I don’t need to tell you that 2016 was a monumental year. But aside from Britain voting to leave the European Union and Trump winning the U.S. presidency, it was also a huge year for retail.
2016 saw the biggest Black Friday ever, the depreciation of the pound make the UK an attractive destination for tourist shoppers, and the growth of mobile shopping over desktop skyrocket, as big examples.
But what’s next for retail? And how will digital and tech advancements change the industry landscape?
Digital trends that will transform retail
1. The growth of mobile
Every year purports to be the year of mobile, and 2017 will be no different. Consumers are increasingly incorporating mobile into their shopping journey, with Internet Retailer estimating that one third of eCommerce is driven by mobile shopping.
This trend will only continue throughout 2017. Ve Interactive data shows that mobile has now replaced desktop in the UK as the preferred method to shop online, accounting for 58.7% of purchases. And according to research by think tank Gartner, mobile commerce will boost eCommerce-driven mobile revenue by at least 50% in 2017.
For these reasons, I expect to see a continued shift in retail businesses prioritising their mobile offering, with some even exclusively focusing on engaging users via smartphone and tablet tech over desktop.
2017 will also see augmented usage of mobile wallets and mobile apps. Shopping via mobile app will become increasingly normalised, whilst more retailers will look to their apps to gamify the retail experience.
This huge growth and diversification of mobile capability means that creating an omni-channel, mobile-optimised shopping experience that ties together instore and online shouldn’t just be a bonus for retailers, but has to become a priority in 2017. Especially as, according to Google, not having a mobile optimised website is like closing your store for one day each week.
2. Improved delivery technology
In 2016 we saw big brands up their game when it came to delivery, with retailers offering more reliable next day, same day and even within the hour delivery options.
As consumers expect better experiences and instant gratification, 2017 will see more retailers look to AI solutions, technology and automation strategies to streamline processes. Think delivery drones, AI couriers and optimised supply chain methods.
Last year, as an example, Just Eat partnered with Starship Technologies to test slow moving pavement droids that can travel up to 4 miles per hour for roughly 10 miles to deliver food, using a GPS signal and cameras to navigate and avoid obstacles. When the food arrives at the destination, customers simply input a code.
I hope to see more retailers find creative ways like this to offer a smooth and convenient user experience for consumers.
3. The exponential rise of programmatic
Programmatic advertising – or in other words, the crunching of numerous sources of data to present the right ad, at the right time, to the right person – is growing dramatically. And the ways it can impact the retail industry are very exciting.
There’s the programmatic TV opportunity, programmatic storytelling, the ability to circumvent ad blocking issues, to truly personalise content for each individual, to move away from last touch attribution… the list continues. (Read my 17 predictions for the future of programmatic advertising for more in-depth commentary).
In 2017, more and more retailers will look to programmatic as a data-driven solution to better target users and drive more sales. And the gap between those that continue to use manual ad buying and those that champion programmatic will become more pronounced.
Mark Abay, Content Director at Ashton Media, predicts that “programmatic is going to drive 100% of advertising trading execution by 2020.” It’s therefore up to retailers to get with the programmatic before it’s too late.
Where will you be next year?
We are undoubtedly living in the digital age, with technology and consumer shopping behaviour evolving rapidly as a result. So it’s imperative that retailers don’t just keep up with technology and consumer expectations, but try to pre-empt them and stay one step ahead.
For the retail brands that stay on top of the biggest trends like the three I’ve explored above, it could be a very exciting year. For those that fail to keep up and optimise their mobile, delivery and programmatic strategies, however, they might just be left behind.