OK - I haven’t seen the last one yet, but I’m sure someone out there is writing that article somewhere.
But a quick trip to the mall after work tells a different story. Long lines, many (if not most) checkouts still without Apple Pay, little to no tech, confusing buy online pick-up in store experiences, and unknown inventory whereabouts cause friction in retail stores. While AI, voice technology, IoT and AR (amongst other trends) are getting a lot of buzz and mind share at industry events and in publications, the reality is that for most retailers mobile is still topping retail roadmaps and agendas.
This is not a criticism of industry analysts. Publications need to stay ahead of the curve and I can appreciate that a robot stylist makes much better clickbait than reserving two parking spaces in the lot for click and collect.
This is also not a criticism of retailers. As a product owner, I understand the challenges of managing a roadmap and know the heartbreak when the sexy, exciting new feature you had planned suddenly starts slipping down the backlog in favor of short term wins or the “safe” bet.
This is a rallying cry for innovation, and an invitation for those that are ready to start making some real change in their business this year to consider the following 2019 resolutions:
Resolution #1 - Mobile needs to be in your stores now.
If you don’t yet have some form of mobile engagement in your stores, the time is now. Customers are ready for this tech and most of your shoppers are on their smartphone in the store anyways - actively comparing online pricing, checking out similar alternatives, hunting for coupons, and getting opinions from friends. Much of the market has native app fatigue, so unless you’re planning on incorporating some form of Candy Crush into your app, a progressive web option is likely your best bet for greatest adoption. Make it lightweight, make it useful, and then listen to your customers and iterate. With the right tech, this is a quick win in 2019. Let’s do it!
Resolution #2 - Take retail beyond the four walls of the store.
You know your customers best. And yes - sometimes they may be going to the mall to seek out your products. But depending on your vertical, they may also be gathering in large, concentrated volumes elsewhere. Lifestyle conferences, concerts, pop-up shops, well positioned temporary storefronts, and/or sporting events can be a great way to connect with consumers that align with your brand. These can also be fantastic selling experiences (given the correct, frictionless payment option of course) and a way to test new ideas or introduce products with an engaged audience. We saw a huge spike in pop-up selling last year and insights suggests this will continue to grow in 2019. This is a bandwagon we can get behind in 2019.
Resolution #3 - Experiment!
While we still may be a ways away from the hovercraft drive-through, consumers are open and excited about new technology. This is fueled especially by a growing pool of Gen Z’ers with $40 billion in purchase powerand a high attraction to interactive and personal shopping experiences. Now more than ever, customers are willing to try new things, and dropping in some well designed emerging tech - either to your store, your website, or other channel - can be a great way to test the waters and see what resonates with your customers.
The future of commerce won’t happen overnight, but the picture of what commerce and retail might look like in the not too distant future is starting to get clearer. Brands and retailers at the forefront will be rewarded with engaged, delighted customers (plus heaps of whatever crypto we are using for currency at that point 🙂). Lightweight, API-based commerce is making quick test and learn experiments and innovation possible(don’t let your legacy platform hold you back anymore!).