Only days away, Retail's BIG Show - National Retail Federation (NRF) in New York is nearly upon us. Retail Reflections will be in the Big Apple to cover it, so what do we expect to see at this year's Show?
Artificial Intelligence: The Next Chapter
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already taking hold in many different ways however we believe that it will be a common thread throughout most retail initiatives in 2018.
The desire to be able to personalise on a one to one basis at scale dictates that AI must be a part of a retailers strategy and those who have yet to embrace it are already behind the curve.
Whether it be our smartphones, Alexa, Google searches, predictive data analytics, social media......the list is almost endless, AI will pervade like never before.
Until now it has sat on the periphery for many organisations, we expect it to move centre stage at NRF.
The Store Is Dead, Long Live The Store
"Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" - so said Mark Twain, and the same can be said for stores.
Of course, they were never threatened; in reality what we've been seeing is a natural culling as the retail model shifts and big malls and out of town retail parks become unfashionable.
So, whilst we expect to see a continued reduction in space, those stores which are left will be better than ever before.
Stores will be where the really cool, imaginative and compelling customer experience takes place.
Which is why we are excited to see what developments in store design will be on show at NRF.
We've come a long way since all this meant was throwing a few digital screens at a store, today stores have a much broader brief than simply providing a roof to keep the product from getting wet.
Customer Experience On Steroids
Experiential retail will take on new forms in 2018 and with it, retail will begin to find a new place in our lives.
The old model of filling shelves with great product and delighting the customer simply won't be sufficient; indeed most of the old thinking will have to be discarded as new generations come to demand much more from a retailer.
"Today stores have a much broader brief than simply providing a roof to keep the product from getting wet"
Emotion and feelings will play a much greater part in what constitutes great customer experience. And each new positive experience will reset the bar ever higher as consumers become more and more demanding and less and less tolerant.
Those who cling to the old ways will wither and die.
Final Mile Delivery Defines The Brand
2018 will see an ever increasing on-demand economy; the context here being that consumers' expectations of delivery capability.
The ability to order something whenever, wherever and have it delivered within the hour will become the norm meaning retailers will have to have complete visibility of their inventory in order to meet this expectation. Something few enjoy today.
Rise Of The Bots
An Amazon and Google infinite loop conversation - perhaps the best definition of insanity there's ever been.
We expect chatbots and in particular voice recognition to gradually become ubiquitous during 2018, the writing's clearly on the wall for keyboard interfaces.
The smartphone, where a voice interface has been in use for some time now, will accelerate m-commerce through a much easier, more frictionless interface, especially for distressed or convenience shopping.
Got used to having Alexa or Google Home around? You get the picture.
So there we have it, our predictions for NRF 2018 and the year beyond; if you have any thoughts or additional ideas for what we're likely to see this year we'd love to hear from you.
Look out for our tweets and blogs from NRF - it's going to be an exciting few days!
Retail Reflections 2018