At the end of last year, leaders from the National Retail Federation (NRF) as well as top industry analysts and experts shared their best guesses on where the retail industry would likely focus in 2019. Topping the predictive lists were priorities like improving brick-and-mortar store design and adding in-store fulfillment functionality, providing innovative checkout and return processes, accelerating last-mile delivery capabilities, and enabling more informed and personalized customer care. Although diverse in detail, the resounding message behind all of these predications is clearly that optimizing the customer experience—in multiple ways and forms, both in-store and online—will be the key to retail success and sustainability in the year ahead.
Now, as the first month of 2019 comes to a close, these early predictions are already proving to be spot-on with current industry trends and developments.
At last month’s National Retail Federation (NRF) 2019: Retail’s Big Show event, for example, keynote speaker and Forrester analyst Sucharita Kodali shared results from a new industry survey that confirm many of the predictions about where retailers are focusing their efforts and investments this year, including solutions that enable them to deliver more personalized care in-store and more meaningful customer engagements throughout the buyer journey.
Kodali also emphasized the growing role and importance of mobile in advancing many of retail’s 2019 goals, particularly efforts to create a more seamless and rewarding omni-channel customer experience that better connects and optimizes online and in-store services and resources.
This coincides with earlier predictions that retailers will need to rethink and transform traditional in-store processes and services to provide more valuable and differentiating conveniences to customers throughout the omni-channel experience.
For example, in a year-end article by Retail Customer Experience.com, Zynstra CEO and co-founder Nick East stated: “Whether it be cashier-less checkout, ‘Scan-Bag-Go,’ self-checkout, mobile checkout kiosks or mobile app payment, there will be a higher demand and adoption rate of alternative checkout options as retailers adapt their point-of-sale technology to meeting customers’ changing demands and the new buying habits of shoppers in-store.”
In this same article, Narvar CEO Amit Sharma noted, “Consumer expectations for conveniently timed delivery are continuing to skyrocket, forcing retailers to allocate more resources to innovations in last-mile delivery. …It’s become especially challenging to retain customers in this new era where convenience reigns supreme and retail has been somewhat commoditized. The returns experience is one area that continues to stand out as a potential advantage to gain consumer trust and loyalty.”
Recent research also demonstrates the accuracy of these predictive statements. A survey conducted by Capgemini, for example, shows that consumers themselves are prioritizing many of the issues highlighted by the experts. Of the 3,000 consumers surveyed worldwide, 55 percent admitted that two-hour retail delivery service would increase their brand loyalty. And some 47 percent don’t like that same-day delivery is not an option.
Although it remains to be seen how some of the other specific industry predictions will play out during the remainder of this year, prioritizing the customer experience at every turn will clearly be key to current and long-term retail success. And my prediction is that enterprise mobility will continue to play an integral role in meeting and realizing this new era and opportunity for multichannel retail excellence.