Countless articles have been written lately about the economic uncertainty that the retail industry is facing. While sensational headlines about “the retail apocalypse” may grab people’s attention, they should be taken with a grain of salt. Recent research from IHL found that despite the negative headlines, retail sales were actually up $190.6 billion through the first 7 months of 2018. What’s more, discount stores, in particular, have been performing extremely well, collectively opening new stores by the hundreds. The retail industry has been undergoing a metamorphosis over the past few years, and this is just the beginning of what Deloitte calls the “great retail bifurcation.” This article explores some of the key trends influencing the retail industry and pushing it in a new direction.

Data-Driven Personalization

Customer data is one of the most valuable assets that today’s retailers possess. Failing to make the most of it is a common mistake that has needlessly cost many retailers their businesses. ThinkWithGoogle recently published a piece on the importance of unifying customer data: by using real-time customer analytics or historical data, retailers can build meaningful long-lasting relationships with customers. To do so, retailers must understand customers’ true needs and wants. For instance, how many orders has an existing customer made in the past and what were the items purchased? Is this customer part of one of your loyalty programs? What did the customer look at online without completing a purchase? Unifying customer data also means offering personalized promotions when customers have been particularly loyal to your brand. Investing in a modern promotion management solution that incorporates machine learning to enable retailers to plan and execute new personalized promotions will engage customers effectively while also protecting the bottom line.

Improved In-Store Experiences

When today’s connected consumers visit your physical stores, they often have a very specific idea in mind and can get annoyed if they don’t find what they’re searching for quickly and efficiently (like they’re used to on the web). Customers looking for specific items that caught their eye online should never have to helplessly wander the aisles. Instead, why not equip your sales associates with MPOS solutions so they can check the inventory in real-time and assist customers whenever and wherever needed? In recent years, savvy brands have made subtle changes to their stores to make the in-store experience even more enjoyable, without it being too over the top. For instance, Racked recently published an article about Anthropologie and how “the mood lighting, dreamy music, and handcrafted art pieces give the space an overwhelmingly homey feel that is very much on purpose.”

Better Inventory Management

With modern demand management solutions, more and more companies are starting to analyze historical data in order to predict future demand for new products in order to avoid costly overstocks and stockouts. Better managing open-to-buy budgets and financial plans to keep your business healthy is also critical if you want to hit your business goals. Allocating inventory to the optimal store at the right time is essential to retail success. Getting supply and demand just right in today’s complex retail landscape requires the right planning tools and technology that will augment your team’s capabilities with the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Omni-Channel Retailing

Competing in the instant gratification economy is becoming increasingly difficult. Customers are now so accustomed to getting the products they want when they demand them, that not meeting their expectations of omni-channel experiences leads to major disappointment. The Financial Post found that 78% of superconsumers (the consumers who used BOPIS at least twice in the past 12 months) would like to pick up their BOPIS orders within 24 hours. Today’s customers won’t settle for less than the very best, so retailers need to ensure that they invest in the right tools to effectively manage their supply chain and meet customer demand all year round.

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