What’s on retailers’ minds for 2018?

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At the NRF Big Show 2018, retail executives and leaders share the areas they are going to focus on this year. Here are a few things they are working on:

1) Retailers will continue to strive for providing more personalized digital experiences.

When asked for views, executives from Macy’s, Neiman Marcus Group and The Children’s Place clearly stated that personalization would be a big focus for them in 2018. Macy’s is continuing to focus on personalization according to an executive, “The whole concept of personalization is simply on steroids right now. It’s all about the consumer in that one moment in time. We’re doing anything we can do to connect directly with consumers and make shopping convenient for them.”

Retailers have worked on improving personalization for many years but it all boils down to customer experience. As such, providing great customer experiences in 2018 will be the result of blending technology with a more personalized touch.

2) Connecting online and offline store experiences will remain a major focus.

Leading retailers such as Macy’s and The Children’s Place are still fervent on ‘omni-channel retail’. Macy’s is continuing to see serious growth in the area of “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS). Macy’s executive stated that “physical stores are not going away. Customers will always want the option of coming into the store to try on jeans instead of buying three different sizes online.”

The Children’s Place is also striving towards making it big in digital and using a lot of the omni-channel use cases like BOPIS and ‘Save the Sale’. ‘Save the Sale’ needs store associates to be able to access real-time inventory across the store network. This enables the store associates to address the situation of stock-out and lost sales by helping customers to find their desired item online or at another store location with ease.

3) More retailers will look to leverage voice assistants.

Global Chief eCommerce Officer at Samsonite feels that voice assistants will start taking off in certain categories like consumables. However, categories like fashion may have a harder time to leverage voice. 1-800-Flowers.com having been one of the first retailers to launch an Alexa skill, the CEO & President believes that bots and AI capabilities will enable 1-800-Flowers.com to amplify its personalized experience. He envisions the possibilities, “With voice as the main interface emerging, I think it will bring us back to the retail experience of our first flower shop where we delivered a true 1-to-1 relationship. Voice enables us to have a 1-to-1 relationship with customers on a massive scale.”

4) As artificial intelligence (AI) matures, AI-powered retail applications are gaining adoption.

According to the Global Chief eCommerce Officer at Samsonite, 2018 will be the year that artificial intelligence will have its breakthrough moment. Retailers will start using it to power various parts of the retail and eCommerce experience. 1-800-Flowers.com uses AI to power conversational interfaces like Alexa, Google Assistant and Facebook Messenger, many of which need no human touch at all.

Using AI and its applications in various aspects of retail, retailers are looking to boost their businesses and enhance customer experiences.

5) Personalization, social media and Amazon Marketing Services will be used as acquisition marketing strategies.

The Children’s Place highlighted the importance of personalized marketing strategies. Its personalization strategy began in 2017 when the company hired a data scientist to clean up the customer database. Now that The Children’s Place can connect customer purchases online and in-store, the executive believes that it will aid in making acquisition, engagement and retention strategies more personal,.

Social media also seems to be one of the top marketing priorities for the CEO of Petco. On the flip side, Global Chief eCommerce Officer at Samsonite believes, “Amazon Marketing is going to become as critical to a brand’s marketing strategy as Google and Facebook. Today, Amazon has the return on investment potential of Google Paid Search in 2005 and display ads in 2002.”

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