Adopt and evolve: Three trends for retailers to equip the stores of tomorrow

Hedgie Bartol

According to Riepl’s law – a hypothesis that was formulated by the German journalist Wolfgang Riepl – new, enhanced types of media will never make existing media types disappear. For example, the radio, won’t replace the newspaper. Instead, what happens is more of a convergence that often leads to a different way of using old types of media or to improve them.

The same law can be applied in different sectors, such as retail. For example, the introduction of online shopping led many people to think it would replace physical retail stores. But new devices and technologies, such as analytics, are used to enhance brick and mortar shops and customer experience instead. In fact, stores are not disappearing, the net change of store opening vs. closings has seen an increase in openings by over 8,500 new stores, according to research undertaken by TD Insights.

Based on an Axis retail report, we have put together a list of the three trends that will help retailers to keep their store up to date and provide an improved customer experience:

Trend 1: Retail is moving towards omni-channel environment

76% of the shoppers in New York City shop online as well as in physical stores. This is indicative of how retail is moving toward a true omni-channel environment, which makes the two channels complementary instead of competitive. For example, friends planning a shopping trip can go online to see information about a store’s stock, such as sizes in stock in different locations etc. – and then check the quality of the products when they visit the store. Plus, omni-channel increases convenience further through services such as click and collect, which allow customers to reserve the item online so they can immediately purchase it when visiting a physical store.

Trend 2: Convenience & Customization through technology

Convenience is an important factor for shoppers. Hence, one of the reasons why online shopping is so successful these days. Besides convenience, people also enjoy a customized experience. It adds to the comfort level and makes customers feel more valued. Both these things can be achieved with the help of the latest technology:

Through the analysis of store design and monitoring what is happening in the shop at a given moment, it is possible to optimize check-out lines by opening new registers when it is busy, for example, or shortening queues by being able to serve customers more efficiently. Another aspect of a (technologically) improved check-out process would be the payment itself: With mobile payment terminals for shop assistants and the possibility to pay by card or even online before going to the shop, the stores can cut wait times, further enhancing the customer experience.

Access to information and technology means the average consumer is much more aware of customization and expect a more customized experience in the store. As retailers, it’s crucial to “meet them where they are” through the experience itself and the implementation of technology. This can, for example, include personal advice from a shop assistant. Having someone who can answer questions about the product, can help finding certain pieces or just helps with the decision making, can help creating a positive experience. This positive attitude is something that customers connect with a brand and people do include this aspect in their choice of retailer. In Shanghai, 88% of the participants said they value the help from shops assistants when it comes to finding what they are looking for. Another example is ensuring the recognition of a regular customer in a shop together with more personal promotions, which could make people feel more valued. Another convenience aspect mentioned by 87% of the shoppers in NYC was a free and easy way to return products.

Trend 3: Cross-functionality

The entire world and all our devices and tools are now connected. This allows people to integrate systems and solutions so that they are performing multiple tasks and interoperating instead of single-function devices. It allows more cross-functionality throughout the stores and across the various disciplines in a retail environment.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more widespread, it’s possible that the growing collaboration of devices can also help with a customized experience for the shop visitors.

Conclusion

The key findings from our survey are that customers have three top priorities: cost, convenience and customization.

Through the implementation of technology, retailers will gain opportunities to bring the cost down as they streamline operations and provide a customized experience for the shoppers based on their habits, patterns, activities and even their specific demographic. With the help of data analytics of buyers’ behavior etc. shops can also be adjusted in their design, layout and facilities right from the start. It’s crucial to understand where shoppers are now from a technology standpoint and to see where they are going so retail owners don’t fall behind. The future might include smart technology in, for instance, the fitting room areas in the form of smart mirrors that could support the customers with choosing the right size or color. Whatever the future (technology) holds for retail, it’s essential to stay open-minded and evolve with the innovation.

If you want to read more about the trends and needs of the retailers of the future you can download Axis’ retail report here.

Retail report