Monday, November 18, 2019
Trends

A Preview of Retail Innovation in 2020

Liz Alton
November 05, 2019

4 minute read

Retail innovation is constantly evolving, from established brands testing new customer experiences to the changing face of service delivery. Retailers of all sizes are pushing the envelope to stand out through their CX.

What retail innovations are on the horizon for 2020? To get a beat on the market, we’re rounding up some of the key themes from the key retail conferences of 2020 to look ahead at what forces are likely to be shaping retail in the months ahead.

Experiential selling moves to the forefront

ShopTalk has emerged as one of the most innovative conferences in the retail space, and 2020 promises to be an exciting agenda tackling big themes. One trend that’s in the spotlight is experiential retail. As customers expect more engaging experiences with brands, that’s turning physical retail locations into another opportunity to deliver those experiences.

From incorporating emerging technologies such as augmented reality to spice up the shopping experience to developing events to support the launch of luxury products, retailers are joining the ranks of brands developing experiences. For example, major brands active in China have begun to discuss “retailtainment,” as SCMP recently noted, to describe that merging of buying, entertainment, and engagement happening both physically and online.

Can high tech be high touch?

Technology has transformed retail, and brands are wrestling with the best way to balance high tech innovation with the high touch customer service that consumers crave. At Future Stores 2020, helping brands strike that balance is a major focus. In one of the keynote sessions, the issue will be addressed through the lens of “The Crystal Ball: Envisioning the Store of the Future.”

Retailers are facing an onslaught of technologies, which leads to important questions about what to invest in today and how to lay the foundation for the future. One of the most important questions is determining which technologies having staying power and impact the CX or operations. There’s also an emerging question of how store associate roles change, as tasks automate and stores digitize. In part, as more innovation takes hold through technology, the biggest changes retailers face may be reimagining staff roles and training their teams to offer a high touch experience.

The evolving last mile

Another theme showing up across conferences is the evolving last mile. Retail fulfillment has becoming increasingly critical in the world of online shopping. Getting shipping, returns, and consumer communication right is an essential cornerstone of the customer experience – and a number of emerging technologies and services are making it easier.

Retailers are talking about partnering with brands like Narvar to offer a host of different services. Enabling self-service tracking and returns, providing real-time updates on shipping status and where an order is in process, and maximizing back-of-store processes to meet the demand for fast retail are all key considerations. No matter where a retailer’s focused on immediately, the evolving last mile will be a key focus of retail innovation in 2020.

Data drives connections and builds community

PSFK’s Future of Retail Conference promises to take a deep dive into trends shaping the industry. One area where this industry thought leader promises to be rich is in exploring emerging trends around retail data and analytics. As retailers invest in customer experience technology and strategically decouple their data layers from technology silos, they’re well positioned to use data in new and innovative ways.

Data can help retailers make smarter operational decisions. Yet retail innovation is increasingly focused on exploring how data helps retailers develop a better customer experience. Beyond that, by finding commonalities among customers and the types of connections they crave, retailers are creating community through curated events, social networks, and online experiences that help entrench their brands as lifestyle partners.

The changing face of service delivery

Subscription boxes. Personalized clothing. Pop up stores. Physical stores for browsing and returns only. The ways in which retailers deliver service to their customers has rapidly evolved. As the changing face of service delivery takes hold, everyone from the big box stores to iconic luxury brands are looking for ways to do things differently.

Evolving service delivery has several implications for retailers. Do new models replace established stores, or offer a new way to augment traditional in-store and online shopping experiences? How do evolving service delivery options change relationships between brands and retailers? What untapped niches can retailers fill to break out of the retail noise? Increasingly, industry experts are watching from new takes on service delivery as an important part of 2020’s retail innovation.

Retail innovation is happening fast and furious today, and it’s central to the conversation around the stores of tomorrow. From developing new takes on established retail models to designing strategies to center the buying process around customer experience, retailers are experimenting, evolving and envisioning a wide array of possibilities.

Liz Alton
Liz Alton
Liz Alton is a writer and content strategist specializing in B2B technology, digital marketing, and the customer experience. Her clients include creative agencies, Fortune 500 brands, and venture-backed startups.
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