If we could look into a crystal ball and predict upcoming retail trends, well, we probably wouldn’t be here writing this blog post.
Though we don’t have psychic abilities, we do have the power of research on our side. After spending time with some of retail’s most influential experts at National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2019, we are fairly certain of the direction that retail is headed this year.
Each session at NRF 2019 included forward-thinking questioning that prompted detailed responses from panelists, but one session in particular titled, “Reimagining the Customer Journey through the Lens of Experience” asked its participants to give their prediction for retail in 2019 – in just one word.
Rachel Shechtman, Founder, STORY and Brand Experience Officer, Macy’s
After diving into Rachel’s backstory, it’s easy to see why she would choose this word as a jumping off point for retail in 2019. Rachel’s company, STORY, was created with collaboration at the forefront, providing a new, curated retail experience every four to eight weeks, stocked with brands and products that fit the store’s ever-changing message.
While this form of partnership is certainly an exciting development in retail, there are other ways that we see collaboration becoming a key part of the overall industry.
First, we believe that brands will collaborate in order to achieve goals that they couldn’t on their own. Take Kroger’s partnership with Microsoft for example. These two mega-companies are coming together in order to create technology that will significantly alter the grocery retail landscape. Neither brand could have accomplished this feat on their own, but through collaboration they have put themselves on the path to industry-leading innovation.
Loyalty programs can also serve as an alternate form of collaboration for retailers across industries. As technology and data become the cornerstone of retail organizations, it’s imperative that you gather the right data about your customers – and a lot of it. By creating a loyalty program that functions as an alliance between a group of retailers (even across industries), you’ll attain access to data that may have proved elusive in the past and gain a more cohesive understanding of your customer’s purchasing habits along the way.
One last note: not every collaboration is created equal. For the partnership to be relevant to your customers (if you’re planning on utilizing the relationship to create buzz), or to your business goals, you’ll need to ensure that both brands are bringing equivalent value to the table. It’s not enough to collaborate for collaboration’s sake. Make sure that the company you’re planning on partnering with has the authority, the bandwidth, and the passion to accomplish the project you’re working on together before you sign on the dotted line.
Beck Besecker, Co-Founder and CEO, Marxent
Interestingly, as the co-founder of a technology company that creates 3D product visualizations for furniture and kitchen cabinet retailers, Beck still believes that retail is going to be defined by location. Digital – you’ve met your match.
This should elicit a sigh of relief from retailers who rely on brick and mortar stores for the majority of their business, including grocers. Though digital revenue streams will continue to grow, it’s unlikely that in-person shopping experiences will go away anytime soon. Even the tech community believes that having an on-the-ground location is an advantage to retailers.
That’s right, an advantage. Let’s dive into what this means for you as a grocer. While online grocery shopping is becoming more prevalent, your physical location is actually your greatest asset. Your company is a fixture in each neighborhood that you have a store, a communal meeting space for customers in the area. You are top of mind for them because they pass your location on the way to work, or they grew up with your store just down the street. While many retailers have no direct tie to your community, you are a symbol of it, an easily recognizable brand that provides consistency and convenience to its customers.
Jeff Gennette, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Macy’s Inc.
True to the name of the session, Jeff Gennette drew on the word “experience” as his prediction for what would be a success in retail in the future. The CEO of Macy’s has pivoted his organization to focus on this concept, bringing on Rachel Shechtman (mentioned above) to oversee Brand Experience within the company.
Experience was a driver of many of the conversations we were able to sit in on at NRF 2019. Now that digital retail has become so popular, it’s clear that the primary way for brick and mortar retailers to retain relevance is to offer a unique experience to their shoppers.
It all comes back to what is now a dynamic customer journey. Customers aren’t coming directly to your store like they used to. Their decision to shop in-store is part of a larger journey that involved online decision-making, the consideration of convenience, and, most important for this discussion, a desire for an experience.
It’s not just about the product that you carry anymore – customers are coming to you because they expect a certain experience from your brand. They want to feel a certain way when they’re shopping, from glamorous and aspirational in a high-end clothing store to hygienic and fresh in a grocery store. Today, you need to give them the experience that they’re looking for in order to continue driving traffic to your store.
Andrew Hoeft, Founder and CEO, Pinpoint Software
Finally, we’d be remiss not to include our own founder’s predictions for the world of retail. After a weekend spent listening to retail industry giants at NRF 2019, and using those concepts to form his own hypotheses, Andrew landed on the word, “advocacy”.
It’s a word that has new meaning in a digital age, one in which every customer has an opportunity to become a brand ambassador. Every shopping experience has the potential to become a viral social media moment, one that either sends customers to your store in droves or stops people from setting foot within your four walls. While you may see the value of a sale today as the revenue you make from it, the real currency of success is loyalty and advocacy. By serving your customers with an experience that surprises and delights them, you’ll generate the kind of loyalty that is essential to surviving in the retail industry.
However, customers aren’t the only potential advocates for your business. It’s just as important to cultivate your employees into brand ambassadors, because they have the power to affect a customer’s experience and perception of your company. When you keep your employees informed, and give them ownership and responsibility within your organization, they’ll feel more connected to your brand and more likely to recommend your store to potential customers.