As 2017 comes to a close, many retailers will be looking ahead at what elements might play a bigger role in their businesses next year. Fujitsu UK and Ireland commercial sector managing director Rupal Karia has shared his nine noteworthy retail trends predicted to have an effect on the market in 2018.
- Collaboration: We have already seen a lot of collaboration in 2017, and we expect to see even more next year. Most recently Tesco has announced its new partnership with NEXT, and over the next year, more supermarkets will likely follow suit looking to recreate the store-within-a-store model. As well as collaboration we will also see more consolidation of companies in the form of mergers and acquisitions.
- Mobile: Mobile will continue to be a key driver of traffic, sales and engagement for retailers next year. We saw that this year the majority of hits on Black Friday were coming from mobile, and this is only going to become more widespread. With the latest phones getting bigger and better screens, mobile will become the one route to market.
- Supply chains: The supply chain will be affected by many factors next year. To begin with, driverless and robotics will dramatically change the retail supply chain. We will see more pilot schemes where retailers and manufacturers use driverless and robotic technologies which will alter the delivery process for components and products, which will as a result effect and (hopefully) speed up retailers’ routes to market.
- From the manufacturing side of the supply chain, we expect it to become a lot more technologically advanced and smart. In farming for instance, farmers can use IoT devices and analytics to identify when is the best time to use pesticides and harvest their crops, or when is the opportune time to breed their livestock. This will allow farmers to harness data and use analytics to more intelligently farm, saving them time and money, which in turn can improve the whole supply chain.
- AI: Artificial Intelligence (or AI as it is most commonly known) has been the ultimate buzzword of 2017 and it is clearly here to stay. Outside of retail, we are already seeing that half of people are comfortable being diagnosed by an AI doctor for instance, and in retail it is already happening without consumers even realising. Webchats for instance with a brand or retailer use AI to respond to questions. At times you cannot tell if they’re a robot or not. As AI becomes more advanced, these webchats will only become more sophisticated, and we expect it to enter the hospitality industry as well, providing customers with their own 24-hour personal concierge.
- Security: Security has never been more important than it is today. Attacks as we have seen can, at their worst, destroy a brand and we have seen that they can have significant financial and reputational impacts. Attacks can stop trading, which for a retailer can be disastrous. In the coming year retailers will need to ensure that their cyber security defences are a top priority in order to both prevent an attack, or mitigate and reduce the damage should one befoul them. Consumers do not take kindly to security breaches or attacks and they will instantly be concerned with whether it will affect them. If they are prevented from making a purchase due to systems being shut down, they will shop elsewhere and the retailer will lose the customer as a result.
- Payments: Payments will be a hot topic for retailers next year, as we have seen contactless truly take off this year and we will continue to see it evolve. It will be interesting to see what payment innovations retailers adopt over the coming months as they look to make the retail experience a more seamless journey, which payments plays a significant role in.
- Personalisation: Personalisation and customer centricity is going to be increasingly more important next year as the landscape becomes ever more competitive. Thanks to the advancement of AI and CRM systems (customer relationship management), it is now the easiest it has ever been for retailers to know their customers from the moment they walk through the door, click online or swipe with their mobile. Over the next year we expect to see retailers finally using these tools to better their customers’ experience as they will now have the insight into their shoppers that they were previously missing.
- Voice ordering: Undeniably voice has made a lot of chatter amongst UK retailers this year and this is only the beginning. Culturally, Amazon and Apple have changed the way we interact with our devices through Alexa and Siri, and as we move into self-learning voice assistants we anticipate that this medium will truly take off and become a part of our everyday lives. We have already seen a few retailers this year take steps towards voice ordering, Tesco for instance teaming up with Google Home was one of the first, and over the year, we expect more retailers and brands teaming up with voice assistants so as to offer customers a new and interactive way of shopping.