2019 Retail Predictions: What Came True Last Year

At the start of the new year, many retail publishers shared their retail predictions for what trends would rule in 2019. Here are three retail predictions that may – or may not – have come true in 2019.

Quality Data Will Replace Big Data- True

It has been said many times that accurate, quality data is certainly a  very important sales tool to help retailers understand their customer’s behaviour. However, in 2019, it was predicted that customer data will be used to create more personalised customer experiences.

In 2019 more and more retailers captured IoT data from in-store and digital channels. They then applied this data for real-time, contextual social listening and to understand behaviour patterns and preferences of customers. Through customer datasets, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in-store, stores can target products, maintain appropriate stock levels and improve customer service. As a result insights gained through closer customer engagement will provide invaluable guidance to retailers looking to grow their businesses.

In 2019, one of the most popular trends in the retail industry was to use data to provide extreme personalisation. A deep understanding of every single consumer’s personal shopping desires and preferences mirrors the intimate, 1-on-1, in-store relationships, only by the millions.

The modern consumer, despite having digital options at their fingerprints, still surprisingly enjoys the occasional in-store customer experience. Physical stores, therefore, need to be brought into the digital era by the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology. To clarify, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to interconnected everyday objects that are connected to the Internet and which change the way in which we live out of everyday lives.

At the frontlines of the connected store is the use of interconnected sensors and devices to create a personalised experience. The IoT is enabling retail stores to evolve into smart stores, which gather data about customers’ behaviour in real-time and develop shopping experiences to cater to these needs. For example, a salesperson who can access a customer’s shopping behaviour can create a sales pitch directly related to this data.

Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Dying Out- False

The line between online businesses and physical stores got even blurrier in 2019. More and more offline stores are building and integrating multiple online platforms. On the other hand, some digital-native brands are establishing physical shops that sell no products but simply provide retailtainment in the shape of refreshing drinks and pick-up services, for example.

As mentioned above, in 2019 it became clear that the customer experience isn’t bound to any one physical or digital space. According to a Harvard Business Review study of 46, 000 shoppers, 73% of consumers use multiple channels to shop. Digitally native brands are predicted to open 850 brick-and-mortar stores in the next 5 years. In 2019, online kitchen and home-ware retailer Yuppiechef continued to branch out into brick and mortar by opening two new stores in Johannesburg. The South African brand now has more than six physical stores throughout the country while continuing with their e-commerce platform. Thereby establishing an omnichannel approach to retail.

Without a doubt modern retailers understand a new omnichannel reality and are adopting retail innovation strategies to meet shoppers wherever they are- and on whatever device they choose, according to the Harvard Business Review. The omnichannel concept relies on retailers attempting to create a unified shopping experience for their customers. For example, for Yuppiechef this means having QR codes on every price tag in store so that shoppers can quickly read reviews of products online using their phones or tablets. Synchronizing the physical and the digital worlds will provide their shoppers with a seamless, multi-channel experience that online counterparts still cannot match and this trend will continue to grow in 2020.

Push towards more Sustainable retail- True

In 2019, it became clear that more and more businesses have tried to take the lead on sustainability. Issues such as climate change and environmental action on the top of mind for many consumers. Therefore it only makes sense that retailers also embrace a more eco-conscious approach to the industry. Customers care about the impact that their purchases have on the planet, and in 2019 retailers found out that sustainability isn’t just a passing trend.

Sustainability issues in the supply chain have become an increasingly important consideration in consumer purchasing decisions. More and more retailers are working towards replacing plastic bags with paper variants. This trend has led to innovations such as biodegradable wrapping and plastic-free supermarket aisles. With in the industry there seems to be an active war on waste. However, retailers are not just thinking about reducing waste, but are also looking at ways to make a positive, tangible contribution to environmental sustainability.

The year 2019 lay the foundation for the next wave of innovative retailers who will move beyond reducing their impact. New ways to recycle and reuse products are being developed throughout the industry to reduce what goes into landfills. A drive towards being more environmentally conscious helps to build up brand reputation and, most of all, it helps customers feel good about themselves.

So What Happened in 2019?

Based on these trends it is clear that 2019 was an overall very innovative and transformational year for the retail industry. Certainly many businesses and brands have started to revolutionise the way in which they use data to engage with customers. With the rise of omnichannel shopping experiences, both brick-and mortar-businesses and online businesses must adapt their strategies to keep up with the competition. Sustainability efforts in retail have also changed the way consumers think and therefore how they shop. With 2020 ahead us of the industry will continue to see many interesting developments and trends emerge. We will have to keep a close eye on these trends in order to make future retail predictions.