The world of retail is constantly evolving, and 2019 has seen some major shifts. As technology advances and customer habits and expectations change, the retail industry needs to put practices in place to keep up with these evolutions and stay competitive. While these changes can seem frightening, they give retailers the chance to take advantage of new opportunities to be incredibly successful in 2019 and beyond. These are some of the most notable trends in the retail industry in 2019.
Making Data-Based Decisions
In the past, companies have turned to company and market history, as well as general instincts, to guide business-related decisions. The retail industry of 2019, however, is relying much more heavily on data to influence these significant decisions. Artificial intelligence helps retailers track and analyze data (such as inventory movement, consumer information, and sales), and then make decisions based off of what is found. While these systems and processes were reserved for larger companies in the past, in 2019, we have seen small and medium-sized businesses tapping into the power of this technology as well. This technology allows retailers to get more in-tune with what consumers want, and make more consumer-tailored business decisions. As companies see more success with data-driven decisions, they will continue to use the information to their advantage in 2019 and beyond.
Of course, when it comes to consumer data, the issue of privacy is at hand – and it is more serious now than it ever has been. Regulations are in place, but companies need to ensure that customers can trust them with their personal information – especially when it comes to building and maintaining customer loyalty.
Using In-Depth Analysis of What the Customer Wants
In addition to using data to make business related decisions, in the retail industry in 2019, companies have paid more attention to what the customers actually want. Voice of Consumer (VoC) analytics are a huge factor in effectively looking into customer needs. In 2018, it was reported that 84% of retailers said VoC analytics were significant for business operations, and that 59% were or would be investing in this data by the end of 2019. VoC focuses on their expectations, needs, experiences, and ideas for product improvement. This in-depth look allows retailers to paint a broader picture of the customers they are serving, and better understand what they look for in a retailer. This gives them the opportunity to make more intelligent business decisions, particularly when it comes to pricing and releasing product.
Digital Brands Are Opening Physical Locations
It is no secret that big-name store-closures have been a huge change in the retail-industry over the past few years. Retail market analysis may lead many to think that this means traditional brick-and-mortar stores are coming to an end, but this isn’t exactly true. Physical locations still provide a benefit to the consumer, especially when it comes to goods that customers will need to try out in person, like clothing or accessories. There is also the component of instant gratification that physical stores are able to provide. Changes in consumer shopping habits have driven these closures, but certain companies have found ways to make use in physical locations.
In 2019, the brands that were brought up in the digital world are expanding their businesses by opening up physical locations – and doing so successfully. One study found that digital-born brands plan to open more than 850 brick-and-mortar stores over the course of the next 5 years. These brands find success with their physical stores by providing innovative ways of shopping (more on that below), smaller shops with more selective inventory, and the ability to connect with consumers in a more personal way.
Larger, more established companies can still have long-term success with brick-and-mortar stores. The success with digitally-native brands opening up physical stores in 2019 and beyond shows that, in order to keep up with the times, it is vital that companies offer multiple channels for consumers to shop, as well as innovative and convenient ways for shopping.
Brick-and-Mortar Store Experiences Are Shifting
In order to stay relevant, meet customer needs, and avoid mass closures, companies with brick-and-mortar stores are implementing new in-store experiences to make the customer experience more enjoyable and efficient. The retail industry in 2019 is fast-evolving, and these steps are crucial for staying competitive. Many companies have opted to add self-checkout machines, allowing customers to move through the check-out process more quickly. Online ordering for in-store pick-up have also become very popular tools. This means customers can easily walk-in and grab their item without having to look for it, which is particularly beneficial for larger stores that carry a lot of product. Some have even implemented programs where an employee will bring the order right out to the curb so that the customer doesn’t even have to leave their car. These in-store experience adjustments add a convenience factor that customers have become so accustomed to with online shopping.
In addition to convenience and efficiency practices, there is also a shift towards offering certain experiences in the store that draw the customer in and keep them from doing all of their shopping online. Some stores are offering classes, events, special services, or in-store only offers to attract customers to physical locations.
Smaller Format Stores Emerge to Better Suit Customer Needs
The modern day customer is used to having a wide selection of product options at their fingertips, and can order just anything they want online and receive it within days. The need for giant warehouse stores filled to the brim with products is becoming less and less relevant for today’s consumers. Smaller format stores that carry a selective array of product and offer exclusive services are becoming more mainstream in the retail industry of 2019. Even traditionally larger stores are opening up their own versions of these small format stores to fit in with the trend. Pop-up shops have also become a popular version of this smaller format store. The limited-time and exclusive appeal of this method draws in customers and keeps them engaged with the brand.
Different Payment Options Attract Customers
When looking at the retail industry in 2019, one noticeable change is that many companies are offering a variety of ways for customers to pay. The option to pay using a mobile device is becoming increasingly popular, and is particularly well-suited for the millennial and Generation Z customer base. “Buy now, pay later” options, where customers pay for a product in installments, are also becoming a part of many retailer’s flexible payment strategy. Flexible and fast payment options can increase sales – making it a win for both the customer and the business.
Sustainability is Key for Popularity
Sustainability is on the forefront of customers’ minds, and they expect retailers to do their part to make as little negative environmental impact as possible. The retail industry in 2019 has seen a rise in sustainable business practices. For example, plastic bag bans and regulations have already set retailers in the right direction, but companies have built on these rules by looking at delivering practices that may be hurting the environment. Retailers shipping products to consumers have even started looking at more sustainable packaging options. In 2019, these steps can and have helped companies stay in line with the standards of customers.