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Key retail technology trends to watch in 2018

What should the retail sector be prepared for?

The rapid pace of the retail industry can be tough to follow. Every year, technology, buying habits and market trends are evolving, putting pressure on retailers to innovate if they want to stay ahead of the curve.

2018 is already shaping up to be a pivotal year for the sector, as retailers scramble to embrace new concepts and refine the customer experience. Here, we explore some of the key retail trends to watch out for over the next 12 months.

Incredible customer experiences

Online shopping has eclipsed traditional retail. This has been a long time in the making, but reached a tipping point in 2017, when ASOS surpassed Marks & Spencer’s market valuation.

People like the convenience of shopping in their own home, especially when it comes with a wealth of choice and great customer service. However, there’s one thing that e-commerce doesn’t have: the face-to-face interaction of an in-store experience.

Expect to see the customer experience gain a new lease of life in 2018. Nike, for instance, is planning a flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The venue won’t stock any products on its upper floors. Instead, it’ll provide a style advice centre, shoe lockers, and training plans that match items to a sporting or health regime. NikePlus members can also scan their phone to find a shoe that matches their preferred size and colour.

It’s an extreme example of how personal shopping and customised experiences will keep the high street in good health.

Wider use of Big Data

We’re used to smart technology, but what about its increasing role in data capture? Retail brands will be exploring better digital methods of giving people what they want, and managing their own processes through Big Data.

By tracking, analysing and responding to human behaviour through technology, savvy retailers stand to gain a competitive edge.

Data can be mined from cookies and social media, suggesting what a visitor to a site might like, based on their purchase history. This can be used to refine digital advertising and maximise conversion rates through retargeting.

3D virtual reality tours

Virtual reality headsets are gradually maturing from their novel beginnings in gaming and commercial stunts, to become valuable tools for retailers. Brands can utilise this technology to give customers a taste of what they want before they lay the cash down.

IKEA has already made forays into virtual reality tech – Australian buyers can walk around their own living room, filling it with IKEA products, and visualising how a refit might look with new sofas, rugs and tables. We’re expecting a slew of retail names to take virtual reality on-board over the coming year, either as an in-store feature or via an official download for smart devices.

Close-knit collaboration between brands

Retail outlets across the developed world are feeling the squeeze from Amazon. In response, we’re seeing a lot of innovative partnerships spring up from one brand to another.

They share design concepts, show off tie-in product ranges, and allow a for a crosspollination of social media posts that boost exposure across multiple audiences.

A strong example is that of Pico Vela, a women’s knitwear e-tailer, which joined forces with Denisa Piatti jewellery for an autumn/winter 2017 campaign.

Direct to consumer sales

Companies are recognising the long-term benefits of doing everything themselves; even startups are taking on this mentality. That’s because the internet is a high stakes game. Succeeding on your own terms will build a huge organic following, which feeds back into data and business intelligence, in turn making the customer journey ever smoother.

The trend towards ‘direct to consumer’ tactics is reducing reliance on third-party services, as many brands choose to cut out the middle man.

Only those that build and support the best analytical software will be useful to the majority of retail businesses, at least until they hire in-house staff to do the same thing.

It’s with great excitement that we look ahead to the rest of 2018… These top trends are going to offer many opportunities for ambitious brands and talented individuals in the retail sphere. As a trusted partner for both candidates and employers, Rullion is a go-to recruiter for the sector.

Looking to unlock your potential in retail? Browse our latest jobs or contact us to discuss your recruitment plans.

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