With the new year rapidly approaching, Bryan Roberts (BR), global insight director, and Malcolm Fogarty (MF), global digital and innovation director sat down to share their top retail trends for 2018.

Customer experience first, technology second

There are so many hot topics across the retail sector right now – AI, voice, bots and VR to name just a few – with the common theme of technology running through them. But rather than simply thinking of the technology itself, we need to focus on how we can use it to create a fantastic customer experience. New technology can and should play a role in this process. What is clear is that despite the increasingly digital world, customers still yearn for the human touch. Regardless of predictions on their downfall, bricks-and-mortar has a key role to play. MF.

We know shoppers still want the physical experience, so for retailers its all about creating reasons to visit. It’s something that the out-of-town superstores have yet to crack, so expect to see efforts at their reinvigoration continue unabated in 2018. There will be more foodservice innovations, real estate reconfigurations, third-party retailer partnerships and the ongoing addition of new instore services. BR.

Game on

Gamifying stores, and customer engagement channels, is another way retailers will bring people back in-store, blurring the lines between retail and entertainment to create fun and rewarding experiences. When it comes to our own work, tcc’s Gametation campaigns are delivering big successes for clients across grocery, convenience, shopping malls and major fast food sectors. We expect to see more and more demand for gamification in 2018. MF.

Loyalty reimagined

In the loyalty space, there is plenty of evidence that traditional card-based schemes are running out of steam. They’re struggling to generate meaningful loyalty and doing equally little to provide a genuine thank-you to loyal customers. We expect to see a reinvention or supercharging of loyalty schemes around the world in an effort make them more rewarding and worth crossing the road for. BR.

Share of voice

Voice technology is destined to revolutionise search marketing, and a recent joint Microsoft and iProspect research paper forecast that, by 2020, half of all search queries will be carried out through voice. While innovations including voice and chatbots are exciting prospects for retailers in themselves, it is artificial intelligence that is truly fascinating factor that will stitch them all together; we’ll see plenty of retailers beginning to explore how to best use this technology, while also fighting to keep ownership of the customer relationship out of the hands of tech companies. MF.

Being good by doing good

Customers increasingly want to feel comfortable in the knowledge that their grocery stores are ethical and responsible, and retailers are reacting by working increasingly hard to transform hollow CSR pledges into tangible actions that are recognised and appreciated by shoppers. Expect to see topics like healthy eating, encouraging activity, minimising food waste and sustainability continue to remain at the forefront of retailers’ strategies and communications plans. BR.

The end of platform distinctions

The old platform distinctions between shopping in-store or online have all but been consigned to history, and the future of retail will revolve around one sole channel: the consumer. Our challenge is to build connected experiences, irrespective of device, so that customers can enjoy a great shopping experience whenever, wherever and however they choose. We’ll see a new era of extreme-convenience, with brands increasingly shaping their offerings to fit in with consumers’ busy, multiplatform lives. MF.

Retail faces its fair share of challenges, but the future should hold tremendous excitement for those with the right approach and, more importantly, for their customers too. Find out how tcc global can help you prepare for the future by visiting: https://www.tccglobal.com/

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