As we turn the calendar to 2017, it’s time to look ahead and predict what’s in store for the retail industry as it races to stay relevant in the Age of Amazon. Here are my predictions to keep an eye on in the New Year as the retail experience continues to evolve to meet changing customer needs:
Continued investment in stores as mini-FCs: For the first time ever, online shopping outpaced in-store during Cyber Weekend 2016, signaling a shift that we’ve seen coming for years. As the scales tip, traditional retailers will need to act fast to capitalize on the biggest advantage they have over their online pure-play counterparts: physical stores themselves.
By building “connected” stores that blend the digital and physical experience – allowing them to effectively double as flexible fulfillment centers – retailers can capitalize on their decades-long investments along corridors where people live, work and play. Retailers will also be keen on finding ways to equip associates with tools to help them pick and pack effectively, without adding extra burden to their current workload.
More Last-Mile Fulfillment Options: Brick-and-mortar retailers will find new ways to meet customer demand. They will begin to invest more heavily in options like curbside pickup, in-store pickup and services like Deliv, Uber and Postmates. With Amazon planning a no-checkout grocery store where customers are automatically charged through a combination of AI, computer vision and data pulled from multiple sensors, it’s becoming more urgent for retailers to act and innovate quickly.
In-Store Experiences Drawing Shoppers to Stores: As in-store sales decline in proportion to online sales quarter after quarter, retailers will develop new programs and incentives to build a better in-store engagement model with customers. One such is Nordstrom’s Reserve & Try, where customers select merchandise through their mobile phone and have it placed in a dressing room for when they arrive, with their name on the door. Experiences like this that expedite the shopping process will be key for retailers in 2017.
The true cost of same-day delivery will become apparent: While on-demand delivery services have been popular in major cities, much of the true costs have been subsidized. Net shipping losses are high. As the subsidies come off, consumers not living in dense urban areas and outside the highest income brackets will be resistant to added fees. They will opt instead for alternative, affordable fulfillment options that fit seamlessly into their day-to-day lives. On-demand delivery services will need to get creative to offset fees or risk major scaling issues.
Malls Will Be Reimagined: Similar to stores being reimagined as hybrid fulfillment centers, malls will need to evolve to meet the changing demands of today’s shoppers who increasingly expect faster and more efficient experiences. In 2017 we’ll see an increase in mall-based interactive experiences, entertainment and designated spots to pick up orders from multiple stores.
Jaron Waldman is CEO of Curbside