Well, another year is underway and it's set to be another exciting one for the retail industry. We've already seen plenty of disruption from new technologies over the last twelve months and if the pace of innovation is to go by, that disruption will continue throughout 2018 and beyond.
At the same time, many of the concepts that have always held true will continue to apply, and retailers are starting to adopt a more data-driven approach to technology and to only invest in new trends if they can demonstrate a return on investment.
The result is an exciting retail tech landscape in which nothing is certain and everything is to play for. And whether you decide to adopt new tech trends or not, you need to know about them if you hope to stay relevant. That's where this article comes in. Here are just a few of the top retail tech trends you need to know about.
1. Convenience will rule
Digital marketers have long known that every extra step in the purchasing journey will reduce the number of people who actually go through with a purchase. In 2018, expect to see more retailers adopting this concept by making it as easy as possible for people to purchase from them, whether that's by streamlining mobile applications or whether it's by providing self-service checkouts so that shoppers in a hurry can pay for their product and move on.
Other factors to consider include delivery options, money back guarantees and more. Next day and same delivery is already becoming the new norm for both online and offline retailers, which is why Amazon has been experimenting with drone delivery and other options. In 2018 and beyond, the real winners in the retail space will be the companies that offer the utmost in speed and convenience.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a growing trend across most industries at the moment, and it's easy to see why. It can process data far more efficiently than any human ever could, and when this is combined with machine learning and other emerging technologies, it can allow us to access much deeper insights than were previously possible.
For retailers, this means that they'll be able to uncover all sorts of new ways to optimize their physical locations to increase revenue and overall profit. We're all familiar with ideas like putting impulse purchases by the tills, but AI will allow us to take that much deeper. For example, you'll be able to test and vary factors like lighting, temperature, background music, store layout and more to find new efficiencies and to make the most of your real estate.
3. Voice search
As consumers get more and more used to using voice technologies as a routine part of life, retailers will be able to tap into the growing space to position themselves as a provider of choice. Voice SEO will become a thing, and retailers will battle it out to come on top. Imagine how powerful it would be to rank first when someone asks, "Okay Google, where can I get a new computer?"
With this, though, comes another challenge. Retailers have grown used to competing against internet behemoths like Amazon and Google, but if people turn to voice search then that problem will only be exacerbated. After all, Amazon and Google are also the two biggest providers of home assistants.
Personalization has always been important to sales and marketing teams, but it'll take on a new level of importance in 2018 and beyond as more and more companies master the art of personalized communications through marketing automation platforms, CRM systems and more.
Online personalization is nothing new, but we're starting to see more and more technologies that allow retail companies to personalize the in-person experience, too. In many ways we're heading full circle because the personalized approach is the main thing that we've always liked about local businesses. Soon you'll be able to go into any Starbucks in any country and be recognized just the same as if you walked into your local.
5. Lifestyle marketing
As the millennial generation heads into maturity, they'll have an increasing amount of purchasing power and drive much of the marketing in the retail industry. But millennials are much more interested in lifestyle aspects and in creating memories as opposed to "having stuff", and so retail marketers will need to recognize that in the stories they tell if they hope to capture their imaginations.
Luckily, this trend isn't exactly new and many retail firms are already on board. The key will now be to make the most of new technologies like 360° video and AI-powered marketing automation platforms to tell stories in new and exciting ways. The trend of lifestyle marketing won't change, but what will change is the way in which we carry it out.
The retail industry has always been quick to embrace change if it means making more money from customers and improving footfall to physical locations. Part of that is down to the fact that people like to shop and find it easier to get passionate about retail goods than it is to get excited about insurance plans or B2B software services.
This has two main implications. The first is that tech innovators have spent a lot of time developing products that are specifically targeted to retailers and the industry as a whole, which means there's plenty of tech for you to choose from. The second is that your competitors have access to the exact same technologies, so you can bet that if something comes along and you're late to the party, you're going to be left behind.
Fortunately, 2018 is likely to be a year in which data becomes ever more important to retailers, allowing them to make decisions on which tech trends to embrace based upon whether the data says It's a good idea. If you're struggling to find value from one new tech trend then perhaps it's time to transfer your attention to another. After all, used correctly, the potential for these new technologies is almost limitless.