Retail Reflections

Fulfillment Capabilities Will Define Retail Brands In 2019

Fulfillment Capabilities Will Define Retail Brands In 2019

First published in UPS Longitudes

On the day that UPS launches its new eFullfillment service, and two months into the new year already, it’s worthwhile to reflect on the trends I predicted for 2019.

It’s that time of year again – no, it’s not just the holiday season. I’m talking about something as traditional as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It’s time for a little crystal ball gazing, a time for cards on the table and for those of us who make a living out of prognostication, it’s time to put up or shut up.

Retail is the single most important sector for influencing our lives and sense of well being.

I believe 2019 is going to be the year that so-called futurist trends start to become a reality. We are on the cusp of some exciting mainstream developments, which will directly impact us and the way we live our lives.

Here are five of the retail trends I’m looking out for in 2019:


Personalization is nothing new, right? Well, we think it’s been around for years, but the truth is that it’s been mostly desperate and retrospective – a bit like ambulance chasing.

If I just purchased a new TV from your website, for example, I really don’t want interminable pop-up ads trying to persuade me to buy another.

And if you are going to communicate with me, please do not refer to me as Dear A. You have all my personal details, including my full first name, which last time I looked wasn’t A.

What we will begin to see, through greater adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, is a level of personalization never before imagined. Stop for a moment to consider all the content you have put on social media.

Wouldn’t it be great if brands actually paid attention to that content, analyzed it, interpreted it and delivered back to you a relevant experience that added real value to your life?

Anytime, Anywhere

Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) is going to become borderline obsolete. Although it seems like a bold prediction, since when has BOPIS ever been truly convenient for the customer?

We know that consumer expectations are like a train running full steam ahead, and we are waking up to the idea that delivery and fulfillment are fundamental differentiators. Immediate delivery has become the default expectation.

Fulfillment capabilities will define retail brands in 2019 so for those who have complete visibility of their inventory, the future is bright. Unfortunately, few businesses meet this threshold.

And the future keeps rushing up to meet us, now UPS have launched their eFulfillment service bringing fast and reliable shipping to everyone.

Merging Of Technologies

At the National Retail Federation (NRF) Expo in 2017, it was all about AI, augmented and virtual reality, voice, facial recognition and so on. In other words, these technologies were discussed in isolation of one other.

Fulfilment capabilities will define retail brands in 2019.

But recently companies such as Lolli & Pops started using a combination of facial recognition and AI to identify and better serve their VIP customers as they entered the store.

Until now, many of these technologies – AR and VR immediately spring to mind – were effectively orphaned, desperately in search of a home. In 2019, I expect them to find one.

Reverse Space Race

According to estimates by PwC, the U.S. has more than five times the amount of retail space per person than the U.K., which itself is chronically over-spaced.

With e-commerce showing no signs of slowing down, this over-spacing within retail means space must be repurposed. For example, Walmart is looking to convert parking lot space into town centers in a number of places.

In the U.K., Tesco has announced plans to repurpose some of their parking spaces, creating residential space and smaller shop units around their larger stores.

The space race is on. The only question is how best to either rid or repurpose space without incurring significant write-down costs.

Digital Holiday

If you thought my second prediction was wacky, try this one on for size. More people will take regular digital holidays – time spent away from our smartphones and the relentless plethora of digital media.

Younger people (Generation Z) spend up to 11 hours a day online using various devices. Personally, I wonder where they find the time to eat, talk and conduct other basic functions – maybe such tasks are performed while online?

For the rest of us, the constant tsunami is overwhelming, and I predict more of us will seek respite from this digital wave.

In turn, we will seek out more authentic and artisan offerings where the human touch comes first. We will seek out brands that give us space and time to … breathe. And we will love them for it.

We all have our own retail predictions heading into 2019. It will be fascinating to watch how retail evolves and see how right – or wrong – we are about a year that could launch the real beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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