What will reshape retail marketing in 2019
I had the good fortune of moderating the inaugural Girl’s Lounge session at NRF 2019, focusing on the question of how women and tech are changing retail. To a packed audience of 280, we exchanged some interesting insights about the state of retail in 2018 and its direction in 2019.
I want to highlight some trends and transitions that I believe will determine the shape of customer engagement in retail in 2019—and beyond.
But before I do that, let’s take a quick look at some key trends from the past year.
Key trends in 2018
Retail stayed strong in 2018. In the United States, the year ended with a five percent surge in sales. Many countries from APAC experienced reasonable growth as well, with, for example, a 11.7% sales growth in Vietnam and about 4.9% in Malaysia.
Social remained a key focus for retailers as a key avenue of engagement with Millennial and Gen Z shoppers. Brick-and-mortar hasn’t quite faded from the spotlight, either. According to PwC, 44% of consumers shopped at physical stores at least every week.
But more importantly, 2018 was a year of experimentation. Brands followed the examples of Sephora and Amazon Go in approaching shopping as an experience. Ralph Lauren celebrated its anniversary with immersive installations. Glossier literally built its store to be optimally Instagram-friendly, embedding the drive for exposure and social engagement into the retail space itself.
On the tech side, we are seeing Instagram’s continued foray into instant commerce, facial recognition’s adoption by more major brands, and a host of other exciting innovations.
Retail in 2019: What’s ahead of us?
In 2019, the outlook is for more products to be sold based on consumers’ individual preferences and contexts, more disruptors and multidisciplinary players to enter the marketplace, and more technological innovations to emerge to rewrite the retail experience.
1. Sell more through contextual offers
Thanks to e-commerce, consumers already expect personalized product recommendations. But in 2019, that’s not enough. Consumer demands are becoming more diverse and specific every day. Brands need to invest in contextual offers to stand out across channels and devices.
By augmenting transaction history and purchase preferences with deeper customer insights (e.g., channel propensities and customer journey), brands can target shoppers much more precisely. Indeed, brands can map out how offers are pushed out across a relevant series of touchpoints, each optimized with personalized communications delivered at just the right time.
2. Individualization takes center stage
Retailers should leverage customer engagement automation solutions to foster individualized shopping journeys. Whatever the channel, be poised to respond to specific consumer actions in real time. New visitor or returning customer, enrich their experiences with customer intelligence that goes far beyond the demographic.
But don’t overdo it. Don’t favor new channels like voice simply because of their novelty. More importantly, never lose focus of consumers’ privacy. PwC found that more than a third of consumers considered trust as a top reason to shop at a particular retailer. Ensure transparency around what data you are collecting, how you are using it, and why.
In short, utilize technology to amplify human connections, not diminish them.
3. Experiential retail and its tech enablers
Tech innovations will continue to emerge and mature in 2019, empowering retailers to add new layers of experience or even revolutionize the shopping experience.
Walmart and Target have been heavily investing in VR and AR capabilities. Alibaba has been showcasing its smart mirrors, an entertaining and interactive way to sell beauty products.
IoT, such as in-store beacons and smart shelves, will help retailers send targeted offers to visitors and capture detailed purchase data. And voice assistants will gradually become an integral element of consumers’ lives, one personalized conversation at a time.
And lastly, cashless payment solutions like Google Pay will move us closer to the sort of seamless shopping experiences already available in China and Singapore.
What retailers need to reshape customer engagement
For retailers today, data is the foundation. All brands recognize the importance of data and want to do the right thing. Their biggest challenge lies in not knowing how to and expecting miraculous leaps in a short period of time. Many retailers struggle with a complex cluster of (often dated) systems and the data silos they create, making it difficult to put valuable data to use.
However, implementing a robust data management system isn’t enough. Getting big data right, and harnessing valuable customer insights, take patience and creativity. It will also likely require updates to business processes and resources.
Retailers should also ensure both capability and security readiness for new data insights made available by the technological innovations we just explored. From emotional data and facial recognition data to even biometric data, brands will surely dig even deeper into customers’ needs and desires.
Cultivating individual connections
The whims of consumers, amplified by technology and social media, can feel impossible to manage or track. Consumers are shuffling between one trend and the next, and the proliferation of individual expectations is so rapid that retail brands can find it challenging to keep up.
But the fanatic pace of these transformations hides something unchanging: Consumers just want things to be genuine. They want their voices heard. They want to be the decision makers of their own journeys. And brands should be there to facilitate that—by engaging them as complex individuals, providing them with contextually relevant communications, and being always willing to listen.
As this topic is extremely close to my heart, and I have watched the evolution of digital transform. I am always looking for customers who will join me to take the giant leap in retail engagement and experiences.
CEO and Co-founder of Resulticks
Co-founder and CEO of Interakt Digital Group and Resulticks, Redickaa’s hands-on leadership has been the guiding force behind the launch and success of Resulticks as a global marketing technology solution.