Looking forward to retail in 2020

‘Change creates challenges and retailers are meeting them head on’


Mark Matthews

As the retail industry continues its rapid evolution, retailers are rising to the challenge and creating unique, customised and delightful experiences that seamlessly reach across channels. The future of engagement and loyalty is no longer in stores or online, it’s in both, everywhere consumers are.

Retailers are focused on connecting with customers, no matter how they shop. That’s why companies that have been around for decades are building digital offerings with major investments in ecommerce, artificial intelligence, data and the supply chain. It’s why retailers that started online are opening physical stores. It’s also why, right now, you can take out your phone, order online, pick up in store and enjoy a personalised, continuous experience at every step.

Retailers meet challenges with innovation

Change creates challenges and retailers are meeting them head on.

The journey to purchasing, and engagement, now involves different channels working together. Many consumers start their shopping journeys digitally, but still end them with a purchase in a physical store, which remains the best way for consumers to experience a brand. In fact, almost 90 per cent of transactions still happen in a store; 98 per cent of Gen-Zers, the youngest consumer, still shop in stores. The in-store experience is also changing with the emergence of new technologies and services.

These innovations are working. According to National Retail Federation’s Consumer View survey, the majority of consumers have tried services like buy online, pick up in store, mobile payment and self-checkout. They’re also interested in advanced, tech-enabled tools like in-app store navigation, visual search, virtual and augmented reality, virtual fit and smart dressing rooms.

These technologies enable greater personalisation and better engagement, which is especially valuable to younger consumers. Two thirds of millennials say they like it when websites track their visits and recommend products. Two-thirds also say they would be more loyal to a brand that lets them give input and help shape the products and services they buy.

New ways to get to know your customer

Many leading retailers are pursuing new opportunities like these to build engagement and loyalty, using online and in-store to complement each other and deliver high-level experiences to every customer.

Nordstrom is transforming its services and stores to cater for customers with a local market strategy, adding spaces and new formats that provide unique services and experiences tailored to the neighbourhood and its customers. These local hubs have zero inventory; instead, customers come in to pick up online orders, get suits tailored, enjoy a manicure and other services. The approach redefines the role of the store to create a connection, increasing loyalty and spending.

Or consider Sephora, which is embracing an “omnitude” mindset, creating a holistic, personalised shopping experience that reaches across all channels and departments. For instance, information from in-store makeover sessions is captured in a digital guide, enabling one-click purchases in the future. The company is also capitalising on ecommerce returns and driving more in-store interactions.

Target is another great example. It has made massive investments in stores, transforming how they look, how they’re staffed and how people use them. Stores are now home to advanced technology and sophisticated services, blending physical and digital to offer customers more. To bring this strategy to life, employees are also receiving more training and higher pay, a talent-first approach to customer service.

These retailers and countless others are showing how to build engagement, loyalty and experiences in the digital age. Customers want, and increasingly expect, these customised shopping experiences that blend online and in-person, using advanced technologies without losing the personal touch. As we look forward to 2020, America’s retailers will continue to find new ways to deliver just that.