We interviewed 4 experienced retail executives about the biggest developments of 2018, the toughest challenges ahead, and one technology they think will be the biggest game-changer. Here are their thoughts!
What's the biggest way the in-store experience changed in 2018?
Shoppers got savvier.
- "I think that consumers are more aware of how brands move through their promotional cadence throughout the year (specifically over the holiday period), so we need to be more strategic with how we engage them. If we engage in a way that is brand-centric and aspirational, it’s always a win." - Hayden Oney, Director of Visual Merchandising at Kate Spade New York
- "Customers are expecting more knowledgeable staff and better service as their reward for not shopping online." - Gordon Bullock, GRJB Retail Consulting
- "I have a feeling that customers have renewed their confidence in physical stores, but they’re also making it very clear what they expect from us:
- The expertise, product knowledge and welcoming atmosphere provided by store teams
- A seamless shopping experience: product availability, online/offline consistency, and an optimised checkout experience
- Synergy between the physical store and online - the website must save shoppers time." - Bertrand Veillault, Retail Director at King Jouet, leading French toy retailer
Experience became the raison d'etre of brick and mortar.
- "Retailers should provide more personalized and entertaining experiences for shoppers than they would be able to get only online. Shopping offline should be a “therapy”: a simple, pleasant and exciting way to spend your time. In 2018 many retailers were already working on improving the experience that shoppers got in their stores. For example: a gaming area in partnership with Logitech G and Astro products was created to run gaming tournaments in-store, which not only increases traffic but also gives the retailer new marketing content. We believe this is the right direction, as the store of the future should be a place to experience rather than a place to buy." - Evgeniya Dufey, EMEA In-Store Execution Specialist at Logitech
- "There's a renewed interest in consuming locally. The consumer no longer wants to spend a whole afternoon going to remote and ageing shopping centres." - Bertrand Veillault, Retail Director at King Jouet
Store teams got a new identity.
- "Store teams are responsible for a host of different but equally critical activities, including visual merchandising, replenishment, recovery and customer service, and retailers have to find a way of balancing these whilst managing payroll constraints. As pressure on store payroll increases we are starting to see a reduction of customer-facing staff on some sales floors. Experienced staff often has less time to engage with customers, and newer team members can appear less well trained. Many retailers believe that advanced technology can provide some of the solutions." - Gordon Bullock, GRJB Retail Consulting
What's the biggest challenge retailers will face in 2019?
Rising costs coupled with falling store traffic.
- "Retailers with bricks and mortar stores face the challenge of maintaining or growing store sales to offset increasing costs including rent, rates and payroll, whilst faced with potentially reduced margins related to higher import costs. Long leases provide little flexibility for retailers coming to terms with a store estate that now exceeds their needs, with an increasing number seeing a CVA as the only means forward." - Gordon Bullock, GRJB Retail Consulting
And speaking of CVAs...changing economic and political climates.
- "These problems are related to and exacerbated by Brexit uncertainty, and the increased momentum of online spending." - Gordon Bullock, GRJB Retail Consulting
- "Swings in the economy/market are always something to be cognizant of. Luckily consumer confidence in the retail sector has been very strong, so we hope to see that steadily continue." - Hayden Oney, Director of Visual Merchandising at Kate Spade New York
Data-driven decision making in the physical store.
- "Retailers have to carefully choose what products to “rent” their shelves to and what the return is. They can't afford to have as large of a range as online does, so they should bet on best-sellers. Assortment optimization should always be based on data. We use a lot of data collected offline and online to make the right assortment decisions. Online data about shopper baskets, product rates and reviews is also critical for offline decisions. Having a review database is one of the strongest tools to influence purchase decisions, which can also be used in physical stores by communicating it via POS material." - Evgeniya Dufey, EMEA In-Store Execution Specialist at Logitech
Mastering the basics
- "Operational excellence is a bit of a strong word, but ultimately it means one thing: removing all points of friction (both big and small) that make consumers buy less, not buy at all or migrate to buying online only. We must continue to move forward and adapt the way we sell, but first we must nail the fundamentals. The basics are often overlooked, but they need to be perfected to give shoppers a reason to come into stores before they look online." - Bertrand Veillault, Retail Director at King Jouet
Which retail technology do you think will be the biggest game - changer in 2019?
- "AI has the biggest long term potential for retailers, as it will further automate many processes that are still often quite manual, including merchandise planning, replenishment, forecasting, and pricing, whilst improving availability." - Gordon Bullock, GRJB Retail Consulting
- "Digital solutions for achieving operational excellence." - Bertrand Veillault, Retail Director at King Jouet
- "YOOBIC! It’s a game changer for us in terms of the way we look at our stores, and for the continued development of our visual proposition across the fleet." - Hayden Oney, Director of Visual Merchandising at Kate Spade New York (Aw shucks, you're making us blush!)
If 2018 taught us anything, it's that the age of experiential retail is here. A flawless customer experience is the most important thing a store can offer. To learn how to improve yours, check out our free eBook!