Retail isn’t dying – it’s changing.
Which is why 2017 shouldn’t only be remembered as the year that the retail apocalypse descended on America. Though some retailers have been struggling to keep themselves afloat, others have been finding new and exciting ways to keep their customer loyal.
Take a look at some of the biggest innovations in retail below:
Adidas made customisable sneakers possible.
Adidas partnered up with the startup Carbon to create 3D-printed sneakers. By using a photosensitive resin that hardens as light hits it, they have been able to create a sole in 20 minutes. These soles can then be easily tweaked.
Walmart rolled out a solution to one of the biggest woes of home delivery.
Walmart made it possible to receive deliveries while you’re not at home. Partnering up with the smart-lock startup August Hom, it enabled customers to order groceries and have them delivered and unpacked in their home while they’re not there. Customers get a notification when the driver rings the doorbell, and home-security cameras allow them to watch the entire process if they wish.
Amazon later announced a similar program, called Amazon Key.
Sephora created a way for customers to try on makeup without hassle.
Sephora launched a new feature called Virtual Artist on its app. It uses artificial intelligence to allow customers to virtually apply makeup, learn new makeup techniques, and see how various looks would appear on their face.
Customers can then purchase these products on the app.
Lidl made groceries cheaper.
German supermarket chain Lidl invaded the US in 2017 and brought with it cheaper groceries, thanks to an innovative business model.
The store keeps prices low by stocking a limited selection of fast-moving items, keeping labour costs down with efficient shelf-stacking systems, and by selling mostly private-label goods.
ASOS and Boohoo made fast fashion even faster.
Online stores ASOS and Boohoo challenged fast-fashion pioneer Zara by streamlining production timelines down to two weeks. By having an agile supply chain and launching designs in small batches, they have been able to match supply with demand.
Apparel startups proved that less is more with “showroom” concepts.
While the showroom concept wasn’t new in 2017, the idea has been gaining traction with bigger retailers.
Trendy menswear brand Bonobos, which Walmart bought for $US310 million in June, has 38 so-called “Guideshops” where customers can try on clothes to make sure they fit well. These items are then ordered in-store and shipped directly to customers. The unique system means that Bonobos doesn’t need to stock any inventory in its stores.
The concept has been replicated by other popular brands geared towards millennials, like Everlane and Warby Parker.
Amazon solved one of the biggest issues with online shopping for clothes.
Amazon launched Amazon Prime Wardrobe, a service that allows customers to try clothes on before they buy. There’s no cost for shipping on delivery and returns, and members are given seven days to make a decision on each item.
The more items they decide to keep, the bigger discounts they get.
Wayfair and Amazon made furniture-buying more straightforward.
Wayfair launched a new “search with photo” feature that allows customers to upload photos of furniture that they like and find similar pieces on the website. This means that customers can take photos of more expensive furniture in showrooms and find similar, lower-cost pieces on the website.
Amazon has launched a feature that allows you to test out furniture in your home before you buy it. Users can see digital renderings of the furniture in their home to see how it fits.
Walmart and Amazon are trying to eliminate lines in grocery stores.
Walmart and Amazon are on their way to creating cashier-less stores. Amazon Go, which is set to open in Seattle soon, uses cameras and sensors to track what shoppers pull from shelves. It then charges them for what’s in their carts when they leave the store – without interacting with a cashier.
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