9 Trends That Are Transforming The Retail World

Photo: Flickr / Adam Tinworth

Retail is going through a period of flux. From big box stores to specialty shops to online vendors, everyone’s trying to figure out how to survive.It has become all about the ability to adapt as technology transforms the retail landscape.

“As a shopper, your basic needs don’t change,” says Piers Fawkes, founder and editor-in-chief of PSFK. “But your behaviour is dependent on the technology that’s around you.”

The PSFK consulting team’s Future of Retail report identifies nine major trends that are part of the “seismic shift” changing the retail world, and provides examples of companies that are making an impact.

Consumers want to be more informed than ever, and brands are fulfilling that demand

Retailers are training their staff to be experts in whatever field they're in.

In an effort to curb the impact of showrooming, Best Buy's redesigned stores include multiple points of customer service and coaching -- the Geek Squad Solution centre, a home theatre design centre and the Pacific Home & Kitchen section.

Retailers are letting customers make decisions for them

Take the Barclaycard Ring -- a 'community-powered' credit card service from Barclays. There's a forum which lets members suggest features, and it also shares the card's financial statements and performance numbers with the members so that they can see how the project is doing.

Personal data is being used to customise everything

Perhaps it's a bit creepy, but when consumers decide to share personal data with retailers (like purchase histories and biometric fit profiles), they're often using it to customise the experience for each customer.

Neiman Marcus, for example, has a 'location-aware' app called NM Service which sends customer preferences right to its sales staff. A user checks in when they get to the store, letting staff give recommendations tailored for the individual.

Shoppers are being allowed to set their own prices

It's a piece of the new buyer's market, as people continue to strive for the best possible deal.

For instance, mobile app NetPlenlish lets consumers make an item list, then calculates the best deal for the entire order. On the way to checkout, participating retailers compete around the asking price.

New digital services are helping customers virtually test products

Product testing used to be limited to brick-and-mortar, but with technology advancing, there are now some reliable ways to try things out online.

Iconic sunglasses brand Oakley, for example, has a service that lets you virtually test its glasses in different outdoor conditions.

Retailers are using algorithms to help customers discover new products

Automated curation services help simplify the process of shopping.

Social shopping channel Glimpse aggregates Facebook likes and other social data to create catalogue pages, specifically catered to an individual's taste.

Digital has allowed brands to offer product customisation at a large scale

customisation is a big deal right now, and now that digital platform and manufacturing technology has evolved, retailers are able to offer it to a wider audience and at a larger scale than ever.

Evolvex, an Australian furniture seller, lets shopper customise and buy furniture online at IKEA-like prices. Customers use an online interface to design their furniture, and the pieces can be reworked at any time following the purchase.

People are willing to sell brands' products for them, but only if they have right incentives

For instance, there's Mulu.me, a social commerce platform which gives users commission for influencing online purchases. You curate your own product page, recommend items, and earn some cash.

Brands are having hardcore customers give advice to less-involved ones

Social networks have allowed this trend to take off.

Live chat sales platform Needle recruits consumers who are involved with a particular brand on social media, and shoppers can then talk to those hardcore fans. The helpers get credits (to make purchases of their own), and the shoppers get the help they need without resorting to online reviews.

Now see a presentation about the evolving retail world >

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