Cutting Edge: 3 Trends Retailers Need to Embrace to Stay Competitive
If we learned anything from past retail trends, it’s that the store is still the most important part of the retail experience. Interest in the brick-and-mortar store is everywhere. Target’s CEO has said that the company's stores are its single biggest competitive advantage. Retailers must continue to keep their focus on the store by ensuring both their customers and store associates are connected and informed. The following three key trends are likely to influence the retail store scene and shape retailers’ strategies as the industry continues to evolve:
Simplify the Customer (and Associate) Experience
One of the biggest buzzwords in our industry right now is “frictionless,” as retailers look to simplify their processes to create a more seamless consumer experience, especially in-store. They need to make it easier for customers to engage with in-store activities like returns, locating products, communicating with associates and checking out. Retailers also need to find the right tools to help simplify not only the customer experience, but the associate’s as well. When store associates are able to effectively use in-store technology, they can expedite consumer interaction, increase consumer engagement and boost conversion rates.
We live in a connected world, and the workplace should be no different. Retailers today are hyperfocused on communication with consumers, but employees are often left behind. Making employees feel like the company they work for cares about their accomplishments, well-being and the hard work they put into making the brand successful is essential. Top-down communication is no longer enough. Employees not only want feedback from their employers, but they want the opportunity to provide feedback in return. Two-way communication is essential to maintaining a talented and motivated workforce. Employees must be given the opportunity to share their feedback in the field. Recognizing the hard work of employees is another way to boost morale and positively reinforce a more dedicated workforce. While retailers are making sure their brand is connected with customers, it’s equally important to establish a positive company culture and ensure that employees are also a part of that brand image.
Take a Stand
Now that the youngest millennials are in their early 20s, companies need to adjust their branding to cater to this demographic if they want to stay relevant. Millennials care about corporate social responsibility, and they're more likely to research the issues a company supports than the generations before them. This cultural shift has made it more important than ever for companies to take a stand on important social and political issues. A recent report found that two-thirds of consumers want companies to take a stand on social and political issues. Corporate social responsibility has become an important deciding factor for consumers when they choose where they shop.
That being said, companies should prepare themselves for consumers’ reactions by conducting demographic research and preparing appropriate messaging for their stance. Taking a stand on social issues will almost inevitably result in a mix of consumer praise and backlash, but the backlash isn't indicative of the success of a corporate social responsibility campaign. For example, Nike’s 2018 Colin Kaepernick ad received a lot of buzz — both positive and negative — but shortly after the ad’s release, the company's stock prices and sales soared, resulting in a $6 billion boost to the company. It has become more damaging for companies to stay silent, as saying nothing is saying something.
With 2019 already well underway, it’s important for retailers to act quickly and embrace these trends. Incorporating technological advancements into the workplace will help ease friction for customers and associates alike, and improving communication within a company can create a stronger workforce. Lastly, taking a stand on social and political issues is more important than ever now that millennials are dominating the market. Implementing and adapting to these trends will ensure you keep an edge over competitors.
Lisa Britton-Poppler is the senior account relationship manager at Opterus Inc., a retail task management solutions provider.
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