Digital is changing retail even for the small business. In fact, many new trends are not merely adaptations of how retail already does business. They are game changers. Here are the most important trends:
1. Showroom Digitization continues to extend the definition of a store using technology. Not only is ecommerce extremely easy to execute. New tools allow for seamless transition between digital and physical retail experiences. More than kiosks, digital signage, or interactive in-store digital catalogues… a totally new shopping experience is formed, one where the smart phone serves as a bridge and guide to a hyper-connected showroom.
2. Native integration with CRM and Marketing Tools now exists via new breed of POS systems like Square and ShopKeeper now allow for close integration with CRM and marketing tools. From pre-sale email/text/app messages leading into store to discounts driving up in-store sales all the way to follow-up for repeat purchase… all right via smart POS and controlled by owner via mobile app from the comfort of their home.
3. Digitized Service Personalization is radically changing getting to know customers even on mass scale. Imagine a clerk knows your name and purchase history as they walk into the store or approach the check out counter. How? It’s all about combining social media marketing, intelligent POS, and integrating customer’s mobile device into the retail experience.
4. Sale Socialization via customer’s mobile device (or integrated POS) is becoming a promotional vehicle. Imagine a customer sharing the great deal they got. Why would they do that? Bragging right and incentives like in-store discounts or a loyalty program. They already do it. Most retailers simply don’t track or reinforce this activity.
5. Customer Connectivity is instant and native. No need for checkins. You will know your best friend is in Old Navy right now looking at new summer wear. In fact you could help her decide what to purchase from the comfort of your home couch. Product recos can finally be contextual and personal.
6. Ease of Mobile Ecommerce is flattening the playing field. Imagine ecommerce and mobile shopping being a common aspect or every retailer. Imagine a future where almost every product is a commodity. The only differentiator a retailer can have is their brand, unique product selection, and their in-store experience.
7. Staff Recruiting and Education is shifting to digital media and social networks. Team updates, training videos, product information, work schedules… will all exist in mobile friendly digital format. Mobile devices will play a key role in this exchange of work information. Recruiting also will take advantage of digital relationships turning into employment opportunities.
8. Retailer and Manufacturer Dynamics are changing. As manufacturers get closer to customers through social media and CRM, many retailers will loose a lot of their control. Producing their own knockoff products will only work for commodity categories. Some manufacturers will not survive. Gap between existing ones will widen. Entry for new products will become more difficult unless backed by greedy retailers.
9. Digital Loyalty Programs now provide rich features and insights about the customer at minimal costs. These programs currently use plastic cards to provide various incentives thus promoting future purchases. Our wallets were filled with them. New loyalty connects a person through mobile and provides far more than points. It tells a story of the brand, informs about products, alerts about sales, and attracts retail visits with coupons. To the customer, the shift is to a better 2-way conversation. To a retailer, the shift is to data-driven business decisions.
10. Decentralized Retail Space using staff mobile POS devices and cloud computing. When was the last time you visited the Apple store? No need for a dedicated cash register right by the exit. Use that prime space for more products. Integration with ecommerce means no need for full inventory. Stores will slim down and will be more portable to execute.
11. Mobile Showrooming (checking out competitor prices while in the store) is already leveling out the retailer playing field and stimulating price wars. Retailers will roll out even more generic brands and exclusive product. More of them will focus on customer service and local community. Price guarantees will become even more common. Retailers will more and more compete for consumer dollars on a global scale.
12. Saturated Brand Landscape already makes new brand awareness very difficult. Entry for new brands are now as easy as registering a domain name. Digital brand market is over-saturated. With so much noise even well established brands suffer from poor share of voice, especially on social media. Result? Now more than ever brands are communicated through people like their leaders instead of company and product names. Retailers the same become more known for their people, not the sign in front of the building.
Your greatest enemies are not your current competitors. They struggle with evolving same as you. Your greatest threat will come from new startups that will completely change your retail landscape.