Retail is about to get a lot smarter, faster and more “spectacular.”
That’s according to a new report from advisory firm Coresight Research, which offered trend predictions for the industry in 2019. The consensus? “A global retail sector that is stronger and better equipped to serve rising consumer expectations,” wrote CEO and founder Deborah Weinswig.
Despite seemingly constant talk of a retail apocalypse — spurred by a succession of store closings and high-profile bankruptcies — the sector’s reinvention will be driven by consumer demand for brick-and-mortars that provide experience-rich opportunities on top of a variety of product offerings that include customization and personalization.
As such, big-box retailers including Walmart and Target have revamped their businesses, with the former announcing plans to create experiential marketplaces called “town centers” and the latter adding in-store “toy hubs” to interact with children and families.
That’s not to say brick-and-mortar itself won’t undergo significant changes. As shoppers demand newness and quicker service, Coresight noted that even legacy retailers will transition from permanent stores to more temporary pop-up shops. An increasing number of like-minded retailers might also participate in collaborations that will allow them to not only repurpose real estate but drive double the customer traffic.
Simon Property Group, for instance, launched The Edit @ Roosevelt Field, a curated space where startup businesses can establish a mall-like presence to consumers. Also a nontraditional shopping experience, Washington Prime Group’s Tangible center gives digital businesses a space to showcase products in the flesh.
“This ‘fast retail’ trend will manifest as shorter lease terms as retailers seek to avoid being locked amid a quickening pace of change,” Weinswig explained. “The result will be a more appealing proposition for consumers and an enhanced ability to adapt to changing consumer behavior.”
As the shift to e-commerce continues to grow, so will new technology. This year, shoppers are expected to become even more familiar with voice assistants, chatbots and other forms of artificial intelligence — think Amazon’s Echo or Google Home — which will step up consumer demand for communication in all kinds of platforms.
“[Catering to these expectations] will require retailers to take a holistic ‘smart retail’ approach that integrates AI automation, human intervention and data sharing to provide personalized and predictive interactions across multiple channels,” Weinswig said.
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