Internet of Things

Five trends driving retail success today and in the future

| By Ryan Hatfield, Lexmark Portfolio Director for Smart Retail

Five trends driving retail success today and in the future

TAGS: Internet of Things , Retail, Artificial Intelligence, Thought Leadership

Two of the biggest retail shows in the world have just wrapped up for 2023. EuroShop in Europe and NRF in the U.S. saw the retail community come together to share insights about the new technologies, products and processes helping drive growth across the sector, despite a slowing economy. Between a pandemic, an ongoing war and an energy crisis, the global retail landscape has dramatically changed over the past few years – directly impacting the challenges retailers face.  

Still, a wave of innovation has helped retail weather the storm. For retail tech, small steps have grown into giant leaps. For one, AI and machine learning have brought about cost-saving investments, at a time when retailers must carefully consider every dollar spent. 

Here are five key trends that promise to help retailers build their brands and drive growth, even during economic turmoil: 

1. Smart retail solutions are on the rise

As consumers become more connected, they are demanding digitally enabled experiences that align with their online lifestyle and expectations. With new communication technologies that can quickly penetrate the consumer market, retailers need to ensure that they are working smarter, not harder. For example, having visibility over what is happening in and around a store in terms of stock or the ability to offer in-store digital marketing experiences to customers will bring a unique service to customers.  

Understanding what is happening in and around retail locations through AI-based solutions enables retailers to spot trends and proactively engage with customers in the moment. Utilizing smart solutions for real-time understanding – something retailers haven’t managed to make wide use of yet – will be critical for getting ahead of trends and adapting to changing consumer demands.  

2. Data drives success

By understanding data, acting on it and engaging customers accordingly, retailers can optimize store performance and deliver customer experiences in novel and interesting ways. Simply having data for the sake of it will not deliver the intended outcomes or insights needed. Data must be actionable. For example, smart devices that track real-time activity in and around a store equips associates to focus on priority tasks at any given time – like heading to the register when lines form.      

Moreover, this data gives headquarters staff visibility into what is truly occurring in their stores. All levels of leadership will have real-time insights into how each location performs against corporate and customer expectations. 

3. Get personal with personalization  

True personalization in retail requires a unique, tailored approach that customers can emotionally connect to, often using data and AI. Nowadays, consumers who are not made to feel special or who have an experience that does not serve their demands will often seek business elsewhere. Simple user experience issues, such as lack of product on the shelf or long lines at checkout, can be enough to turn customers away. Retailers need to adopt a personalized approach to in-store sales in order to stand out. Data and AI helps gather and analyze trends and customer behaviors, so that marketing and sales are tailored to what the customer wants – before they may even know themselves. With the steep rise in cost of living and increasing business costs, customers are making fewer purchases outside of their essential needs. Offering a personalized experience, balanced with fair pricing, will allow retailers to keep customer attention.  

4. Optimizing the supply chain

With speedy delivery at the forefront of customers’ minds when shopping online, retailers need to ensure each process in the supply chain is optimized in a way that both eliminates errors and accelerates business operations. Gaining greater visibility on logistics processes through data capture and reducing manual, paper-based tasks that delay logistics operations can help retailers simplify the process. Furthermore, knowing which parts of the logistics process are causing delays and eliminating unnecessary and under-used devices in the process can drive big savings and reduce administrative time for staff.  

5. Empowering the workforce

A satisfied workforce drives a successful business. Today, many workers look beyond compensation and benefits when selecting an employer. Employee empowerment is important for any business. For retailers in particular, empowerment comes from offering solutions and leveraging technology that can automate tasks to provide better workplace environments and enable more meaningful work. For example, the in-store signage process—from design to distribution to management and measurement—can be completely automated, giving employees time to focus on customers and other more fulfilling tasks.

Retailers are bracing for a challenging environment over the next few years, which is why now is a crucial time to prepare and get ahead of trends. Leveraging the right technology systems and devices aimed to improve customer service and gain customer attention holds the key to futureproofing operations to overcome any challenges in the future.