Looking Forward: 3 Retail Predictions Expected in the Year Ahead

This past year delivered exciting changes and opportunities alike for both online and offline merchants. Yet what we have seen and what retail will see isn’t slowing down when it comes to innovation or enthusiasm. As 2019 officially gets under way, below are three predictions that retailers, vendors and consumers alike can look forward to.  

#1: Brand loyalty will be built on experiences and employees… not just product.  

Today’s consumers are savvier than ever before and thus, it’s critical for brands and retailers alike to strengthen their customer satisfaction beyond product satisfaction. From online and offline shopping experiences to customer service opportunities to marketing between purchases and more, there is no shortage of ways for customers to stay connected and intrigued with their favorite merchants in 2019 and beyond.

As Jordan Ekers, Chief Customer Officer of Nudge Rewards – a mobile tech company that helps retailers with frontline employee performance and engagement – explains, “leading retailers are changing the in-store experience to increase brand affinity and conversions. A major challenge is removing friction from online and offline experiences in an omnichannel world.”

Expanding on this, Ekers stresses that “today’s customers are becoming more knowledgeable than the people they interact with in stores. In fact, 83% of shoppers think they know more about products and services than store associates, resulting in damaging disconnect and missed opportunities, a concept we call the ‘experience gap’. Shoppers are armed with expertise from online research – not only on the products, but pricing and in-store promotions – and are looking to leverage that info to their advantage. In order to narrow the experience gap, retailers need to turn their attention to empowering their frontline staff to deliver. Store associates have to be equally armed to know as much as a customer and be able to upsell and provide a better in-store experience.”

When focusing on employees and experiences in addition to inventory, retailers and brands can gain confidence that their customers will stay more engaged in 2019.

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#2: Multichannel experiences are a must… not an option.

Reflecting back to 2018, retailers began to embrace multichannel experiences for their customers more and more. Yet this perspective has still been blurry for many merchants, which is why 2019 will be a game changer for multichannel experiences and sales.

From social media, to email marketing, to processing orders, to accepting returns, to identifying when inventory is out of stock, the year ahead will allow retailers of all sizes to gain stronger clarity on their sales data, customer insight and future opportunities.

When operating from a multichannel perspective, retailers will gain increased sales, enhanced operational experiences and stronger engagement with their customers along the way.

When welcoming multichannel strategies into ecommerce businesses, decision makers can be more reactive and proactive in their 2019 opportunities. As the year evolves, it’s the clarity that comes from multichannel operations and the collective data it generates that will help lead retailers and brands to success.  

A final benefit of multichannel selling? International growth opportunities – something any retail business can appreciate thanks to our increasingly global marketplace.

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#3: SMEs will lean on marketplaces to help move inventory.

Technology and data has undoubtedly changed the retail landscape. And while many have argued physical retail is dead, it’s clear to see that is not the case – especially as you consider online marketplace giant Amazon plans to open over 3,000 stores by 2021. Keeping this in mind, small and medium enterprises must embrace this reality and begin to adjust their selling strategies to not only keep up with Amazon, but also today’s modern customers.

Among the ways this can be achieved is by welcoming marketplace selling into their commerce plans. Using their physical stores as their warehouse, so to speak, SMEs can grow their revenue while pushing more inventory thanks to marketplace strategies. Combined with their physical storefront or multiple storefronts, this can prove advantageous to retailers in the year ahead.

Final thoughts.

Finally, as 2019 moves forward, retailers, brands and customers alike must embrace the changing landscape of payments as well. Ease and trust is critical – as are options for customers to pay how they want without compromising on their preferences. This means instalment payments versus only credit cards should be an option, as should easing the process of collecting customer data during the payment process. When keeping these collective details in mind, retailers and brands alike will be better positioned to welcome dollars into their businesses in 2019 and beyond.

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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.