January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16
By Steven Feldman
Trends, like rainstorms, can be fairly easy to predict. You look at the current conditions on the radar screen, consider their proximity and pretty much can nail where and when the rain will fall.
The same can be said for retail trends. Consumers increasingly use their mobile devices in the shopping process. They expect more personalized, relevant shopping experiences. They research online and purchase in the store. These practices have been steadily advancing, so it is relatively easy to predict and prepare for the continuing trends.
However, there are some under-the-radar trends—those storms that seemingly come from nowhere—that tend to have a more lasting effect.
Whether obvious or not, retailers are forced to adapt to all trends to stay ahead of the competition. With that said, here are six trends to keep an eye on for 2017 as predicted by retail experts.
- Treat media as the store and the store as media. “Media is becoming the store. Retailers will use technology to make every single piece of media—be it social, online, mobile or conventional—a direct path to purchase. This means providing exceptional content, decision-making tools and commerce software, so anyone exposed to that media could confidently buy from you on the spot. Conversely, the physical store should convey a powerful brand story through every touch point and expose shoppers to your entire ecosystem of product experts, purchase channels, added-value services and loyalty tools. If you design your customer experience well, your store is the most powerful form of media at your disposal.”
—Doug Stephens, founder, Retail Prophet and author of “The Retail Revival”
- Customers will want to feel at home. “Customers are going to continue their search for unique retail experiences and reward retailers who provide them. Smart retailers will begin to understand they need to treat their stores as their homes. This means welcoming customers into a warm and inviting place in which products aren’t pushed on you. Product interaction, product romancing, product becoming a living and breathing thing can only occur in a physical environment where a real human story and dialogue can occur. Almost all online players today are discovering they also need a physical space to truly touch the customer.”
—James Dion, president, Dionco
- More and more mobile. “The promise of mobile retail will evolve and strengthen and become much more relevant to both consumers and retailers as the hiccups and glitches happening now will quickly become memories. Retailer strategies incorporating the mobile device will become much more sophisticated and honed for smooth integration into the overall customer experience. I also think we’ll see a return to the basics when it comes to providing a rewarding and fulfilling customer experience with the frontline—retail associates in the brick and mortar and customer service online—playing the lead role in crafting that experience.”
—Judy Mottl, editor, Retail Customer Experience
- Brick-and-mortar stores will get smarter. “The physical store retail format will continue to evolve into smarter environments. Brands will continue to learn how to truly incorporate technology to create a connected store with the benefit of the consumer at the heart of design. Store associates will be even more empowered with data and a more personalized understanding of customers (what they like, what they have bought, what they have browsed, etc.).”
—Melissa Gonzalez, founder, The Lion’esque Group and author of “The Pop-Up Paradigm”
- Leaving home without it. “Having your phone [will be] more important than your physical wallet. With contactless cards expected to double worldwide by 2021 (ABI Research), 2017 will be the year people begin to ditch the [physical] wallet as merchants start to standardize the acceptance of contactless mobile wallets and create incentives to pay this way, downloadable directly to your device.”
—Glen Robson, executive VP, Verifone
- Small will be the next big. “[This] emerging retailing trend will reshape the retail landscape in the future. Specifically, demographic shifts—with both aging baby boomers and young millennials looking for a more personal shopping experience, as well as heightened expectations from affluent consumers—will favor the special services and products that only local small businesses can provide.”
—Pam Danziger, author of “Shops That POP!” and researcher at Unity Marketing