive should continue to look for ways to integrate these technologies into their businesses.
Build For Convenience
More and more, shopping shifts from a “high street” experience to one that is more focused on online shopping, even if it does often end with in-store pickup. Businesses that are looking to remain relevant in their brick and mortar locations need to plan accordingly.
There have been numerous compliance regulations passed by government agencies on how companies can conduct online shopping. There are strict regulations on tobacco and food products, however some companies find creative ways to stand out.
New Target stores, for example, are planning separate entrances for the main store, for grab and go food, and for online order pick-up. These small, streamlining details helps to keep the store convenient for all of its customers, improving its accessibility and making it easier for customers to get what they want if it can’t be delivered.
Understand What Is Needed In Store
95% of customers consider customer reviews to have a huge impact on whether or not they make a purchase. This may be one of the biggest areas where brick and mortar stores need to catch up. If in store staff sounds like sales people trying to make a sale instead of ambassadors acquainting customers with the benefits of a particular brand, customers are less likely to come back to the store.
For many products, customers are quite willing to view the product in store and have it shipped to their home. This can allow a store to keep limited items in stock, minimizing the back of house footprint that’s necessary and reducing the overall cost of maintaining a brick and mortar location.
The world of retail is changing, and customers are expecting both more and different services than they have before. They want more information, better reward programs, and more respect as individuals. Companies that want to continue to grow their businesses, or even just maintain the customers they have, need to stay up to date on current technologies, innovations, and disruptions. This will allow them to react to, or even anticipate, changes before they become serious problems for companies.
Businesses will need to learn to distinguish between a trend and a fad, and make sure that they know what they’re getting into when they adopt new technology.