Tech Bytes: Top three tech predictions
As the retail industry settles into 2017, CIOs industry-wide are dusting off their To-Do lists, and creating a game-plan on how to implement this year’s top priorities.
While these projects will run the gamut, retail is facing an inflection point — one that is influenced by new, “smarter” solutions that will not only change the trajectory of how businesses operate, but how chains will communicate with employees and customers.
With so many projects — and underlying disruptors — to choose from, following are my predictions of where CIOs will focus their attention throughout 2017:
Machine learning. Artificial intelligence is finding a place in retail, especially as more computers are designed for machine learning. A platform where computers learn from previous — and ongoing — processes, machine learning will play a role in how retailers embrace complex data, and produce more accurate results.
Staples for example, is piloting a machine learning-enabled office supply reordering system with business-to-business customers. The cognitive learning process makes the chain “smarter,” allowing it to make predictions, optimize orders, and better service customers.
A new level of personalization. According to loyalty marketing firm ICLP, 59% of U.S. customers would buy more if retailers understood their individual requirements better. This is more proof that traditional loyalty initiatives that neglect to individualize rewards and offer relevant perks are dead.
Shoppers are demanding their favorite brands cater to their specific needs — online and offline — or they will move on to a brand that can deliver. Consider this a wake-up call: it’s high time to better detect and act upon customers’ preferences, wishes and needs — and tap new sources to do so. Dig deeper into mobile and social networks, and use these nuggets to augment transactional data. Armed with this richer level of personal data, use shoppers’ individual interests, location tracking, and social influence to drive even more personalized engagement.
Drones for merchandise deliveries. If Amazon has taught the industry anything, it’s that relying solely on traditional delivery methods don’t work. If retailers want to compete with same day deliveries (heck — even hourly windows), they need to think outside of the box. Many companies, including Walmart, Toys R Us, among others, are off to a good start with buy-online-pick-up in-store services. CVS is further shrinking the window with its curbside pick-up service.
To cover more ground, especially in rural areas, however, drone deliveries are beginning to take off. Unsurprisingly, Amazon laid the gauntlet with its PrimeAir drone pilot in England right before the holidays. However, other competitors, like 7-Eleven are trying their hand at the service as well.
The key will be finding the right formula of technology, service and timing. While companies are in a race to see who can deliver merchandise the fastest (these aforementioned examples are making deliveries within 10-30 minutes), the only way drones will fly is if they can consistently get merchandise into shoppers’ hands quickly, accurately, and damage-free.
Edens sells center near University of Virginia
O’Connor Capital Partners has acquired The Shops at Stonefield in Charlottesville, Virginia, from Edens for $121 million.
The 231,761-sq.-ft. Town Center portion of the property, which is two miles from the campus of the University of Virginia, opened in 2013. A 33,422-sq.-ft. Northside portion was completed in 2016. Key Tenants include Trader Joe’s, Regal Cinema, Pottery Barn, Brooks Brothers, and Bluemercury.
O’Connor Capital CEO Bill O’Connor plans to make some improvements to the property and to add some first-in-market tenants.
“The modern architecture and intimate outdoor environment provide a vibrant urban destination that attracts the top retailers in the market. There is significant upside potential through lease-up of the available space,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor reported that L.L. Bean has committed to a 15,000-sq.-ft. space at Stonefield, which is currently 90% leased.
2017 Retail Predictions
As the new year gets underway, it’s time to look forward to the changes and trends 2017 will bring. For retailers, that includes some new consumer behaviors in addition to the always-expected technological advances.
While change might seem overwhelming, it can also provide fresh opportunities for sales. And with a little planning, retailers can stay ahead of competition to meet the demands of their customers.
To help guide you into the new year, here are a few of our 2017 retail predictions.
Non-Traditional Revenue Sources
As we enter 2017, many retail organizations are beginning to explore non-traditional revenue sources to keep profits up. One of the easiest turnkey ways to build revenue? Credit protection and warranty solutions. These products not only offer a positive impact on the bottom line, but they’re also a great way to build customer loyalty — the sort of loyalty that keeps customers coming back and turns them into brand advocates.
Automated Online Returns
Throughout 2016, online shopping experienced enormous growth — and there’s no sign of a slowdown. As online shopping continues to become more common, you can anticipate a push for easy, automated return processes from online retailers. Convenience can help breed confidence, allowing customers to make a purchase online knowing they can easily return if they’re not satisfied.
From manufacturing details to corporate values, the average consumer desires greater transparency from retailers recently. This is especially true of Millennial shoppers, many of whom would rather purchase from a socially conscious brand over a luxury retailer. Businesses that embrace the same values as consumers can anticipate a boost to brand loyalty, which is a great reason to let your customers know you’ll always be up front with them.
Renting vs. Buying
The year 2017 may also see a rise in rentals — especially when it comes to larger or generational electronics. Knowing that a product’s lifespan lasts only until the release of next generation model may give consumers pause before taking the full purchase plunge. For example, full two-year phone contracts are becoming more expensive. With consumers aware the next iteration comes out in just in six short months, there’s far less incentive to sign up long term and more mobile customers are leasing devices rather than buying them. Be on the lookout for this trend to hit other industries as well.
Over the last several years, there’s been a growing demand for niche, independent retailers. Why? It starts with personalization — having access to a retailer that simultaneously caters to individual needs and likely knows their customer inside and out. For both new and existing brands, this trend leads to improved, more personalized service as well as a smaller store footprint. Going forward, the desire for unique and customized service is only going to go up — so get on board.
Mobile, Mobile and More Mobile
The growth of mobile is no longer a secret, and incorporating a mobile strategy can only benefit your brand — regardless of your company’s size. Simply ensuring a website is mobile friendly, or enabling mobile purchase, creates a sophisticated mobile interaction that improves the customer experience.
Get ready, retailers. The new year is here!