5 Goals Every Retailer Should Have for 2018

As we prepare to put a cork in 2017 and look forward to a new year of retail innovation, let’s investigate how technology is poised to disrupt the retail landscape in the coming year.

Many of the trends which recently gained a foothold and began to permeate the mainstream buying mentality in 2017 are soon to become the gold standard. Solution providers are finding new, practical applications for existing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and customer relationship management software (CRM).

On the other hand, trends like Big Data — which we once predicted would take the retail world by storm — recently showed evidence of their limitations and will soon fall by the wayside to pave the road for an increasingly technology-driven buying landscape where there is no room for error.

Technology will refine each customer’s path-to-purchase in 2018. Add these goals to your company’s to-do list to stay ahead of the learning curve in the new year.

Goal #1: Use Only the Most Relevant Customer Data

“Big Data” became a bad word recently as a result of multiple embarrassing mishaps due to over-categorization by solution providers. Above all else, recent Big Data snafus taught us that not all data is relevant to a company’s operations. According to Forbes, only 32 percent of companies have effectively analyzed textual data, and even less have had success analyzing less structured information. Hoarding data without an end goal in sight causes unnecessary expenditures and can lead to the obfuscation of relevant information. Instead of accumulating information with no end goal in sight, focus on putting relevant data into action in the new year.

Goal #2: Reduce Inventory Management Errors

Recent studies have shown just how beneficial it can be to a company’s bottom line to cut down on inventory management mistakes and streamline internal processes. Since shrinkage costs retailers over 49 billion dollars each year and — according to The Balance, administrative mistakes cause 16 percent of retail shrinkage — putting the kibosh on management errors can greatly increase your company’s retail profits. Choose a cloud-based inventory management platform which gives real-time, remote access to all of your business’s retail operations so you can catch potentially margin-busting mistakes remotely before they play out in your stores.

Goal #3: Build Smarter Retail Operations with AI

For retail technologies to be effective, they must be equipped to replace human labor by fulfilling tasks which require basic cognitive functions. According to a recent Gartner study (via Forbes), 59 percent of organizations are in the process of gathering data for an AI strategy, while the rest are in the midst of rolling out AI programs. Company executives have the same priorities, with Forrester reporting that 78 percent of executives plan to spend 5 percent more on AI marketing in the next year in order to create a more personalized customer experience. Look for ways to implement AI into your business strategy to save your company from overspending on billable hours.

Goal #4: Implement Chatbots for Faster Customer Service

Solution providers will refine the user experience for existing technologies in 2018. Adding artificial intelligence to retail chatbot functions will empower retailers to immediately address customer service requests and to give each customer a personalized shopping experience with their website. According to Forbes, 25 percent of retailers will invest in “point and click analytics with conversational interfaces” in the coming year. In others words, the new wave of chatbots will derive data from regular speech patterns. Furthermore, Forbes reports that in the new year 20 percent of businesses will also use AI to answer questions and give instruction in real-time.

Goal #5: Whittle Store Operations Down to One Main System

This is no time for retailers to get their wires crossed or to lose important information while trying to navigate between multiple retail systems. Forbes predicts that 2018 is the year in which, “digital transformation becomes a must.” Whether your company is building upon existing retail technologies, or you are in the midst of enacting new growth strategies for your business, you will need immediate access to all of your company’s functions in one place. Make it your New Year’s resolution to choose a software provider that streamlines your company’s processes into one, easy-to-access platform, like Brightpearl.

By prioritizing smooth and error-free internal retail processes, you can ensure that your customer-facing store operations function perfectly, regardless of whichever tech trend is poised to become the next big thing in the coming year.


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About the Author

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Founder and Publisher of Retail Minded, a publication committed to supporting independent retailers through news, education and support, as well as the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. Recognized for her expertise in independent retail, Reyhle has published thousands of articles about small business and is the Author of the book “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business” from McGraw-Hill. Additionally, Reyhle has contributed to Forbes, Fiverr, IBM and more, and has been the Spokesperson for Small Business Saturday from American Express since 2014. Learn more about Retail Minded at www.retailminded.com, at @RetailMinded on Twitter or at Facebook.com/RetailMinded.