The future is bright for Australia’s small retailers who can keep up with the needs of the modern shopper.
It is not the beginning of the end. Or the death of retail. If you take a minute to look, you’ll see that retail in Australia has never been more vibrant or more exciting, with growing independent stores, more artisan products, more ways to buy and sell and interact with customers. But it is customers that are key.
So how do retailers keep up with consumer demands in 2018? Here are four trends that will have a big impact on retail in the coming year.
Robots (but not as you know them)
While we may not see many robots talking to shoppers on the shop floor, we do expect bots to play a bigger role in supporting retail operations. Such as in fulfilment centers. We’ll also see more robots online, in the form of chatbots. According to Ubisend’s 2017 Chatbot Report which surveyed 2,000 consumers, the “majority of consumers are aware of what a chatbot is (57%) and over a third (35%) want to see more companies using chatbots to answer their questions.”
As more Australians embrace instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, we’ll see retailers using these platforms to talk to customers and streamline communications. For instance, if a shopper wants to track their order, they can just “ask” the retailer on Messenger, and a chatbot can automatically retrieve the shipment information. In 2018, more small retailers will investigate what messaging platforms their customers are using, and explore ways to use chatbots to build relationships and improve customer service.
The rise of Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and Messenger apps will fundamentally change how retailers interact with consumers online. Simply posting photos or updates to a branded social profile won’t cut it anymore. Small businesses will need to up their social media game and use social networks and apps to tell stories and engage with followers in real time.
Big data and machine learning
Data’s role in decision-making will grow, especially as technologies like big data and machine learning continue to mature. Forward-thinking small retailers will keep exploring ways to collect and leverage data in their sales, marketing, customer service, and operations. It’s important to understand that being data-driven isn’t just for large businesses. Smaller players can also use their data to gain real insights by using sophisticated retail reporting – which quite a few modern-day POS systems now provide. Monitoring your sales analytics also helps to better connect with customers. Using this data to learn about customers tastes and preferences means you can source the right products and improve their experience.
QR codes will make a comeback (again)
QR codes have gone in and out of style many times in the past decade or so, but for 2018, we’re willing to bet that these codes will make a comeback. With Apple baking QR code scanning into iOS 11, it’s easier than ever to use QR codes. All you need to do is launch the iPhone’s native camera app, and it will automatically read the codes — no extra software required. This will encourage more small businesses to further leverage QR codes in their sales and marketing. You might consider incorporating these codes into your packaging or advertising and marketing materials to make it easy for shoppers using a mobile device.
It’s all about how well you adapt in 2018. For some, this might mean finding ways to better use business data, for others it could be adopting new technologies or more training for staff. In all cases, it will be about putting the customer first and creating a memorable experience. To see even more trends for the coming year, check out Vend’s full list of retail predictions here.
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