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2018 was a roller coaster ride for retail as businesses scrambled to adjust to changes that are reshaping the retail landscape. What’s in store for 2019? Our new survey of the state of retail reveals more change is in store, plus opportunities to reinvent operations to be faster, smarter, and nimbler.

The 2019 Retail Trends Report explores six emerging trends in retail that will help empower retailers to create exceptional, insightful shopping experiences for customers. Our highlights below don’t cover all the findings and recommendations, so be sure to set aside time to dig through the insights packed into this 57-page report.

1. Customer experience reigns supreme

Younger, technology-empowered customers continue to influence the retail experience, demanding more innovation in the way retailers deliver shopping interactions. In 2019, millennials make up a quarter of the U.S. population, overtaking baby boomers as the largest population. Gen Z, the first generation of digital nativists, will be the third largest population by 2020. Together, these two generations of savvier, smarter shoppers have incredible leverage over how retail evolves in the next few years.

Both demand a truly seamless, personalized omni-channel experience, with Gen Z especially focused on price. In fact, 89 percent of Gen Z consumers consider themselves price-conscious shoppers, with 72 percent saying they’ll switch from favorite brands if they find a similar product at a lower price.

Insight

Empowered customers expect amazing experiences. In 2019, retailers need to sharply focus on personalized, experiential, and mobile-first customer interactions.

2. The rise of the monobrand, fall of the monolith

Multi-brand retailers felt the heat from smaller, nimbler retailers in 2018. We said goodbye to more than 5,000 retail stores in 2018—including nine major brands and department store anchor tenants. Meanwhile, a new X-economy has emerged—new business models to attract millennials and Gen Z.

While physical retailers have shifted focus to their online stores, e-commerce leaders are opening small physical stores strategically located near target buyers, including pop-up kiosks—allowing customers to test products, repair damaged products, and talk to associates. On-demand services will grow to nearly $57 billion in 2019—from printing to food delivery and dog sitting—which has also driven growth in on-demand and micro-manufacturing. The sharing economy, popularized by services like Airbnb, will grow to 86.5 million U.S. users by 2021—nearly doubling in just two years. And online-only services like subscription box services and online consignment will pose a unique threat to retailers—or a unique opportunity for those willing to reimagine business models.

Insight

The rise of direct-to-consumer models and anything-as-a-service models reflect the changing expectations of consumers. In 2019, retailers must evolve beyond existing business and operating models.

3. The rise of the everywhere store

In 2019, A-commerce (anywhere) will become the new reality as an overcrowded marketplace pushes retailers to diversify their points of sale. Research highlighted in the report shows that customers want to purchase on their terms, whenever and wherever they want. Businesses can no longer force customers to a website to make a purchase—instead, every platform is a purchase platform, from social media channels (Pinterest, Instagram) to mobile payments to chatbots and virtual personal assistants (like Cortana and Amazon Alexa).

Insight

Retailers need to deliver a consistent shopping experience across every channel—from social media to smart speakers—plus flexible fulfillment options to truly deliver the ability for customers to shop on their terms, wherever they are.

4. Operations drive excellence

Customers want faster checkout times and more flexible delivery, according to the new report. This will make a big impact across operations, from the back office to warehouses. In 2019, more retailers will leverage robotics, automation technologies, and intelligent supply chains to enable seamless synchronization between supply, demand, and fulfillment.

Blockchain will also gain prominence, as retailers begin to embrace benefits beyond efficient financial transactions such as the ability to improve the accuracy and efficiency of tracking a product’s journey from supplier to shipper to retailer. We’ll also see retailers employ blockchain to reduce the risk of fraud, reduce time to complete transactions, improve loyalty programs, and increase customer trust.

Big changes are in store for frontline sales associates too. 83 percent of shoppers believe they’re more knowledgeable than retail store associates. By equipping store associates with mobile devices that provide product information, credit card checkout, and inventory look-up, employees are more empowered and engaged to deliver experiences people want.

Insight

Customers are demanding quicker delivery and more transparent processes. Companies that deploy digital technology will see benefits in inventory management, fulfillment, data analysis, and employee management.

5. Next-gen technology will make an appearance

In 2019, we’ll see retailers experimenting with emerging technologies like augmented reality, drones, and deep learning—technologies that can make a big impact at every step in the customer journey, from product selection to fulfillment. Augmented and virtual reality are expected to generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020, and more than 54 percent of retailers already use or plan to implement artificial intelligence technology. On-demand and micro-manufacturing will grow in tandem with new service business models that promise faster, more personalized offerings.

Insight

New technology is changing the way customers shop and the way retailers do business. From AR/VR to autonomous vehicles to artificial intelligence, modern retailers must leverage the latest technology to provide innovative experiences and evolve their businesses.

6. Uncertainty will put a strain on retailers

We’re living in an age of uncertainty. 2019 will usher in a new list of risks and obstacles that retailers will need to confront. Trade tariffs, GDPR, environmental policies, regulatory flux, and shifting economic and political landscapes will make a big impact on retailers everywhere.  In fact, 49 percent of surveyed business leaders feel they are exposed to more uncertainty today than three years ago. 42 percent of CEOs globally report over-regulation as a top concern.

Meanwhile, as millennials and Gen Z become more influential, both as employees and consumers, they are pushing businesses to behave more responsibly. 66 percent of consumers felt it was important for brands to take a public stand on social and political issues.

Insight

Today’s retail leaders face many difficult decisions as they navigate through a time of considerable ambiguity and uncertainty. In 2019, retailers need greater visibility into their business operations and performance to help them identify emerging hazards, adapt quickly and scale with ease, and connect with the socially-conscious consumer.

Get the full story

As the world changes in 2019, retail will need to be smarter, nimbler, and more flexible to weather the storm. Download the 2019 Retail Trends Report to explore each of the trends summarized above and learn what it will take to create exceptional, insightful shopping experiences in the new year.

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