2018 Retail Predictions

1. Mobile is never ending and never finished. Mobile has been an initiative for retailers for years and has come a long way. In 2017, 29% of sales between Black Friday and Cyber Monday occurred on mobile e-commerce websites and apps. Mobile is an extension of the store, and retailers must be able to facilitate rapid delivery of everything available in-store on mobile devices, and then some.

In 2018, retailers must continue to improve their mobile platform capabilities so that it works seamlessly or risk losing sales. This goes for mobile applications and in the mobile Web browser.

2. Retailers will shift their organizations to be truly customer centric. How a retailer is perceived by consumers and the experience that consumers have in stores and online, is critical to success, and retailers must include empathy and emotion to correctly measure the overall customer experience. If a retailer is not organized properly to be customer centric, they need to take action to realign the company. In addition to the people-work required, they must ensure they can capture and centralize customer data and insights from in-store and online interactions.

For some organizations, this will require a complete transformation of their data storage processes and architecture. Once retailers have the customer-centric data, they must know what to do with it. Analysis tools that deliver actionable data and enable organizations to correctly respond to changing conditions with actionable and repeatable processes at the point of service – whether instore or online, will be key.

3. More focus on the customer journey. Retailers must be able to assist customers before, during and after they enter the store. Before consumers visit a brick-and-mortar retailer, many check online first to ensure the specific item they are looking for is in stock. If the retailer is not able to provide this information, the customer may look to a competitor instead.

Once the customer is in the store, the experience must be as positive and seamless as possible, and the journey does not stop after the purchase. Post sale follow-up in the form of customer experience surveys, review requests, etc. and other tactics are common place. And promotions designed to encourage repeat sales – discounts, personalized recommendations, etc., are essential. Looking into 2018, retailers must be aware of how they are interacting with consumers and how they are perceived by consumers at all times.

4. Pop-ups power retailers’ customer experience reinvention. For many retailers, pop-ups are quickly becoming a critical part of the store experience reinvention journey. In fact, a recent study shows that pop-up stores now account for more than $50 billion a year in revenue. If done properly, these unique stores allow retailers to experiment and find out which consumer experiences work and which fall flat.

In many ways, experimenting with pop-ups enables retailers to go on a reinvention journey without making long term commitments or investments. Pop-ups also enable retailers to measure the impact of a new physical experience within their complete, omnichannel ecosystem, before rolling out chain-wide. As retailers continue to figure out the best ways to leverage new experiences and technologies along the shopper journey, I predict that pop ups will find their way to more retailers’ agendas in 2018.

Vicki Cantrell is retail transformation officer of Aptos.