As evidenced by previous posts, 2017 has been a year of transformation. From the ever-increasing sophistication and ubiquity of technology to the emergence of new economic and social trends, this year has been massive in the scope of its changes. This theme was certainly prevalent in the retail industry, which experienced multiple large-scale transformations over the year.
Perhaps most notable were the number of brick-and-mortar store closings, which were so pervasive some even theorized a sort of “retail apocalypse.” However, the retail industry as we know it is not dying; just changing in a few major ways. Here’s a look at what may be in store for 2018:
- Retailers will focus on ways to increase operational efficiency so they can deliver goods to consumers more quickly. This could entail everything from implementing new delivery methods, such as curbside pick-up and lockers, to overhauling business practices related to inventory management and logistics.
- Unexpected collaborations and acquisitions will continue, especially those that combine or expand retailers’ physical and digital capacities. Retailers will need a strong presence in the brick-and-mortar and digital markets in order to engage and serve customers most effectively and efficiently.
- Retailers will develop new ways of connecting with customers. In particular, there will be increased focus on making physical locations more experience-based and immersive. For example:
- offering more services in stores such as styling, fitting and customization and
- integrating augmented reality features that allow customers to sample and/or customize purchases.
Of course, all of these innovations will require new training and upskilling for the retail workers who will execute them. Given the importance of technology and customer service to these strategies, training in digital and soft skills will be paramount.
Local Goodwill organizations supports several initiatives designed to equip workers with these skills. Interested employers and participants should reach out to their local Goodwill organizations for more information. More detailed information about next year’s shopping trends can be found in the National Retail Federation’s STORES magazine.