9 Retail Trends to Tap Into in 2017

From on-the-spot checkouts to in-store events, experts predict these trends will shape retail next year.
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Millennial shoppers want to know how and where products are made so focus more on promoting product sourcing. (Photo: mimagephotography/Shutterstock)

A lot is changing for brick-and-mortar retailers, from the ongoing competition with online retailers to the emergence of Generation Z as a new market to cater to.

As we head into 2017, the way customers shop will continue to transform. Here are the retail trends experts predict for the coming year.

More in-store tech integration. One of the biggest advances retailers will see in 2017 is in the integration of tech in store, according to Ani Collum, a consultant and strategist with Boston-based firm Retail Concepts. “A lot of retailers have shied away from that,” Collum said. “They have their POS and that’s it.” We’ll see more stores offering roving, on-the-spot checkout and self checkout, digital signage, tablets around the store with product information, wi-fi for customers to use and interactive displays and mirrors.

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Host events and find activities that will familiarize customers with your retail store, says Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s Retail Group. (Photo: Faith Hope Consolo)

More in-store experiences. Apple’s store redesign in 2016 added gathering spaces and meeting areas to host events. According to Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s Retail Group, other stores are following suit and getting more experiential.

“Look for more creativity, more engagement and immersive experiences in the least expected places,” Consolo said. Think free yoga classes at athletic stores, arts and crafts classes at kids’ stores, vendor pop-ups, trunk shows and holiday parties at gift stores.

Collum noted, “Anything that gets people into the store that’s not completely transactional deepens your relationship with them.

“UX” thinking. User experience, or UX, usually refers to what a website user thinks and feels while using a website. But Collum said the retail industry will start to view the in-store experience in much the same way. Sellers will think more about how products are displayed and how customers move through the store to optimize the shopping experience for buyers. “Anything that makes the path to purchase easier,” Collum said.

Thomas said customers “won’t tolerate different online and in store experiences any longer either.” Ensure your promotions match and merchandise your stores so they’re as easy to navigate as websites are.

Tyler Headshot

Creative email campaigns are making a resurgence, according to Tyler Sickmeyer, CEO of Fidelitas Development. (Photo: Tyler Sickmeyer)

Email marketing comeback. Tyler Sickmeyer, CEO of San Diego marketing agency Fidelitas Development, said this low-cost marketing tool is more relevant than ever. “Shoppers are rewarding brands for their creativity and content relevancy with higher open rates, making the ROI of an email campaign more appealing than ever,” Sickmeyer said.

Wider embrace of data. Small businesses have been more reluctant than big box retailers to track and use data behind the scenes. Collum suggested small businesses, at a bare minimum, do regular traffic counts to better understand why business is up or down at any given time.

Outsourcing for efficiency. “What we’re seeing is a shift in how small businesses can be most efficient,” said Consolo. She predicted small businesses will be outsourcing more day-to-day business tasks to companies who specialize in payroll and HR. “With those responsibilities assigned, hands-on workers can devote more time and attention to caring for customers.”

Greater emphasis on product sourcing. Millennial and Generation Z shoppers in particular are keen to know how products are made and where they’re sourced from. Steve Thomas, chief marketing officer of Windsor Marketing Group, said this trend will only become more important, as will brand storytelling.

“Customers want to know what the retailers they patronize stand for. Retailers that use merchandising to smartly communicate what they believe in and that market their unique in-store experience can capitalize on this trend.”

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Find ways to get personal with customers and develop a connection in order to keep them coming back. (Photo: iofoto/Shutterstock)

More intimate connections with customers. Collum said large stores are trying to think like smaller stores to appeal to shoppers who want a unique experience they can’t get online. So small stores need to up the ante. One way to do this, said Collum, is to get personal. Whether it’s hand-writing thank you notes to customers or sending gifts and new products to your top shoppers, small businesses need to work to create intimate connections with customers to keep them coming back.

Service and convenience over all else. According to Sickmeyer, in 2017, younger shoppers in particular will continue to prioritize buying from local retailers that provide a shopping experience they can’t get online. “Retailers don’t have to worry about matching Amazon to the last penny; rather, they should focus on providing superior service, such as an extended warranty or return period.”

Thomas adds, “Service, individual connection to customers and connection to the community by giving back are ways for small businesses to differentiate themselves from larger competitors.”

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