2017 was a tough year for the retail industry. Retailers continued to search for ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency in an even more challenging commercial environment. With consumer spending squeezed and operational expenditure rising, innovative thinking was the key differentiator in maintaining a competitive advantage – through the development of smart, tailored customer service models that ensured loyalty while attracting new business.

But there could be light at the end of the tunnel. Because retail isn’t actually declining: it’s changing. More than that, it’s reinventing itself, with a whole new identity and new ways of doing business.

So, what are the big predictions for the year ahead, that will drive retail revenues?


Make retail personal

Consumers no longer accept an average or traditional shopping experience. Simply buying goods online, or having a casual browse in-store is not enough to ensure a meaningful brand relationship1.

To win the battle for wallet share, retailers need to treat every customer as a VIP. Shoppers must be placed at the centre of the retail experience and talked to individually, on their terms2. From interactive engagements to delivering seamless and relevant experiences throughout their purchasing journey, the customer will remain the number one priority – and must therefore be managed on a personal level.

Retailers have of course worked on improving personalisation for years, but as AI powered technologies are coming into maturity, smart retailers will start to blend technology-powered personalisation with an emotional layer that will revolutionise the way they interact and engage with customers at scale.


Keep it convenient

By 2019, global mobile advertising revenues will increase to an impressive $63.94bn – almost three times what they are now1. Direct conversations between brands and consumers are becoming the norm; and more importantly, shoppers expect retailers to cater for their every need. They expect one-click purchases and super-fast delivery, as part of a unique and memorable experience tailored precisely to their preferences1. So, retailers themselves must blend the ultra-convenience of online, with the human touch of in-store, and combine them into one unforgettable and unique customer experience.

Effective mobile strategies are key here. Voice assistants like Siri or Cortana will become the digital shopping assistants of the future, helping customers find the right size, shape, colour and price of product for them. Every interaction will be fast, targeted and convenient. Interestingly, the use of mobile for payments is also rapidly increasing: from an estimated $452.78m to $2.07bn global users by 2019.

We can already see large retailers like Amazon stealing a march on the benefits of a more connected, convenient shopping experience. Physical stores will need to become truly ‘ultra-convenient’ – complementing the online experience, or providing an interactive experience that lives long in shoppers’ minds3.

Download our infographic ‘The Store of the Future’


Transformation through technology

The latest technological advances – including cloud, big data and advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and mixed reality – are redefining the way retailers do business.

By deriving maximum value from the large volumes of data they’re able to gather, retailers can take advantage of real-time insights about purchasing habits, demographics, and preferences to make informed decisions determining the future of their business2. This tangible insight will give them a platform to improve service, employee productivity, operating expenditure and digital innovation.

Are you curious about how you can apply AI in retail? Download Microsoft’s AI Retail Playbook


Introducing the Retail Ecosystem

In 2018, fully connected retail brands will emerge. By linking information using big data and intuitive technologies, the customer experience and commercial profits can both be optimised3. These new digital capabilities will change the way we shop forever, by providing a platform for achieving a convenient and personalised shopping experience for every customer.

The idea of a store digitally recognising a customer as they walk inside – which has developed in recent years – is now set to go mainstream. Store assistants will receive a message with a full profile of that customer, customised for relevance to help that assistant personalise and optimise the service they provide. After the visit is concluded, the assistant can add any insightful new information from their conversation to the customer’s profile, to enhance their experience on- and offline going forward.

In summary, the technological juggernaut that is redefining retail will continue its rapid and exciting journey through 2018. HSO can help you make the most of this evolving digital landscape. Get in touch to find out what we can do for you.