The retail industry is booming, according to an Office for National Statistics report that shows we bought 5.9% more goods in November 2016 than we did the previous year. Interestingly, that figure leaps to 24.9% when we look at online buying, showing that online shopping continues to grow in importance. But what does 2017 have in store for small retailers? We’ve picked out some key predictions being made for the next year in retail.
1. More smaller high street retailers getting online
With more and more people now shopping online, 2017 will see an increasing number of smaller high street retailers building their online presence. Those that don’t already have a website will take advantage of the ease and affordability of building one, capitalising on this growing demand for buying online. Those that choose not to build e-commerce functionality into their websites will find that customers still use their sites to research products, find out more about them and get store location details.
2. Increased use of social media
Coupled with growth in high street retailers building their own websites, it’s likely that they will find new and exciting ways to exploit social media. As well as using it to build brand awareness and engage with customers, we could see an increase in the use of social media features such as check-ins and live streaming to run promotions.
3. Online informs offline
Ambitious retailers will be able to use the information they garner from online interactions with their customer base to give customers more of what they want. Cross-channel loyalty schemes are one way this might be achieved, with customer data gathered through online or in-store purchases used to personalise future marketing efforts. Retailers will also be able to gather data on which products sell well online and get good reviews, enabling them to invest more in selling these products in-store – as well as learning from feedback on less popular products.
4. Customer experience becomes more interactive
With growing competition from online retail, which keeps customers in the comfort of their own homes, high street shops will have to go to greater lengths to lure customers in-store. This means we’re likely to see the customer experience taking centre stage, with shops expected to big up the element of personal interaction that’s missing from online shopping.
We could therefore see shops becoming more interactive, with a focus on adding value to the experience of shopping on the high street. For example, this could mean providing customers with an immersive product experience that lets them enjoy using a product before they buy it – something that’s harder to achieve online.
We could see more retailers investing in staff, training them to become product experts and evangelists, creating an environment in which customers feel they’re in safe hands – a feeling often missing from online stores. Some innovative retailers might also look to capitalise on our addiction to smartphones by incorporating mobile into the in-store experience, perhaps offering features such as outfit planners, product information or discount vouchers via apps designed to be used in-store.
5. Different ways of obtaining products
A growing interest in the ‘sharing economy’ will see a continued interest in retailers that rent out expensive products such as designer clothes, while the popularity of subscription clubs looks set to continue unabated thanks to its convenience for consumers, coupled with it providing a built-in repeat business model for retailers. Finally, more shops are likely to capitalise on the ‘Click and Collect’ trend by making this a seamless process, merging online and offline shopping to create a hybrid shopping experience.