The brand new year has arrived and if one is involved in retail, one is likely wondering what the next 12 months will bring.

What must merchants do to win? Will the retail industry prosper and thrive?

A handful of trends and predictions retailers should pay close attention to in the coming months:

Retailers will need to invest more in their workforce

2019 will be a tough year for companies that underpay and overwork their employees. The retail employment landscape is shifting; hiring is on the rise, and the labour market is tighter and much more competitive.

Then there’s the fact that the role of a retail associate calls for more than just sales and store admin. These days, retail associates must evolve from being “salespeople” to consultants and experts.

This TIME article said it best: the retail worker of the future is “cool, charismatic, and better paid.”

It’s no longer enough to train employees on your products and store policies — these things are just the bare minimum. You also need to train them to relate better to shoppers. Your associates should have the ability to connect with customers in a memorable way.

Retailers that offer compelling in-store experiences will flourish

In many ways, retail stores are no longer about “location, location, location”; they’re about “experience, experience, experience.”

People don’t flock to retail locations because it’s convenient (some still do, but because of ecommerce, “convenience” usually means shopping online). Modern consumers make the effort to head to retail shops because of the experience they get in the store.

The “right” customer experience strategy will depend on one’s products, store, and shoppers. It’s essential that one knows all three like the back of one’s hand so one can come up with the best offerings possible.

Choice and flexibility — particularly at the last mile — will be more important than ever

According to PSFK, “82% of consumers say that they are more likely or much more likely to purchase for a brand that offers multiple delivery options.”

This should come as no surprise, as we already know that shoppers have higher demands than ever, particularly when it comes to order fulfilment.

Things like free 2-day shipping, same day delivery, and in-store pickup are becoming table stakes, and retailers need to keep up.

Back office solutions and innovations will be at the forefront for many retailers

The backend of one’s retail operations may not be as sexy as customer-facing initiatives, but in 2019, one will need to invest in one’s back office in order to thrive.

So, how can retailers improve their back-office operations?

One can start by evaluating one’s processes and technologies to identify areas for improvement.

Specifically, are there any inefficient tasks or steps that are preventing one from providing the best customer experience possible?

For instance, if one is unable to offer a seamless shopping experience between one’s e-commerce site and brick-and-mortar store, then perhaps it’s time to integrate one’s online and offline systems.

Retailers will turn to new metrics to gauge performance

Modern shopping behaviour — e.g., the practice of trying on products offline and purchasing online — are blurring the lines between online and offline retail.

If one is selling on multiple channels, one can bet that one’s presence on one channel will influence sales and brand perception in another.

Bottom line

Self-development author and speaker Brian Tracy famously said, “In a time of rapid change, standing still is the most dangerous course of action.”

Those words are more relatable than ever, especially in the retail industry.

The landscape is evolving, and one’s survival depends on how well one adapts.

Article by Fundisiwe Maseko, IT News Africa