3 Retail Technology Trends to Watch in 2019 (and why they Matter)

PointofSale Woman Using iPad in Retail Store Retail Technology Trends

Author: Kimberly Berneck, Senior Vice President, Delivery Management, BTM Global

This time of year, you’re probably seeing many articles predicting retail technology trends in 2019. While it’s helpful to understand what’s likely to happen in the future, the real power comes from understanding the “why” behind the “what.” Why are these trends happening now? Why is the timing relevant to your plans and goals?

It’s all about mobility

We know consumers want to buy what they want, whenever they want and have it delivered wherever they want as fast as possible. However, it’s also essential that the buying experience is enjoyable and easy. Retailers are focusing more on the experience than ever before, and it will continue to mold how they think about the use of mobile devices during the purchasing process.

About 15-20 years ago, retailers were racing to put up e-commerce sites and make it possible for consumers to buy online. The user experience was considered, but the main focus was on establishing a down-and-dirty online presence.

In recent years, as e-commerce has become the rule and not the exception, retailers have shifted their focus to ensuring a seamless online experience. This includes recognizing the specific differences that come with a mobile experience: As more consumers shop via their phone or tablet, the experience must still be intuitive, enjoyable, and helpful. In 2019 and beyond, I predict we’ll continue to see retailers think more deeply and holistically about how a consumer interacts with their brand online and what the mobile experience is like. Indeed, Gartner explains in “Think Mobility, not Mobile:”

“Marketing leaders focused on mobile marketing should move away from their ‘mobile-centered’ approach and focus on customer-centric mobility marketing…For every channel interaction that takes place, mobility places a different lens on the engagement and offers a way to differentiate.”

In other words, it’s about more than the consumer’s device; it’s about the brand experience, the usability of the technology, anticipating the needs of a particular mobile customer (they’re not all the same) and delivering a shopping or buying experience that sets your organization apart.

Why now?

The demographics of customers on mobile devices have expanded far beyond the younger generations and tech-savvy crowds. On the other end of the spectrum, older generations are getting much more comfortable with online shopping. In fact, older consumers in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are using computers and smartphones to buy everything from canned tomatoes to television sets. This audience expansion has spurred retailers to think in new ways about their mobile experience and engagement.

The attention on payment security is another reason that retailers are focusing on mobile. There’s a heightened risk for mobile security breaches that retailers have to watch for, even while they’re making themselves more accessible around mobility. However, the good news is that security projects don’t always have to be long-term, enterprise-wide projects. There are many things you can implement in a shorter timeframe that will help protect you and your customers, such as a standalone device for payments within your physical store that may only require you to partially integrate your systems (rather than a full integration) or a promotion/pricing solution upgrade.

Personalization understanding your customers

When e-commerce started gaining traction in the early 2000s, the need to understand customers became especially important. Suddenly, you weren’t interacting with them face-to-face in the store. You didn’t have metrics on which sales teams sold more or which approaches worked best. Retailers had to invest in technology like tools for tracking web metrics to define online customer behavior. This focus on consumer behavior will only accelerate in the coming years.

Also, we’ve seen an increasing number of retailers invest in core applications and technology infrastructure that support a more personal connection with consumers. For example, sophisticated loyalty programs allow retailers to get a deeper insight into a customer’s buying habits while better rewarding them (and retaining them) with compelling offers. Even if you don’t have a loyalty program, merely offering superior service is enough for many consumers to stay loyal to your brand – and tell others about it.

Why now?

In light of the mobile technology trend mentioned above and the heightened expectations of consumers for a smooth and easy shopping experience anywhere, retailers need to know customers from a 360-degree view: What else have they purchased? What did they look at, but not buy? Do they also go to a physical store? Consumers’ interconnected lives have created new expectations of how a brand should interact with them and what it should know about their preferences and habits.

PointofSale Woman Online Shopping iPad retail technology trends

AI is here to stay

Artificial intelligence (AI) is especially important for retailers to consider from a supply chain perspective: Could there be cost savings if you outsourced the manufacturing of your products? Could you bring in a partner to do the fulfillment and shipping? In this survey of North American retailers, respondents said AI’s most significant potential lies with the quality and speed of planning insights.

Why now?

With the growth of online retail, consumer buying habits have changed: Think smaller orders, but more frequent orders. This shift puts a strain on the logistics and costs of a retailer but leveraging AI capabilities to help discover cost savings or more effective ways of operating could help alleviate some of that strain.

Whatever your plans for AI, don’t feel rushed into using it without a clear objective. Look at what your organization does best and seek out partners to boost the weaker areas – you could find some surprising cost savings as a result.

The bottom line

Knowing the “what” of retail technology trends is only part of the equation. Understanding why certain shifts are happening now can help you better filter through the noise and determine whether your organization is impacted and how. Technology investments can be an answer to many of today’s challenges, but they will only have long-term value if they’re applied strategically and align with your mission and broader objectives.

 

 

Author: Kimberly Berneck, Senior Vice President, Delivery Management, BTM Global