Retail Industry Trends’ Rough Terrain

The retail industry remains a dynamic landscape because it is at the mercy of the ever-changing demands of the consumer. The consumer is more powerful than ever with easy access to an abundance of product information and choices. Below is a list of trends in the retail industry; challenges and developments that are constantly keeping everyone in the retail world on their toes. We’ll offer ideas on how the following retail industry trends can be turned into opportunities for your business.

Customer-Centric Culture

What can your shipping department staff do to make your client’s life easier? In a business-to-business setting, packages can be labeled in a way that allows the client’s receiving department to easily account for products that come through the door. In a business-to-consumer setting, your inbound marketing team can offer several options for sharing concerns via an online chat window, email, phone, online form and social media channels. Your design department can offer a client portal to make it easy for your return clients to access their history of files for decisions on re-ordering or requesting changes to previous designs.

Brand Representatives

Examples of other brand representatives that have changed their focus from sales to service include Kate Spade Muses, Apple Geniuses, Origins Guides, Microsoft Advisors, Best Buy’s Geek Squad Agents, Lululemon Educators and Sephora’s Cast Members. The way in which you engage with your customers online is a perfect example of how you can apply this to your business. A majority of companies who connect online via Twitter will send an impersonal direct message pushing their product, service, website or their other social media accounts. This is why many automated direct messages lead to a 245% increase in un-follows according to marketing software company, Optify.com. The most successful Twitter users represent themselves as a person with a face and they engage in a way that shows a genuine interest in other Twitter users by promoting them, conversing with them about their interests and generally being helpful.

Transparency

One way to increase transparency at your company is to encourage your CEO to increase their engagement in social media. Consumers increase their trust in a brand whose leader willingly puts herself in a public forum. Brandfog.com‘s survey shows that “77% of respondents were more likely or much more likely to buy from a company whose values and mission are defined through CEO and executive leadership participation on social media,” and “82% of respondents were more likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team engage with social media.”

Showrooming

Brands can reap the benefits of this omni-channel user experience by allowing online customers to post reviews for each product on the brand’s website. This information would be accessed through QR codes printed on product packaging as well as on feature benefit cards included on the brand’s retail displays.

Reconfigured Spaces

The showroom for Hointer Jeans Beta Store in Seattle has a different goal: Frictionless commerce. Its aim is to remove the inconvenient process of searching piles of jeans for the right size and cut. Now only one type of each jean is showcased with a scannable code. After choosing the size, a phone app indicates the assigned dressing room. A robot drops the specified size and style of jeans through a chute into your dressing room.

According to Wharton marketing professor Z. John Zhang, “The store-within-a-store has the effect of stabilizing the price competition across all retailers. This [is] very important if the retailing market is very competitive,” And it’s mutually beneficial for both parties. Best Buy receives rent from big-name technology companies like Samsung, Microsoft and Sony in return for giving these brands a designated space to increase their presence, reach new demographics, decide on their own pricing and offer better customer support.

How can smaller companies get in on the action? The answer is pop-up shops. Brands and retailers can rent an affordable space on a short-term basis to sell their wares and services. The temporary presence of the brand turns it into an event, which is especially appealing to the younger demographics of Millennials and Gen Z. According to Jim Fielding, global head of consumer products and retail at Awesomeness TV, Generation Z is “experimental…innovative. They’re risk takers and…love to discover new things.” Other benefits include the flexibility to close in slow seasons, the ability to generate buzz, the opportunity to test product performance and build brand awareness. The pop-up concept has been so successful that Westfield San Francisco Centre opened up 37,000 of its square footage for BeSpoke — a vast co-working, event and demo space that often features pop-up shops, fashion shows, conferences, classrooms and other events.

Store Picks-Ups, Same Day Delivery and Free Shipping

Businesses can immediately put this into practice by making good on their delivery promises or exceeding them, providing several options for getting their customer’s purchase in their hands and making returns as painless as possible. Even when you fail to keep that delivery promise, the double efforts made to correct it does not go unnoticed and builds loyalty. Peter Mannos, Senior Manager — Global Visual Brand Display of Brooks Sports, recently shared the following with us: “I’ve always felt that one of the real values of a vendor partner is how well they react if/when the unthinkable happens and something DOES go wrong with a project. CDI (Concept Designs, Inc.) does high-quality work and stands firmly behind it — on the rare occasion when there’s been a problem, they fix it as fast as possible and make sure I’m 100% satisfied with the solution. How many vendors fly two of their people to your DC on their dime to spend an entire day unpacking a display with a part that’s not right and then re-packing each and every one so your entire inventory of fixtures is ready to ship to your accounts the next day? Not many, I’d guess — but that’s exactly what CDI did for me and my company, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve worked with them for over 10 years now.”

Retail Technology

Target features a separate “internet of things” showroom with floor to ceiling digital screens demonstrating different scenarios for making your home smart. According to a 2013 Deloitte survey, digital technologies “influence 36 percent or $1.1 trillion of in-store retail sales.” And that number continues to grow as each year passes.

Want some ideas on how you can keep up with the retail industry trends and integrate digital technology into your store environment? Check out How Beacons are Revolutionizing the Retail Experience.

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