Trends

2018’s Top Digital Trends for the Retail Industry

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Digital technology is revolutionising the retail industry, but not in the ways that were predicted a few years ago. It’s no longer about which channel will emerge triumphant, but instead, about how online and offline can work together to benefit both the shopper and the retailer. By taking the lessons learned online, such as those regarding tracking the customer journey, and applying them to the bricks and mortar (B&M) business, a lucrative future on the high street can be secured.

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So just what can future technology offer a forward thinking retailer? We look at some of the trends that are destined to set the shopping experience alight.

Trend: Digital signage

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Digital displays allow retailers to dynamically adjust display points, including on-shelf pricing and marketing screens. It’s this deceptively small change away from static pricing that has the power to revolutionise the pricing paradigm.

It will allow shops to dynamically alter prices, perhaps to be more competitive or to take advantage of a short-term limited supply, as well as to trial what kind of information encourages shoppers to buy, from the ethical origins of the product to stock availability. This can all be done from one central control point, such as from the head office, or can be changed on a per-customer basis.

Surge pricing is common in other areas, such as transport, but so far, has not been seen much on the high street. While not using digital displays, one company that has trialled dynamic pricing is Marks & Spencers, who lowered the prices of their sandwiches before noon to encourage shoppers to buy their lunch in advance.

The use of dynamic displays also opens up exciting opportunities for tailoring promotions for customers, working in tandem with Bluetooth beacons and customer data, to show shoppers personalised discount vouchers or other relevant information to push them towards a purchase. This has already been trialled by Coca-Cola who have used the Google Cloud platform to show targeted advertising to customers walking past one of their branded displays, based on data from their smartphone.

It’s by using a combination of beacons to track shoppers, sales assistants with instant access to information regarding both products and shoppers, and digital signage to dynamically adjust the information shown to those shoppers, that the Connected Store will become a reality.

The ultimate aim is a friction-free shopping experience - something that online giant, Amazon, have been early proponents of. In their Amazon Go store in Seattle, customers can walk out of the store with their purchases without ever going near a checkout, thanks to their advanced tracking technology, which registers exactly what a customer has picked up while shopping.

The future of shopping is a much-loved discussion here at Novoda - you can read about our imaginings of the ultimate Omni-a-porter omnichannel shopping experience to find out more.

Trend: Geolocation

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Retailers have long known that location is everything, but while that maxim remains true, it now refers to the shoppers themselves, rather than the location of the shop. There’s simply no better time to target a potential customer with discounts or vouchers than when they’re close by. As technology progresses and data speeds increase, proximity marketing will become and increasingly hot topic, with the market predicted to reach USD 52.46 Billion by 2022.

This type of marketing has gained traction quickly. A recent study found that 84% of millennials want to receive messages from a retailer while they’re in their store, a number which remains high, at 74%, in the general population. And if millennials are a retailer’s target audience, there is more good news for B&M stores - 82% of millennials still prefer shopping IRL to online.

Bluetooth beacons provide a lightweight and relatively low cost way of tracking the movements of individual customers. Video game retailer, Gamestop, uses beacons to map different areas within the store, so that as a shopper makes a beeline to, for instance, RPG games, they can be targeted with content relevant to that interest, via push notifications on the GameStop app. We also looked at the effect of beacons on hotel logistics recently, highlighting how they could streamline the intricate daily cleaning requirements for any large operation.

In Australia, alcohol retailer, Dan Murphys, has set up a 400m geofence around each store, which alerts staff when a shopper with the app enters the area, so they can get their order ready for collection. While this is an example of geolocation being used to create a frictionless experience for those who have already purchased, it’s easy to see how this can be adapted to more proactive marketing purposes.

Trend: Voice assisted shopping

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Smart speakers were the most popular Christmas gift in 2017, with both Google and Amazon discounting their products in an attempt to gain market share. Canalys is forecasting 70% year-on-year growth for the product category, and Gartner estimate that 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. Early signs indicate this is technology that fairs well long-term, with most people still regularly using theirs long after the initial out-the-box excitement fades. So, with a new product category on the horizon, what does that mean for retailers?

44% of smart speaker users already use it to buy groceries at least once a week, and Amazon naturally benefits from this trend. But Google has partnered with Walmart in the US in an effort to compete, allowing customers to buy any item available from Walmart via the Google Home speaker using Shopping Actions. This has now been extended to several other retailers, allowing customers to add items from several stockists into one central Google-powered shopping cart.

In the UK, 51% of people access retail sites via both their desktop and mobile devices, and average 5.3 hours per month browsing those sites, according to Comscore’s Global Mobile Report.. But Smart Speakers could change this, as a new addition to the omnichannel experience, and the potential is huge. As customers become more used to adding things to their shopping lists, searching for suppliers and making purchases via voice, the retailer is invited into the home as never before. The canny retailer will be able to guide the shopper towards a purchase from the very moment they first think about buying one of their (or their competitor’s) products.

Trend: Augmented Reality

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AR technology is gaining traction, and it’s predicted to be the next point of consumer inflection, changing behaviour around the globe. As the hardware becomes cheaper to manufacture and better designed, take-up will increase significantly. IDC predict nearly 95% growth in the industry in 2018, with a continued five-year compound annual growth rate of 98.8%.

One of the retail pioneers in AR technology is IKEA, who already help customers see what pieces would look like in their own home via their IKEA Place AR app. It was designed using Apple’s ARKIT, which we recently experimented with here at Novoda. According to an interview in Wired, forthcoming features will include the ability to let people scan furniture in real life to be shown similar IKEA products, and an AI shopping assistant, which will make product recommendations based on your space.

AR also suits fashion brands, allowing customers to virtually try on items. Covergirl used AR so that shoppers could try on their make-up and then ‘buy the look’ from within a smartphone web browser. Charlotte Tilsbury have done the same thing using a ‘Magic Mirror’ in store.

It’s this ability to let customers try products virtually that presents such an exciting opportunity, particularly for marketing purposes. Imagine being able to try on and then purchase a pair of sunglasses, after seeing them advertised in a magazine. It removes the one significant barrier to online shopping - namely, the question around what a product would look like on the shopper. Our own research shows that 30% of users already use Snapchat filters to overlay a mask over their face, and it’s easy to imagine integrating purchasing functionality into that app for advertisers.

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