Last week, entrepreneurs, thought-leaders and other retail industry professionals gathered in New York City for the annual National Retail Federation's Big Show conference. The Big Show is known for being the "go to" place, where retail convenes to kick off the new year with a unified ambition.As 2019 continues to unfold, it will be fascinating to see which of the forecasted trends dominate this ever-changing, increasingly competitive landscape. Here are a few of the things ReturnRunners will be keeping an eye on this year:
All Hail Physical Retail
Large retailers are reimagining in-store experiences and focusing on minute-to-minute omni-channel solutions for engaging consumers and driving foot traffic. Likewise, smaller brands can stay competitive by offering creative in-store experiences to differentiate themselves and create a stronger sense of community and brand loyalty amongst their customers. Or if they are lucky, they can discover an experiential treasure behind the wall.
Employee Empathy and Engagement
Although recent excitement has been around AI and other new technologies, retailers are also focusing on educating their employees on soft skills to have more authentic customer interactions. Empathy, genuine engagement, emotional intelligence and simply putting down the tablet will become more important to drive in-store sales than in the past. In addition to soft skill training, retailers will need to balance employees’ focus on completing mundane tasks with engaging customers at the right trigger to have those moments of truth that create loyal brand affinity and lead to sales.
The Data Debate
Retailers still must figure out the right ways to utilize data to better serve their customers while not being too intrusive or off-putting. After recent data misuse scandals regarding companies such as Facebook, consumers are becoming weary of how and why retailers use their personal data. While tracking behavior can benefit the company and the consumer, transparency is key.
Innovative Tech and the Future of Retail
One clear theme is that retailers are looking to tech innovation to provide a more efficient and engaged future. Gadgets such delivery drones, 3D printers, sorting robots for supply chain, and enhanced smart checkouts are some examples of how technology and retail are and will continue to intersect.