Staying Competitive in Retail: Three Trends to Watch Out For

With 2017 in full swing, we’ve already had a taste of what’s in store for the retail industry in the year ahead. With innovation driving technological advancements and online consumers demanding speed and convenience, we’ve outlined three key trends that all retailers need to pay attention to in order to compete.
 
More chatbots
The presence of chatbots surged across industries in 2016, with Apple’s Siri driving the trend forward and heating up competition in the chatbot space. Chatbots can be used through messaging apps such as Kik and Facebook Messenger, and for retail companies, they have the ability to enhance online shopping platforms. Retailers such as Staples and H&M also began implementing this new type of technology in the past year — paving the way for other retailers in 2017.
 
Why retailers should pay attention: Chatbots create an opportunity for customer engagement in online shopping. While online shopping lacks the physical salespeople of brick-and-mortar stores, chatbots allow a personal touch to still be present. Through this technology, retailers can engage with customers in real time – answering questions, making purchase recommendations, and facilitating payments. 
 
This technology also has the ability to collect and sift through data by remembering individual customers and their previous purchases. As the benefits become more widely known, chatbots will be increasingly implemented by retailers in 2017.
 
The rise of mobile shopping
The rise of mobile has been driving a major transformation in the way people shop, with more and more consumers choosing to purchase products on the go from their mobile devices. The shift to m-commerce will continue to rapidly evolve this year, building on the unprecedented number of online shoppers that migrated to their mobile devices when making purchases in 2016. According to Adobe’s 2016 online shopping data for Cyber Monday, mobile shopping accounted for 47% of visits to retail websites — 38% via smartphone and 9% via tablet device.
 
Why retailers should pay attention: Mobile shopping rates show no signs of slowing down in 2017. Going mobile provides retailers with a prime opportunity to expand their client base and, in turn, increase their bottom line. To take full advantage of this growing trend, retailers need to ensure they are providing a user-friendly online shopping experience tailored for mobile users — creating a mobile version of their website or a mobile app is an important first step. Retailers also need to adapt their checkout forms to alleviate the frustrations of typing on a mobile device or tablet.
 
Speedier deliveries
Delivery is a vital component of online or mobile shopping — a major make or break for retailers when it comes to customer satisfaction. Undeliverable or delayed packages cut into the core of what makes online or mobile shopping attractive: speed and ease. According to a 2016 study, the average delivery speed for 30 of the top Internet retailers was four days — with average delivery speeds steadily improving each year. Companies like Amazon have even gone so far as to offer same-day delivery. With delivery speeds crucial for enhancing customer satisfaction, retailers across industries are looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their own delivery systems.
 
Why retailers should pay attention: The need for speed is growing. Despite consumer demand for fast product deliveries, companies are failing to deliver packages at a staggering rate. In 2015 alone, 6.4 billion USPS mail items were undeliverable as addressed. To prevent the devastating impact of failed deliveries on customer loyalty, retailers need to adopt technologies such as address verification — which helps prevent failed and delayed deliveries by verifying customers’ addresses at the point of entry. The most advanced address verification technology includes features that automatically correct typos entered at checkout and can even verify apartment and suite information. With retailers increasingly implementing these types of technologies, 2017 promises to be the year of the speediest deliveries yet.
 
With customers across industries continuing to expect more from retailers, it’s now more important than ever for companies to stay up-to-speed on technological advances and evolve accordingly. No matter which technology trends dominate the retail space in 2017, one thing is for sure: an investment in the online customer journey is an investment in any retailer’s success. 

Tom Mucklow heads up Addressy — an address verification platform in the United States. Addressy is backed by the technology behind PCA Predict, the leader of address verification services in the U.K. that serves 40% of the top 500 U.K. e-commerce companies. 
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