Top Retail Trends for 2019

2018 saw a revitalized American economy – jobs were added, taxes were cut, and more people were willing to spend their disposable income than in years past. And it is heartening to hear that Americans are forecasted to spend 4.1% more this holiday season.

It’s now up to retailers to take advantage of that potential growth and revenue, and roll into next year. How can you do that? By getting ahead of the competition and understanding what the top retail trends are for 2019.

However, this isn’t as easy as simply reading a top retail trends list and immediately implementing the strategies therein — after all, what works for a major department store retailer might not work as well for an online retailer, or for their respective customer bases.

To help you develop a consistent, comprehensive, innovative strategy for your business, let’s take a closer look at some of the top retail trends for 2019, complete with examples of how different retailers have put them into action.

1.     Strike a balance between digital and physical

Artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) are at the top of every retailer’s wish list, not to mention every retail industry trends list. But not so fast: According to IFTTT’s Holiday Retail Insights survey, shoppers aren’t quite ready to keep up with the breakneck pace of innovation, with 83 percent of respondents saying that they wouldn’t be comfortable letting a robot shop for them and 68 percent saying they’d never used a chatbot. That said, the majority of respondents did indicate that they’re open to the idea of virtual shopping.

The key to avoiding tech-induced fatigue is to employ a strategic combination of the digital and the physical. The omnichannel approach isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it’s one that’s playing out in real-time to great effect.

When Amazon acquired Whole Foods, it was their first foray into the brick-and-mortar world, and they immediately set to work lowering prices and implementing practical technology: 5% cash back for Amazon Prime members who use their Amazon Prime Rewards Visa cards in-store.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, brick-and-mortar discount giant Target made its own leap into the world of ecommerce integration with Cartwheel, an iOS and Android application that provided coupons to customers and used Bluetooth beacon technology to map in-store deals. Target phased out the standalone version of Cartwheel in 2017, rolling its features into the flagship Target app to boost its profile and provide customers with a more unified shopping experience.

The benefit to this retail trend is three-fold:

  • Expand into new markets and increase growth potential.
  • Create a seamless and convenient customer experience across channels.
  • Build more meaningful interpersonal relationships with the customer base.

The key to executing an effective omnichannel strategy is to implement software that provides centralized operational management and cross-channel visibility, so you can gauge what level of technical integration will create the sort of universal experience customers are looking for and deliver the greatest ROI.

2.     Embrace experimentation

Despite what you’ve heard, traditional retail is not dead. Brick-and-mortar purchases still account for the majority of commerce, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report. The resilience of brick-and-mortar stores has enabled retailers to experiment with their storefronts in creative ways, which might be the key to surviving the ongoing “retail apocalypse.”

For example, Nike’s latest flagship store, set to open in early 2019, will include exclusive opportunities for NikePlus members, such as access to limited-edition products and even a members-only floor with a basketball court so customers can test out products in a state-of-the-art facility. By dangling the carrot of a completely unique and exciting shopping experience, the sportswear retailer is actively incentivizing customers to enroll in its loyalty program and raising the bar for industry competitors.

You can expect to see the popularity of experimental brick-and-mortar formats, such as pop-up shops and tech-enabled concepts, continue to grow as one of the biggest retail industry trends in 2019 — and with the right data to back it up, creating experimental storefronts is a trend that can pay dividends.

3.     Combine convenience and customization

Retail customers are no longer interested in old-school marketing tactics. Instead, they expect a custom shopping experience that caters directly to them. This dynamic shift applies not only to marketing, but to the products and services businesses offer.

Today, 77 percent of customers are more likely to choose, recommend, or pay more for a brand that offers a personalized service or experience, according to Forrester. And personalized services aren’t the only way to lure customers — nine out of 10 survey participants indicated that shipping was the driving factor behind their decision to shop online, according to a recent Walker Sands Future of Retail report.

So, why not combine these two elements? That’s exactly what popular subscription box services like Birchbox and Stitch Fix do, and traditional retailers have taken notice. The appeal of these subscription services is their delivery of convenience and customization in a box — customers get exciting new products tailored to their tastes delivered straight to their doorsteps, all without having to fight crowds or sacrifice personalization. To keep up with competition from these services, beauty retailer Sephora and department store retailer JCPenney have thrown their hats into the ring with their own subscription boxes.

  • “Play! by Sephora” was launched in 2015, charging subscribers just $10 a month for a box full of custom samples. Play! boxes also show extra attention to detail with curated Spotify playlists, “Play! Pass” coupons for in-store activations, and application tips.
  • JCPenney debuted the “Big & Tall Box” in 2017, a service that caters to big and tall male customers.

Even if a subscription service doesn’t seem like the right next step for your business, you can still provide customers with convenience and customization. Develop a strategy that delivers a personalized customer experience that’s consistent across your brick-and-mortar, online, and mobile stores, as well as across customer service and marketing campaigns. Also, be sure to give your customers plenty of purchasing and pickup options — they’ll appreciate the added convenience of being able to choose whether to pick up items in store or other locations, or to have them delivered to their homes.

4.     Engage customers with voice-first devices

Mobile has yet again found its way onto the top retail trends list for 2019, and for good reason: 62 percent of smartphone users have made an online purchase using their mobile device within the past 6 months.

However, a new segment of mobile-based ecommerce is on the rise. Voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are rapidly becoming fixtures in homes around the world, and now’s the time to get in on this growing retail trend. Retailers that sell daily-use products are more likely to find voice-assisted purchasing useful versus purveyors of big-ticket items like furniture or electronics. If you’d like to take the next step, look into tools and software to develop an application for voice-enabled technology for your business.

5.     Foster a sense of community

Social media remains one of the easiest avenues to promote your product to and within your customer base; in fact, 95 percent of consumers ages 18-34 follow brands on social media. As customers grow more social media-savvy, strategists need to leverage social media in more innovative and remarkable ways to sustain interest.

Retailers are increasingly using features such as Snapchat and Instagram stories to craft more authentic, brand-centric narratives. Some retailers actively incorporate one of the retail industry trends mentioned earlier — personalization — into their social media strategies by tailoring their marketing based on factors like users’ Facebook likes or which Instagram profiles they follow.

One of the biggest social media opportunities and retail trends for 2019, though, is brand communities. Customers appreciate the opportunity to engage with fellow consumers with whom they share interests, and more and more retailers are developing their own platforms to inspire customer engagement.

Sephora was one of the first to create such a community, starting with BeautyTalk in 2010; the latest iteration of Sephora’s brand community, the Beauty Insider Community, allows member to chat in a Reddit-style forum, submit photos, and rate and review different products they’ve tried.

PlayStation’s PlayStation Community works similarly in that it also provides a members-only forum for general conversation. PlayStation Community also enables members to read and write blog posts, share their progress in the games they’re playing, and share gaming pointers.

The idea behind these customer-based communities/branded social media platforms is simple: Give customers a place where they can share tips, opinions, and interests, replicating that “real life” communal feeling all people crave. This takes the impersonal social media and ecommerce experience and adds a human touch.

6.     Make data-driven decisions

Data is king. If you aren’t using data-driven decision-making across all channels in your business, you’re missing a major opportunity. In fact, data-driven retail is perhaps the most important of all retail trends for 2019.

Why? Because it plays a supporting role in all other trends listed above, or any other trend you might implement. Big data is crucial for:

  • Pricing products competitively
  • Offering a sufficiently diverse assortment of products
  • Increasing employee productivity
  • Satisfying customer demands

But collecting that data is only half the battle. Once you have customer and industry data at your disposal, it’s vital that you choose a software solution that quantifies that data in a centralized location and empowers you to make smart, data-driven decisions that boost sales, improve management efficiency, and delight customers.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 integrates cutting-edge CRM and ERP capabilities with cloud technology to provide a comprehensive, multi-channel management platform that grows along with your business. Interested in learning more about these retail industry trends and how to use Dynamics 365 to implement them in your business? Get in touch with Hitachi Solutions and get started today.

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