Stores Magazine: 2014 Predictions
posted by Stuart Cumming ~ 16/02/14
Category: Retail
Tags: Retail Trends
Cost-of-entry tenets like "keep the customer at the centre of your thinking" and "deliver on the promise of omnichannel" might still resound but Stores Magazine has made its 7 key predictions of what it sees "in store" (their terrible pun) for US retailers in 2014. 

In "What Lies Ahead" Susan Reda sees:

1. Leveraging logistics at every turn - companies must know how much inventory they have and were it is, at all times. Not having that information will impact sales, profits and customer satisfaction. 

For some time, we've been noting the slow acceptance of RFID technology into the must-do list but ever since WalMart start mandating it to its suppliers it seemed like just a matter of time.

Reda asserts even more stridently: "RFID was a nice to have a year or two ago; now it's a business essential."

2. Seduce shoppers at point of purchase - Apple's wireless iBeacons are set to transform POP communication to the point of targeting customers as they pick up products, aisle by aisle, department by department.

3. "The Age of Context" will become mandatory reading - wearable computing, big data/data computation, sensor data, social networking and location data will become part of the landscape - as long as privacy concerns are addressed appropriately and consumers can see the benefit in the tradeoffs necessary for highly targeted communications.

4. Mobile is more of a gateway than a sales engine - a smartphone as a mobile wallet is becoming more of a reality, slowly but surely. Multiple competing platforms, technologies, providers and pricing structures will initially get in the way of widespread take-up but gradual rationalisation will see a critical mass of customers using their devices for this purpose.

5. Innovation to be a top priority - leading retailers (Walmart, Norsdstrom,The Home Depot, Stapes) establishing their own innovation labs or buying tech start-ups to leapfrog the cycle is no longer unusual. This will continue at a faster pace (and probably for other retail tiers, too - CAS ed).

6. Pricing dictated by customers - new services such as PriceWaiter and Greentoe allow shoppers to "offer" a price to online retailers and see whether the retailer accepts. "Early indicators are positive; the tools lift conversion and snare traffic".

7. Unique, curated, personal, sustainable, local - these all matter and are a barrier to customers grabbing their smartphones and looking for a cheaper price.

Look to a private label strategy or local items to create a difference. J.Crew, West Elm and LL Bean have also been hiring young designers into their mix - and making sure their customers know about it.

(This will help you get around #6 above. It's also Price Differentiation 1.01 and the basic reason behind why marketers are looking to Content Marketing to set them apart - CAS ed).

So, with these insights in your arsenal, which ones are you looking to implement to make the breakthroughs your customers (and shareholders) will reward you for?
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