The customer in focus
Fashion Retail Trends 2017
Understanding your customer remains paramount
Today’s “always-on” customers jump between sales channels on a whim, forcing retailers to meet growing expectations for “shopping anywhere, anytime”. The focus is no longer so much on which articles a retailer wants to sell, but rather to whom they want to sell as well as their individual wants and needs. Any friction between offline and online retailing consequently leads to lost sales. Customer centricity demands a complete realignment of in-store processes, technologies and personnel. More specific trends triggered by this “customer centricity” are described below.
Trend #1 Mobile Interactions
Using the internet, customers are accustomed to fast answers; especially when it comes to the availability of a desired article – if no information can be found promptly, the customer will be lost to the competition. Spoiled by the speed of getting information online, the customer now expects the same service in a store. This trend will mean even more mobile devices – such as tablets and smartphones – being used by sales personnel to provide information on individual articles at the point-of-sale (POS). The use of mobile RFID readers for inventory or goods-inbound procedures in the store accelerates in-store processes and ensures real-time information. New forms of mobile interactions will increase due to digitised customer cards via smartphones, just as mobile payments will be used more extensively.
Trend #2 Omni-channel Forward
Omni-channel retailing will continue to develop. Services such as ‘click & collect’ are known and have been widely implemented. This service will be followed by ‘return-to-store’ (eCommerce returns) and ‘ship-from-store’ to provide customers with a consistently positive shopping experience. Fulfilment from the store (ship-from-store) is necessary in order to make prompt deliveries and so that retailers can offer services requested by the customer such as same-day-delivery. An efficient implementation of omni-channel services requires real-time transparency of inventory. The integration of all channels, as well as digitalisation in the store, not only ensures a successful customer journey, but also reduces over-stocking and generates additional knowledge about the customer.
Trend #3 Real-Time In-Store Analytics
Asking the question “what does the customer actually want?” will lead bricks-and-mortar retailers to more digital intelligence, especially at the POS. Up until now, a customer entering a store was often an unknown entity with regards to their buying intentions. Reliable data in real-time, its evaluations and the derivation of recommendations to take will allow bricks-and-mortar retailers to use similar customer profiles to those typically used by online retailers. Retailers will be able to actively manage their store business based on evaluations on availability of items from the current collection, or the number of items that have been tried-on but not bought, as well as article dwell times on the sales floor. The use of real-time data at the POS is the basic requirement for merchandise planning, controlling and presentation.
Trend #4 Internet of Things (IoT)
More and more retailers will use the numerous possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud-based services to better understand their customers, increase effectiveness and further improve their customer’s shopping experience. The buying behaviour in the store can be evaluated in real-time with the use of IoT: e.g. RFID sensors combined with analytical software to optimise the shopping experience of customers. In addition, IoT enables the personalisation of offers and digital signage that increases the probability of self-service and more intelligent and extensive interaction with consumers in the store. Using mobile devices at the POS, retailers can inform customers directly or send individual offers to them. The Internet of Things is undoubtedly here to stay.
Trend #5 Consumer Engagement
The trend for interacting with customers – the so-called consumer engagement – involves adapting processes as well as technologies (see IoT trend above) and customer-oriented sales personnel (see mobility trend). Sales staff need to be able to inform customers about the availability of articles in real-time – regardless of whether the article is available in a store, in the warehouse, or at a franchise store. Interactive systems (e.g. in the fitting room) collect information on customer preferences and can recommend suitable items to customers accordingly. The customer can communicate directly from the fitting room with store staff who can support the buying and decision-making process.
Trend #6 Predictive Recommendations
Artificial intelligence will gain importance in the retail industry as part of a digital transformation. Self-learning systems and predictive recommendations will establish themselves, starting from customer requirements and sales-oriented forecasts for purchasing and merchandising up to buying recommendations for consumers in a store, fitting room or online store.
Trend #7 Cloud-based Services
In the future, cloud-based in-store services will be the most affordable and flexible solution for medium-sized and larger store chains. When expanding, services can simply be switched on or off when a new store is opening or closing using Software-as-a-Service models. Roll-outs, maintenance and reliability are generally more cost-efficient and cloud-based services will continue unabated as a trend.