Now that 2016 is gone, I’d like to share our predictions on what 2017 holds for the retail industry. After a year of innovations for the consumer experience – see-now, buy-now to virtual fitting rooms – great products and instant gratification are the expectation of shoppers. Consumers want what they want, when and where they want it. And if they don’t get it, they’re quick to move onto the next brand who will provide it.
The digital revolution has been changing the expectations of consumers for years, but 2016 represents a real turning point. It’s not just the explosion of cool new devices or mobile shopping. In the New Retail Economy, social is king and it influences everything – and not just our shopping habits. We rely on social proof not only when we’re browsing Amazon or finding a great restaurant on Yelp. Social tools are crossing into professional lives as well – think corporate intranets, messenger apps like Slack – changing the way business is done today. It’s a totally different model from the past, where business apps (consider the entire Office suite) eventually flowed into the consumer world. And as retailers strive to meet consumers where they are, they’re starting to adopt tools and social tendencies that match their customer base, and naturally, the way the industry runs changes.
2017: The Year of Social
Take the impact of social networks. Retail is a space naturally geared for these networks, as professionals work in specific communities, or tribes – the many different groups of designers, retailers, suppliers, mills, agents and more each individual interacts with daily – to get things done.
For example, designers work in one group to discover and develop concepts, and then work with people in sourcing to create a finished product. Another tribe may be tapped to find specific components, buttons, trim, materials to use, and subsequently work with supply chain partners, yet another tribe, to figure out how to actually build and deliver the product. Individuals throughout the retail community move from tribe to tribe in their business world the same way they tap into their social communities in their consumer lives: from Pinterest and Instagram to Snapchat and Facebook on their smartphones.
This tribal shift is a turning point for the industry. The retail mindset is changing and new strategies and approaches are strengthening the sector’s ability to innovate and make great product. To keep this going, 2017 will need to be even more connected to their communities, requiring even more investment in both front-end and back-end technologies to thrive. Here’s what teams will focus on next year in order to move forward:
Digital marketplaces will be king
Digital marketplaces are new to the B2B space in retail, but adoption of more visual, collaborative and social tools will drastically increase in 2017. Retailers will shop just like consumers in these connected B2B marketplaces, speeding up and streamlining tedious and burdensome backend processes and ultimately get better products to market faster.
IP security will be a major concern
With consumer-like, social technologies taking center stage next year, the use of tools like Pinterest and Instagram for collecting proprietary ideas will decline among the retail community. Teams will realize the risks of using public networks to house designs and inspiration. Instead, merchants and designers will collaborate with their legal teams to make sure they have reliable systems in place for IP protection.
Social will rise on the backend
The product development process will be less about buying pens, paper and other physical items and more about buying and sharing ideas. As the retail community collaborates together and leverages the knowledge, expertise and experiences of those around them, they’ll be able to better inspire and create great products that consumers actually want to buy.
Collaboration is the name of the game and if retailers can’t leverage this to move at the speed in which they think, everything slows down, from product design and development to the supply chain and sales. This means fully tapping into the communities retail teams interact with every day and using the technologies at their disposal to securely deliver the most value to their customer base.
Great product is the lifeblood of a retail business and in a world that’s filled with players of all different types and sizes, it doesn’t take much for consumers to lose interest. Retailers will finally understand the crucial role collaboration plays in their success next year and will start to become more tribal, visual and interactive, ultimately helping them design and deliver great products and services that stand out.
2016 laid the foundation for retail innovation and growth. It’s up to us to build on this momentum in and truly embrace the social, connected world we live in so we can see success in 2017 and beyond.
Sue Welch is CEO of Bamboo Rose