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First Meridian

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Mani Sharma, Vice President, V5 Global

Customer Focused Retail

Mani Sharma, Vice President, V5 Global

Led by advancements in digital channels, 2018 has been kind to retail in the US and world over, with the market reporting growth every month. In 2019, the market will be defined by emerging technologies that change the way consumers interact with their favorite brands, a shift in preferences, and the emergence of new battle lines for e-commerce. This year will be the year of separation, a year where long-term haves begin to separate themselves from the have nots. These trends are road map to a New Retail era altogether. This new era is built around the customer.

While 94% of retailers believe their company embodies customer obsession, only 18% of those same retailers report revenue growth from their customer-focused efforts*. Here are few areas that are critical to customer journey improving which will have a huge impact on the retailer performance.

Connecting with the Culture

More and more, consumers are shopping with their emotions instead of their wallets. Changing preferences and attitudes have already impacted how retail brands present and position themselves. The trend has resulted in brands having to equate their internal culture with their exterior identity. Companies will have to consider the image their brand conveys to the world, and work to create cultures that match consumers’ changing values.

Delivery Experience

E-commerce continues its march toward becoming the most popular shopping medium across the board. In September 2018 the sector expanded by 11.4%. Today, most major brands have an online presence, and they all offer comparable prices.

A recent study found that the amount of time people are willing to wait for free shipping has dropped drastically. Programs like Amazon Prime have made two-day shipping the standard, so cutting down on shipping time is vital for any e-commerce business looking to stay afloat. With players like Amazon and Walmart becoming largely homogenous in this regard, Retailers seeking to differentiate themselves must do so by enhancing the delivery experience without customers compromising on the buying experience.

Customer Engaging Experience

Nearly 3,800 stores are expected to close their doors by year’s end, and the brands that do survive will have done so by creating engrossing experiences. The old model of retail strictly focused on products being sold is no more applicable to consumers seeking a more engaging experience. The retailers who include experiential elements to the shopping by serving and treating their customers the way they would want to be treated will flourish.

Customer Subscription Experience

Today’s buyers are also increasingly seeking shopping that is tailored to their preferences and delivered directly to their doors. The confluence of these trends has resulted in the emergence of subscription e-commerce, businesses that curate products and ship them to customers on a regular basis. The trend goes hand in hand with users’ search for experiences, as they are more willing to shell out cash for a service that delivers a tangible benefit along with a personalized offering. The trend is expected to continue to build momentum in the year ahead.

Omni Channel Experience

Instead of a single touch point for consumers, over past years retail has widened the net to catch leads and convert them. It is important for independent retailers to maintain active presence in all the channels and keep fulfillment streamlined to give an omni-channel experience. This calls for deep integration across all channels, including websites, marketplaces, social media and brick-and-mortar.

The trends in retail are driven by a combination of an evolving technological landscape and the shift in demographics with younger customers. The ultimate question is how much the retailer would be willing to forge his business attuned to the new class of customers with the ever changing demands.

Sharad Jain - Vice President, V5 Global

Retail Trends to watch in 2019

Sharad Jain - Vice President, V5 Global

Retail industry underwent huge transformation over the past 5 years with infusion of emerging technologies. Retailers need to adapt to the momentum and changing consumer preferences to reap benefits out of the current situation. We think following are some of the trends Retail must be aware to succeed in 2019.

  1. Sales Associates to Brand Ambassadors: Retailers will NEED to invest more in their workforce, as the retail associates need to evolve as Brand Ambassadors and consultants from just managing store and achieving sales targets. To achieve that retailers need to focus on hiring right resources, training and empowering them with all tools so that they give customers better experience
  2. Implementing Artificial intelligence: Retailers need to focus on understanding data through AI and Machine Learning to analyze sales, customer shopping pattern and inventory in real time
  3. In store Experience to customers: When new age consumer visits retail store, they do more than buy the product, they want to experience it. Many companies are now designing experience-zones which will allow customers to do more than checking the products. Retailers need to focus on enhancing the customer experience and engaging the walk-ins because convenience is now more attributed to ecommerce than physical retail.
  4. Choice and flexibility (Last mile delivery): Customers are found to be more willing to purchase from a brand that offers multiple delivery options. Retailers must invest in developing warehousing and supply chain capabilities like of Amazon or Wal-Mart. They should focus on right strategies, technologies, and partnerships to provide omni-channel advantage.
  5. Virtual assistants and voice search: Many players in the market like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant are now working towards creating a more voice-centric world. Retailers need to be prepared and keep an eye on these technologies and start building strategies around voice search in-store.
  6. Consumer connect: As per recent studies, messenger app users are expected to increase from 2.01 billion in 2018 to 2.18 billion in 2019 and up to 2.48 billion by 2021. Consumers interact through instant messaging and texting on a regular basis and reaching your customers on these platforms will be a huge competitive advantage. When used correctly, instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger can be effective tools in addressing customer questions and sending product updates.

Retail landscape is fast evolving due to multiple factors. Brands that are prepared, using right technology and quick to react to the changes will lead the market in 2019.

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