Key retail trends for 2017

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It’s energising to see how Australian retailers stack up against some of the global retail giants; it’s more of a level playing field than you might think. Aussies really are up there with some of the best retailers in the world, if not leading the globe when it comes to ecommerce.

There were many new ‘buzz’ words last year, but also a continuation on key themes that have been around for a few years. Here are some of the key upcoming trends for retailers to take note of.

Create confidence with tech

The adoption of AR [augmented reality] technology has certainly shifted in the past 18 months, offering customers immersive visualisation tools that remove barriers to purchase. This technology allows the shopper to have the retail experience without physically being in a store. AR has been readily adopted within the home furnishing sector by the likes of Houzz, Lowe’s and Home Depot. Sephora has seen a considerable take up of their ‘try it tool’ which has in turn increased in store visits to test the selected products before the final purchase.

Boundaryless retail—eliminating obstacles

Boundaryless retail was a new buzzword—an evolution of omnichannel retail with retailers now breaking down barriers, focusing on meeting the consumer on their terms, wherever, whenever and however they wish to interact and engage. Retailers need to prioritise ways they can save their customers time and effort during their purchase cycle, incorporating anywhere purchase platforms, digital services allowing consumers to shop-ahead and offer one-click transactions.

This can be seen by ModiFace’s use of augmented reality allowing consumers to try on makeup remotely, which has been used in more than 150 web and mobile apps that have been downloaded nearly 60 million times.

Taco Bell looked to make purchasing easier than ever this year by partnering with Slack to launch ‘TacoBot’, where customers can order directly through the instant messaging app.

Local retailers need to adopt this sort of innovative thinking to create a seamless experience for consumers. Those who don’t adapt to this way of thinking will be left behind.

Millennials’ expectations

Attracting the dollar of the all-important millennial demographic is a major focus for many retailers. The key drivers for millennials are convenience, value and relevance, so retailers need to deliver on all three of these to engage this customer.

Millennials are ‘always on’ and across all channels, particularly digital and social. Shop-ahead (as per Taco Bell’s Slack instant message option) and one-click transactions (Modiface’s augmented reality apps allowing consumers to purchase with one click) both provide an anywhere purchase experience. Mobile is also utilised to augment these outlets’ in-store experience as well as providing an in-store shopping option.

Social media provides real-time digital commerce as users see content online, and as part of their content consumption rather than an interruption. Retailers need to make their experience convenient as a top priority.

Second, retailers must add value throughout the buying journey. Cross-channel rewards show the customer you know how they shop and interact with your brand across devices. Keep the dialogue active with the customer post purchase by providing relevant content via live-streaming ‘how-to’ demonstrations or live chat to answer questions about the products they’ve recently purchased.

Finally to maintain relevance amongst millennials, retailers can offer insider exclusives and other ‘money can’t buy’ experiences. Personalise product recommendations based on customer behaviour history. Reward those that live your brand. You can provide rewards not just for purchase but how they participate on social media platforms for your brand.

Retailers who embrace change and deliver authentic customer experiences, provide convenience throughout the buying cycle by creating boundaryless retail shopping, and implement relevant augmented customer experiences will stay ahead of the game.