The retail industry constantly changes in response to major shifts in consumer buying behavior. However, that pace of change is accelerating even faster than ever before due to the broadening number of channels through which retailers and consumers transact business. Signs of this ongoing retail transformation were on full display earlier this month during the annual NRF conference which attracted approximately 33,000 attendees. During the conference I had the opportunity to listen in on several sessions and talk with a number of retailers, all of which confirmed the continuing resurgence of the retail industry and the emergence of four key trends:
The unifying power of the cloud. Increasing numbers of retailers will embrace full cloud-based omnichannel commerce retail software solutions like NetSuite SuiteCommerce to seamlessly connect ecommerce, point of sale (POS), order management, fulfillment and inventory management, and operate those areas of business as a single entity. The move to the cloud is all about gaining control over and insight into all retail-related operations to the mutual benefit of both you the retailer and your customers. Migration to the cloud will take different forms – some retailers will choose a single broad deployment, while others will opt for a more gradual approach moving one or more on-premise pieces of their retail software into the cloud such as available-to-promise, order orchestration or order fulfillment.
In-store personalization becomes the norm. As long as you have tightly integrated omnichannel commerce, customer relationship management (CRM), inventory, order and warehouse management systems in the cloud, you will be able to target individual shoppers with offers based on their personal profile data and previous purchasing history. More store associates will have real-time access to that rich customer data via tablets and can therefore actively engage with shoppers both before a sale and during a purchase. The associate will then be empowered to recommend items likely to appeal to a particular individual and to save sales by offering the shopper a range of purchase and delivery alternatives.
Sharp lines between retail channels are blurring. Purchases initiated via one channel may be completed in another channel or channels may intermingle. For instance, a local business may look to use its online presence as a staging post to encourage shoppers to visit its brick and mortar store locations. A shopper can go online and choose all the items from that retailer that they’d like to see, feel, or try on and then make an appointment to visit the store. When the shopper arrives, all their items will be ready to be viewed or tried on. The store associate will also be on hand to make additional product recommendations.
Mobile wallets go mainstream. Mobile payment technologies have been around for some time, but I believe the launch of Apple Pay last year acted as a catalyst for real market change. Once Apple entered the mobile wallet application market, retailers sat up and took notice, with some of your peers signing up for the Apple offering and others hard at work on creating their own alternative — for example, the Merchant Customer Exchange’s CurrentC — or adopting other vendors’ technologies such as Google Wallet. What we’re seeing now is wallet providers working hard to resolve initial teething problems in their technologies and consensus growing among retailers on whose mobile wallets they’ll accept, which will be largely determined by which technologies consumers adopt. For my money, I believe Apple Pay will be one of the standard mobile wallets which will end up being accepted at stores around the world.