Now more than any other time of year, consumers are keeping a watchful eye on the retail industry. Whether it’s holiday shopping for friends and family, picking out new ingredients to bake with at the grocery store or shopping on a mobile phone during a long delay at the airport, now is the time to think about what exactly you value as a consumer when it comes to the buying experience.
While I can’t say that I’m a fortune teller by any means, as the CEO of a retail technology company, I find myself ‘gazing into the crystal ball’ the same time every year, asking myself, “what trends will really take off in the next year?” Of course we can never really know…for example, this year, did we ever expect to see millions of people running through cities ‘catching Pokémon?’ The rise of Pokémon became a trend that retailers really capitalized on in 2016. You have to wonder, what will catch the attention of retailers in 2017?
Based on the trends I encountered this year and what I anticipate becoming more relevant in 2017, here are a few predictions of my own for the New Year:
Prediction 1: We Will Hear Retailers Ask: “Why Not Both?”
In today’s highly evolving, tech-savvy retail landscape, consumers are sometimes tasked with the debate of deciding whether they want to buy something online or in-store. There are always pros and cons to each. If a consumer decides to go the brick- and-mortar route, they can see and feel an item before they commit to purchasing it.They can even try it on and make sure the size fits appropriately. Most importantly they can walk away with it that day if a consumer goes the online route, they have the convenience of having the item shipped to their doorstop and they don’t have to worry about the time that would be spent shopping in-store. Sometime they may still get it same day, one can check online, find something she would like and check inventories in the next door shop, then walk over and pick it up.
The trend we will see more of in the New Year is retailers asking, “why can’t I provide all options?” In order to deliver a truly customer-centric experience, retailers need to mirror both the online and offline experience to match one another – the experience should be identical and convenience at its core, like the new Amazon Go message, just walk-in, pickup and go. Traditionally seen as an ecommerce hub, Amazon turned heads when they opened up a retail flagship store. That proved to be a smart move and Amazon is now able to really deliver a seamless customer experience across all channels. In 2017, I believe we’ll see online retailers with a strong internet presence look to open traditional stores to ensure that consumers have the options they desire. While also enabling the retailer to connect with the consumer.
Prediction 2: Retailers Will Rely on the On-Demand Economy
It’s funny – many times people will ask me, “what was the last purchase you made?” Instinctively, I think about my morning coffee or a new t-shirt I bought from a local shop. So often I forget about the service-purchases I make right on my mobile phone, through Uber or a food delivery app. While the ‘on-demand economy’ is a slightly newer phrase, it can be defined as services or goods that are available to consumers quickly at the touch of a button. A good example of the on-demand economy is how we now watch movies.
Gone are the days that you would have to drive to a DVD store to rent a movie – consumers are able to watch brand new movies in the comfort of their home quickly through a service that is commonly known as ‘On-Demand.’ Hundreds of options are available and ready for consumers to scroll through and purchase in a matter of seconds.
The new reality of retail is that consumers are looking for on-demand services that can be delivered right to a doorstop at the swipe of a cell phone. Just looking at Uber alone, the start-up has quickly become a billion dollar business that essentially allows any person with a car and a license to make money, serving those looking to make a transportation purchase.
These examples lead me to believe that in the new year, we’ll see more retailers innovate their procedures to better serve consumers in an on-demand fashion. Amazon has expanded their shipping centers to deliver faster to those living in rural areas. More and more food delivery apps are offering deals for consumers and pushing for quicker delivery. In 2017, I predict that more retailers will look at the on-demand economy more strategically.
Retailers are doing a strong job recognizing the need for consumers to receive services, goods and products in an on-demand fashion. In the New Year, we will see retailers invest more in technology and procedures to innovate this practice even more.
Prediction 3: Subscription Box Services Will Step-Up Their Game
Over the past year, we have seen subscription services make an impact on the traditional retail landscape. This year, we saw the growth of recipe services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh – and of course, were seeing other industries like fashion and beauty, really make waves. The biggest thing this demonstrates about consumers is the desire for convenience and personalization Let’s face it, were all busy and with the stress of a commute and our daily tasks, when we do have free time, we want to spend it enjoying the company of our loved ones. I believe in the coming year, we’ll see retailers really capitalize on the convenience trend and place a larger emphasis on delivering personalized goods right to the consumer.
In all of this, the trend I really believe we’ll see more of in 2017, is niche subscription services taking off. Retailers will have the opportunity in the coming year to leverage the customer data that has been collected and capitalize on this trend to deliver the most personalized shopping experience to a consumer. In the New Year, I think we’ll see retailers become smarter with their data strategies and aim to provide subscription based services that are targeted and surprise consumers with products they may not have known they even wanted.
It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for the retail industry. With the rise of technology and opportunities that consumers now have, retailers can expand their creativity to provide the best experience. In the New Year, I believe we’ll see retailers focus on the connected customer even more and aim to deliver a great shopping experience.
Guy Yehiav is CEO of Profitect