2016 was a transformative year for the retail industry, with innovation being a key driver of retail success. A wave of emerging technologies wowed consumers and continued to have a lasting impact on purchasing decisions. In today’s smart, digital world, the future of retail depends upon personalized customer interaction, embedding connectivity and intelligence in retail products, and providing an innovative in-store experience that rivals the convenience of online shopping. With the New Year fast approaching and retailers scrambling to assess their profits during the year-end holiday season, it’s clear that disruption is the new normal when it comes to inevitable change in retail.
2017: Bring It on
The New Year promises to be rewarding for retailers and consumers alike. Based on insights and predictions gathered from industry experts and thought leaders in the retail technology space, let’s consider the following seven top trends for 2017.
- Machine Learning Will Revolutionize Retail
In the retail world, customer-centricity and personalized experiences reign supreme. Retailers are not only realizing the importance of big data, but also leveraging the best tools and technologies for handling the size and variety of data designed to deliver a competitive advantage. An extension of artificial intelligence, machine learning is all about discovering patterns that can later be utilized to analyze new data. What does that mean for retailers? As forward-thinking IT experts edge closer to the idea of getting the right information to the right people at the right time, machine learning will begin to shape the future of personalization and enhance the customer experience. Retail companies like Macy’s On-Call and The North Face are leveraging IBM Watson’s machine learning system to peek into the future, predict outcomes, and ultimately drive business performance.
- In-Store Experiences Will Thrive
Retailers that can provide unparalleled in-store experiences will be crowned king in 2017. Shoppers expect and demand trust; if they have a problem, a solution must be delivered in a timely fashion. Understanding the fierce urgency of now that prevails in today’s climate, retailers will continue to find ways to match and exceed the seamlessness of online shopping. Most retailers are attempting to do this by creating in-store experiences that bridge the gap between online and brick-and-mortar stores.
- Personalization Will Become Increasingly Important
Personalization in the retail industry is nothing new. At the same time, consumers are increasingly searching more and more for customized shopping experiences. Fifty-percent of consumers are more likely to shop at a store that recognizes them by name, according to an Accenture Interactive study. In 2017, retailers will refocus their energy on leveraging various delivery channels to connect with customers at the best times to produce desired results. When it’s all said and done, customers will favor those who ideate bold, smart ways to personalize and elevate the shopping experience.
- Omnichannel Isn’t Going Away
Omnichannel can no longer be an afterthought for retailers and is now the norm in the retail world. Retailers who continue to invest in the omnichannel experience will attract customers in pursuit of a truly seamless shopping experience. In 2017, retailers will continue to enable social platforms as well as mobile apps to take their omnichannel strategies to the next level. Looking ahead, these omnichannel efforts will be the difference between a retailer that succeeds in the space and one that fails to rise to the occasion.
- IoT Investments Will Rise
Retailers are spending billions on the Internet of Things, but will their investments pay off? Because it’s such a large category with a wide array of applications, many large retail marketers are still struggling with finding the most effective way to make use of IoT devices. As we move into 2017, retail experts predict that more marketers with impressive budgets will use connected devices for niche projects.
- Brick-and-Mortar Stores Will Get Smart
Smart technology is infused in the retail space, and in 2017, industry experts envision the physical store retail format will continue to evolve into even smarter environments. Retailers will continue to incorporate emerging technology to create a connected store. In addition, store associates and logistics teams will be more in tune with meeting in-store, real-time demands.
- Virtual Reality Will Make Its Mark
The wave of the future is virtual reality, and in 2017 the retail industry is looking to gain momentum with this immersive technology. Within the realm of online shopping, VR is already proving to be a key player by putting consumers in the center of the environments while making e-commerce more immersive. Top retailers like Lowe’s and The North Face have already begun experimenting, and experts anticipate more brands will start to follow. Once this technology becomes more widely acceptable, we expect retailers to reinvent ways to do business. And the good news is consumers appear to be ready for customized products that deliver memorable, interactive experiences.
Ultimately it’s all about delivering a seamless shopping experience. It’s important to consider these upcoming forecasts for the retail industry and pay close attention to what’s creating a profitable impact in 2017. Here’s to another great year ahead.
2016 was a transformative year for the retail industry, with innovation being a key driver of retail success.