The year 2018 witnessed major developments across all industries and verticals, including some of the most crucial turn of events in the retail industry in India.
The year was certainly not the same for all—while the world’s largest athletic-gear maker Nike went on a consolidation spree in India to curtail losses, renowned brands like Adidas and Reebok shifted towards athleisure upon gauging its potential in the Indian market.
From major acquisitions such as that of Flipkart by Walmart, and of Heritage Foods, Lee Cooper and UK-based Laura Ashley by Future Retail to international furniture giant IKEA opening its first store in India at Hyderabad—the retail industry has seen it all in 2018.
In 2019, the market will be defined by emerging technologies that change the way consumers interact with their favourite brands, a shift in preferences, and the emergence of new battle lines for e-commerce.
As we move towards 2019, here are some of the key developments that have been predicted to reshape the retail industry:
Trend 1: Experiential Retail
Experiential retail draws the focus to a customer-centric approach where the customer is able to interact with product or brand rather than being a passive participant.
As consumers choose to invest in experiences rather than products, retailers need to respond to meet the needs of their customers. Customers do not want to just walk into the shop, buy the product and leave because they could do this in the comfort of their own home.
For instance: Slew of retailers provide a screen for customers to use where they can sign in and search their purchase history and bucket list, providing customer insight for the sales assistants.
There is also a smart mirror so they can request different sizes, alternative products or even pay without leaving the dressing room. Their high tech advancements also give the customers the opportunity to customize and order shoes, with different styles and fabrics.
Trend 2: Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality
Retailers are beginning to experiment with virtual commerce, which leverages virtual and augmented reality devices to create entirely new conveniences for tomorrow's consumers. Augmented reality (AR) is slightly different from virtual reality (VR) as it overlays holograms on top of the physical world around us. Experts have noted that by 2020, the retail industry is slated to be the top spending industry on AR and VR.
For instance: IkEA launched a new VR experience that places shoppers in the middle of a shoppable, 3D kitchen.Trend 3: Multi-Channel Retail
Moving away from the tenants of the traditional retail market, multi-channel retailing has gained increasing popularity. The aim is for the retailer to be available to the consumer on all devices. The most common device used by shoppers nowadays is their mobile phones.
With online shopping available at the click of a button and features like product details, size guide and free shipping, it is imperative for retailers to move their businesses online.
For instance: Future Retail owns brick and mortar stores, while they have also tied up with e-commerce websites such as Amazon and Myntra for selling its products. Future Retail also has a mobile app and Big Bazaar website for shopping.
Trend 4: Hyper Personalisation
The driving purpose behind today’s retail trends is to elevate the consumer-retailer relationship by increasing personalisation, transforming customers into fans and boosting Customer Lifetime Value.
Imagine a store where 99 percent of the items are selected for a customer based on their history and preferences. A shoppable virtual fridge stocked with your favourite foods. A smart speaker that knows your order history and can order your usual coffee with a simple voice command. A store where the inventory, messaging, prices and sizes are dynamically changed for you. It will soon seem absurd that we ever wasted time shopping at stores not designed for us.
For instance: Stitch Fix is an online retailer that offers customers access to personal stylists who help them find clothing based on their sartorial tastes. The hand-selected pieces are shipped to their door and customers keep what they want and send back the rest. With the option to do this automatically or on demand, customers can buy what works best for their budget and their closet.
Trend 5: Automated Retail
Lastly, the retail industry is slowly working towards creating a human interaction-free experience for the consumer. Moving rapidly towards automation on all fronts, many retailers have already adopted the cashier-less model – be it small merchants or large ones.
Automated retail is now a broad area including everything from vending machines to unmanned kiosks to unattended grocery stores.
For instance: BigBasket has launched BB Instant, as part of a broader strategy to increase the volume and frequency of orders on its platform.
Bigbasket has placed physical kiosks containing grocery items and consumables in several apartment complexes.These are unmanned kiosks. Customers can place orders on the BigBasket app and when they pick up the order, it automatically bills the wallet.
The retail industry will keep evolving at breakneck speed, but hopefully, preparing for these five trends will arm retailers with the insights and skills to grow the retail store in 2019 and beyond.