As the year comes to an end, retailers will take a look back and reflect on wins, losses, and surprises. Then, they’ll turn to the new year: How can they use those learnings to inform a strategy that focuses on where the marketplace is going? Here are our predictions for what will be huge in retail for 2019.
1. Retailers will invest more in content
The relationship between content and commerce will continue to grow stronger. Successful retail brands know that they can stay relevant and foster growth by telling their own stories and showcase how their brand and products fit into a consumer’s lifestyle in a beautiful way. Premium branded content—and specifically print magazines—will be worth the investment. Think Magnolia, the bookazine produced by HGTV stars Joanna and Chip Gaines that features their product line, or Porter, the luxury fashion magazine from Net-a-Porter. YinYin Gao of Tencent (which owns WeChat) says that content drives emotional connections with their users, especially on the publisher side. Young generations with purchasing power are willing to pay for the emotional connection derived from strong content. Smart, well-designed branded content is worth the investment as it strengthens the impact of your brand.
2. The return of really good customer service
Thanks to Amazon, the modern shopper expects convenience, speed, and a seamless checkout experience. While there are a plethora of stories on the death of brick and mortar, I predict that we will see the opposite. Stores will focus on what they can offer—that in-person, high-touch, super helpful shopping experience and earn more foot traffic in return. Equipping your salesforce with a mobile POS system is a given. We believe the best retailers are going to take it one step further and create an army of personal shoppers with improved training (like Target). And they will experiment with AI and advanced technology bringing recommendation engines from the web to the sales staff in a physical store. Amazon will continue to test companies’ business models—J. Crew just announced they’re leaving the platform, as other begin to join it. But 2019 won’t be just about retail’s relationship with Amazon—it will be the year to differentiate yourself from the massive e-shop and create a stronger in-person customer service.
3. Specialty stores return to modern malls to build experiences
The American mall is changing and developers are going big. The American Dream project in New Jersey is slated to open in 2019 with an indoor waterpark from Dreamworks, an indoor ski slope, and Nickelodeon theme park. There will be dining, a hotel, and flagship retail brands like H&M and Zara. This model of entertainment meets retail is catching on throughout the country, and, as native e-commerce brands like Casper and Glossier look for creative offline presences, they might find a home here.
4. Brand values continue to matter
What you say is almost as important as what you sell. Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Toms, Patagonia—the leaders of these brands took a stand this year and used their platform to start a conversation to effect change. As young people prove that they care equally about product and price as a company’s impact for good, and as this target market continues to grow (Gen Z will represent 40% of all consumers by 2020), there will be more pressure than ever for companies to step up and off the sidelines. They won’t have the luxury of remaining neutral.
5. Personalized sale moments
If we learned anything from the success of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping extravaganza, it’s that customers are not looking for deals on one “shopping holiday” alone. They have grown accustomed to e-commerce flash sales, percentages off for signing up for newsletter lists, and CRM tactics to push to purchase products in an abandoned cart. Rather than tapping into the frenzy of a singular shopping day, consumers are willing to wait for the right deal. Crafting personalized deals, whether based on shopping habits, birthdays, or seasonal moments, will only continue to get more sophisticated. As email inboxes are stuffed with these promotions, the most successful retailers will find a way to break through the crowd.
6. New ways to pay
We spoke of the introduction of bitcoin and cryptocurrency as new technology to know about—this will only heat up more. 2019 will also bring about a larger push towards digital payment platforms as Google refocuses on Google Play and Amazon pushes for physical retailers to accept Amazon Pay. According to PYMNTS.com, 20.2% of the US population is projected to use a mobile payment platform in 2018. In China, 525.1M people use mobile payment platforms. And as data hacks continue to make headlines, from big players like Starwood and even Google, being able to pay in safe and secure environments as well as be confident that consumer personal data is protected, will remain top priorities.