Five key trends for 2020 include Preemptive Distribution, Mobile Proliferation, Price and Product Personalization, Retailer Collaborations with Technology Companies and Associate Empowerment & Virtual Assistance.
1. Preemptive Distribution
A key trend in the retail landscape, which is finally coming to fruition in a major way for 2020, is preemptive distribution. Retailers that outpace and outperform their peers exercise the 3P Distribution Model, delivering consistent value to their target market. This distribution model starts with precisely positioning products to a keenly identified target market and ends with delivering the products and services to the customer when, where and how they want it.
Robin Lewis coined the phrase preemptive distribution in The New Rules of Retail (2014), and explained it in detail. He wrote that “in an oversaturated marketplace where consumers have unlimited and instantaneous access to hundreds of equally compelling products, that to win a consumer requires preemptive distribution: getting to precisely the right consumer, when, where and how they want it, and perpetually, ahead of the hundreds of equally compelling competitors.”
Over the past few years, retailers have been spending time, money and resources on building the infrastructure and capabilities to best support a preemptive distribution model. In the next three years, the 3P Distribution Model will move from theory to practice across a broad base of retailers and brands allowing for better alignment with the minds of the consumer and ultimately win in delivering on their high service expectations.
Top companies that are preemptive in their business strategies will stay ahead of the competition through unwavering branding and creative innovations with the key differentiator of executing both precision and preemptive behavior consistently over time.
2. Mobile Proliferation
There are several factors transforming how shoppers utilize their mobile devices, which significantly impact retailers including speed, serviceability and consumer confidence.
- Speed will increase substantially over the next five years. Up to now, 4G has minimized the pain points many consumers experienced in the past shopping online. In 2018, 4G became more widely available and will continue to grow over the next five years with a 70 percent subscription rate. This is significant to retailers dependent on mobile usage. However, 5G promises speeds 100 times faster than today’s mobile technology and will deliver reduced latency issues which enables high-quality videos, fewer communications lag times and new uses for artificial intelligence including augmented reality and virtual reality. 5G will become more dominant by 2022, and there are newly developed technologies on the horizon that may steal the show including Ultrasonic Data Transmissions (UDT).
- Serviceability becomes seamless and more intuitive based faster connectivity allowing shoppers to view products quickly, view HD videos and consume content at a faster rate giving mobile devices the same advantages as a desktop. 5G capabilities will drive mass adoption for artificial intelligence including augmented and virtual reality experiences through mobile devices deepening the emotional connection with the consumer. As a result of speed and serviceability, mobile commerce in 2019 is expected to increase 30 percent to $341 billion and represent 44.7 percent of e-commerce sales. By 2021, the m-commerce sales will grow to $514 billion, or 57.5 percent of total e-commerce sales.
- Consumer confidence in mobile payments and the digital wallet are making the transaction process easier online and in physical stores. One reason the digital wallet has not garnered as much adaptability as predicted is adjusting to the simple act of pulling out the phone instead of a credit card to process a payment. In the mind of the consumer, the gained value is not significant enough to change behavior. There is a negligible time save or financial incentive to motivate consumers to use digital wallets. However, as new payment designs hit the market, consumers are adopting the digital wallet and mobile purchasing. Afterpay is popular with millennials because it allows customers to pay for the purchase over time without a financial penalty while receiving the goods at the time of purchase. Mobile POS payments will increase between 36-41 percent over the next two years. Mobile payment and mobile shopping go hand-in-hand and complement one another; retailers need to build a mobile strategy based on these new behaviors.
3. Price and Product Personalization
Retailers leveraging mobile technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience have created a highly-personalized experience for their customers. However, new technologies can curate both products and pricing based on data analytics around specific customers or customer segments. This provides a higher level of customer relationship management and helps retailers better understand customers based on a combination of past purchase behavior and predictive analytics. For example, Celect, optimizing retail inventories through robust analytics, can identify a proposed merchandise assortment plan based on the composite of current customers’ shopping behaviors and past purchases in specific locations. The end result may be two stores within a mile apart having a different assortment of products and both stores optimizing the sell-through of inventories based on vastly different shopping behaviors.
There is a blue ocean opportunity for many retailers in understanding shopping channel analytics, past historical purchasing, current shopping behavior and predictive shopping preferences in a holistic manner for individual stores or customers. As many retailers are just beginning to synergize various channels in terms of management structure, IT infrastructure and data collection, using analytics and data science across the entire shopping journey can provide hyper-personalization for product curation, service requirements and pricing models. Many retailers have delivered highly edited assortments and curated products based on customer shopping preferences, however, the new frontier will include personalized pricing models based on customer motivations and spend with the use of synthesized analytics.
- The lowest price strategy never wins. Tit-for-tat pricing tactics will only promote a race to the bottom. Creating pricing strategies for the long term is what will sustain retailers over the long haul. Technologies today can maximize pricing programs by offering subscriptions, price bundling or personalized pricing based on customer spend. For example, ClickDealBuy!, a startup company specializing in price and product bundling, offers customers best pricing based on retailer priorities, customer shopping behaviors and combinations of product purchasing. The customer benefits by getting a better value with buying a combination of products and the retailer benefits with increased transaction value and higher margins based on volume purchasing.
4. Retailer Collaborations with Technology Companies
The plethora of retail technologies on the market that promise revenue growth, expense reductions, margin drivers and higher customer engagement is astonishing and probably overwhelming for most retailers. From a retailer’s perspective, trying to decipher, understand and prove which technologies would best resonate with the target market and make significant positive incremental changes to the P&L over time is a daunting task. While many retailers and brands have developed a variety of methods to vet various tech offerings, one factor is true across every retailer: collaborations and partnerships to execute a tech strategy are critical. Analytics advisors can be instrumental with the implementation of data collection and a synthesized approach to analytics across the many organizational functions resulting in more relevant and highly strategic data-driven decisions. Companies like eCapitalAdvisors understand the various analytics software available in the market and will work with retailers to align their strategies with the most relevant applicable software analytics.
- Synchronized strategy: retail + tech + analytics. Many retailers have incubation labs, cross-functional committees or formalized vetting process to allocate funding to test various technologies. Test and fail is a commonplace term highlighting the mantra of fail fast and move on. Being nimble is a key characteristic for success in today’s retail landscape. However, rushing to market too quickly or trying to force innovation will prove to be more costly. Partnering with technology and analytics companies which have vast experience in the innovation cycle and the science of technology will result in a higher-performance level of tech+retail. As we remember back to the 90s with the first boom of internet retailers, most of those failed because they lacked retailing skills. Retailers lack supreme technology skills and cannot keep pace with the minds of Silicon Valley. By collaborating together, both industries can learn from each other and provide technology innovations that support smart market strategies.
5. Associate Empowerment & Virtual Assistance
The knowledge deficiency gap is finally showing signs of improvement as retailers have recognized the importance of arming the frontline sales teams with product and service information equal to, or greater than what the customer has. Tech can aid in reducing the knowledge gap with sales and support teams: mobile devices with high-resolution content and streaming options powered by artificial intelligence bring relevant training materials and product information to the fingertips of the sales force. Retailers need to think about what tools are best for their own organizations as there may be human resource issues and employment laws impacting the use of employee-owned devices that should be taken into consideration. For some retailers, providing mobile devices to the sales teams allows for better control over content and monitoring training adherence. In the discount store model, including off-price retailers and self-serve environments, technologies can help customers with product selection and narrowing down of choices. For online commerce, there are virtual fitting applications, machine learning techniques and augmented reality that can further aid customers with product selection. The added layer of chatbots, virtual assistants and similar software enhancements will keep customers better engaged and can help decrease abandonment rates. Depending on the personalized or standardized service, strategy, providing training to employees or using virtual assistance through applications of AI, the retailers should demonstrate deeper product and service knowledge than their shopper.
The key takeaways for retailers as we move into 2020 is you cannot do it alone. Build partnerships and collaborations that align with your overriding retail market strategy. And remember that mobile usage today is only the tip of the iceberg and retailers who use preemptive distribution will stay ahead of tomorrow’s consumer.