by Alexander Hahn
January 16, 2019

2019 will be a challenging and exciting year for retail. Since so much is currently in a state of upheaval, we notice in discussions with our retail customers that there are sometimes uncertainties or even myths about what the future will bring. In this blog post we want to present our view – and show which we see as the most important trends in stationary retail for this year.

So here we go:

Retail Trend #1: Human interaction will play an increasingly important role for in-store retail

Technology increasingly gaining the upper hand – machines replace more and more people and in the end, there won’t be a single human salesman in shops anymore, only robots, some people fear.

The opposite is the case: Consumers value human interaction – and this is one of the greatest strengths of stationary retail.

In fact, according to a recent POSpulse study, 88 percent of people prefer a real human being to an omniscient robot when it comes to shopping in the future.

Only when the in-store experience is very negative, with long waiting lines at the checkout or fitting rooms, will a shopper prefer a digital assistant to a person.

And what is more, according to the same survey, even online shoppers miss personal human advice.

So the question retailers need to answer is not how to replace people, but rather give your salespeople an excellent qualification for an outstanding customer consultation. This is how to provide an optimized experience for customers who enjoy the benefits of human interaction AND the convenience of modern shopping techniques – such as digital price tags with a payment function like SES-imagotag.

In 2019, retailers will realize the importance of combining channels to meet their customers’ ever changing needs. In fact, many are already integrating their processes into one platform that allows a seamless, consistent shopping experience that retains and attracts customers – using technology to enhance and qualify the personal shopping experience, rather than replace it.

Sure, completely unmanned POS do exist, like Robomart's autonomous and mobile shop, but they will remain the exception - because the qualified advice from person to person will always remain one of the core USPs of stationary retail. Source: https://robomart.co/

Sure, completely unmanned POS do exist, like Robomart’s autonomous and mobile shop, but they will remain the exception – because the qualified advice from person to person will always remain one of the core USPs of stationary retail. Source: https://robomart.co/

Retail Trend #2: Brick-and-mortar retail going omnichannel will never be displaced by e-commerce

As confirmed once again in our Holiday Shopping Report, nowadays omnichannel is absolutely mandatory. Customers want a multi-channel experience, which means being able to shop in-store and online with the same level of ease and comfort.

The retail sector is aware of this trend, and merchants are gradually introducing changes in their digitization strategies to remain competitive and achieve long term success.

The purchasing behavior of tomorrow’s consumers will increasingly be shaped by the multi-channel concept – from retail shops, product catalogues and web shops to online marketplaces or mobile shopping apps. And all this within one integrated digital platform.

In fact, we are seeing the introduction of modern technologies like biometrics, AI and augmented and virtual reality that actually complement the in-store experience.

One of the biggest proof points for this is that even e-commerce giants like Amazon and Zalando are going offline, showing that there is no future in pure play – whether that be online or as a bricks and mortar store.

Amazon’s in-store endeavors show that to be successful retailers need to incorporate modern technologies like biometric payments and AI in order to meet customers increasingly demanding expectations with enhanced convenience and personalization.

Even online giants like Amazon – here their “go” shop at Madison Centre in Seattle – have recognized the strengths of stationary retail. “Pure play” is therefore becoming less and less popular, but instead smart omnichannel strategies are in demand. [Source: Sounder Bruce on Flickr]

Retail Trend #3: Offering more payment options significantly expands your customer base

It’s hard to believe, but there are still retailers or other companies like restaurants or taxi who refuse to accept credit or debit cards – because they believe card payments are tricking them out of money.

Why is this a myth? For two main reasons:

Firstly, current bank fees are falling and could thus undercut the fixed costs for cash payments.

Secondly, merchants have actually more to lose by NOT accepting contactless or digital payments. This puts them at risk of losing revenue by not meeting their consumers’ needs for convenience and ease. If customers can’t pay with their preferred methods, they will take their business elsewhere.

In fact, in times when mobile payment is becoming more and more common and self-evident thanks to Google Pay and Apple Pay, one simply frightens off many potential customers who are understandably not willing to go to an ATM before shopping. And not to forget Chinese customers, who like to shop a lot on their travels – but who can only be addressed and won as a target group if their preferred payment methods Alipay and WeChat Pay are offered.

In addition, digital payments are quicker and more efficient, also making the retailer more productive. It is estimated that over the course of an average lifetime, digital payments can save a consumer 59 hours. Think of what they could do with that time!

In 2019 and beyond, convenience is mandatory and that is why it is critical for even small retailers to enable digital payments and thus improve the consumer experience.

By accepting contactless payment methods – whether with a physical card, a smartphone or a wearable – merchants provide their customers and themselves great efficiency in the payment process. And, not to forget, they avoid excluding certain customer groups from the outset.

Retail Trend #4: Make smart use of technology like AI or Biometric Payment – which has become natural for consumers

Modern technology like Artificial Intelligence is creepy and might scare customers? Not at all – AI is already part of their everyday live, and many users don’t even notice it anymore. For example, when people order something via voice commerce, when they display a certain street on their smartphone via Google voice input, or when they receive further information about a product via a chat bot.

The same applies to biometric payment – while payment by fingerprint as with HelloFreshGO’s smart fridge is still quite new on the market, the biometric confirmation of a purchase on the smartphone has become more and more self-evident.

Implementing modern technologies just for the sake of it is not what retailers should aim for because it will confuse customers and drive them away. However, we’ve seen that when they introduce technology that adds real value to the customer journey it will become a part of the shopping process that consumers will come to rely on – and expect.

Our recent international shopping survey showed that consumers see AI and Biometric payments as important developments to improve their shopping experience.

Technology helps retailers to differentiate themselves by showing customers a better and faster way to shop, which they probably could never have thought possible.

This makes your lunch break even more fun – when paying thanks to biometrics is as easy, quick and secure as with the smart refrigerator from HelloFreshGo. (read more on our blog – an exclusive interview with HelloFresh’s “Lord of the Payments” Dennis McNulty)

#DigitalRetail: Would you like to make your retail business future-proof? Get a free individual consultation!

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