Published on in RetailInnovation

High-street figures are at their worst in five years, and it’s clear consumers are wary of spending their money as inflation exceeds UK average wage growth, causing prices to increase and purse strings to tighten.

It’s also increasingly clear that retailers cannot simply rely on what has worked before or depend on their heritage to get shoppers through the door.

With that in mind, here’s what they need to do to win in 2018:

1. Collaboration

We saw a lot of collaboration in 2017, and we expect to see even more this year. Most recently, Tesco announced its partnership with NEXT, and over the coming year more supermarkets will likely follow suit looking to recreate the store-within-a-store model. Along this thread, we’ll also see more consolidation of companies in the form of mergers and acquisitions.

2. Mobile

Mobile will continue to be a key driver of traffic, sales and engagement for retailers this year. We saw that last year the majority of hits on Black Friday were coming from mobile, and this is only going to become more widespread. With the latest phones getting bigger and better screens, mobile will become the one route to market.

3. Supply chains

The supply chain will be affected by many factors in 2018. To begin with, driverless and robotics will dramatically change the retail supply chain. We’ll see more pilot schemes where retailers and manufacturers experiment with driverless and robotic technologies to alter the delivery process for components and products, resulting in faster routes to market.

4. AI

Artificial Intelligence was the ultimate buzzword in 2017, and is clearly here to stay. Outside of retail, we’re already seeing that half of people are comfortable being diagnosed by an AI doctor for instance, and in retail it’s already happening without consumers even realising. Webchats, for instance, with a brand or retailer use AI to respond to questions. As AI becomes more advanced, these webchats will become more sophisticated, providing customers with their own 24-hour personal support.

5. Security

Security has never been more important than it is today. Attacks can, at their worst, completely destroy a brand and we’ve seen the significant financial and reputational impact they have. Attacks can also stop or enforce a pause on trading, which for a retailer can be disastrous. In the coming year retailers will need to ensure that their cyber security defences are a top priority in order to prevent an attack, or mitigate and reduce the damage should one befoul them.

6. Payments

Payments will be a hot topic for retailers this year, particularly in the wake of a surge in popularity for contactless payments. It’ll be interesting to see what payment innovations retailers adopt over the coming months as they look to make the retail experience a more seamless journey.

7. Personalisation

Personalisation and customer centricity is going to be increasingly important this year. As the retail landscape becomes ever more competitive. Thanks to the advancement of AI and customer relationship management systems, it’s now the easiest it has ever been for retailers to know their customers from the moment they walk through the door, click online or swipe with their mobile. Over the next year we expect to see retailers finally using these tools to better their customers’ experience as they’ll now have the insight into their shoppers that they were previously missing.

8. Voice ordering

Voice control made plenty of chatter amongst UK retailers in 2017, and there are signs that this is only the beginning. Culturally, Amazon and Apple have changed the way we interact with our devices through Alexa and Siri, and as we move into self-learning voice assistants we anticipate that this medium will truly take off and become a part of our everyday lives.

This year is likely to be a tough one for retailers, but the right innovations can help foster success and growth.

The battle is on to win over consumers’ hearts and loyalty, and retailers need to ensure that they are customer-centric, providing them with the services and channels they want, if they’re to cut through what is a very noisy market.

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Rupal Karia

Head of Public & Private Sectors at Fujitsu UK & Ireland
Rupal leads Fujitsu's business serving public and private sector organisations in the UK, encompassing Retail, Hospitality, Public Sector & Government, Manufacturing, Utilities, Telecoms and Services.

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