The 12 top global retail trends for 2015

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Engineering your end game and getting ready for mobile payments are both key global retail trends for next year, according to Lorna Hall, head of market intelligence at WGSN.

Hall was the keynote speaker at the WGSN Live conference in Melbourne this morning. 

She says retailers shouldn’t stop innovating but need to really focus on their customers and identify which trends they are ready for and what will pass them by. 

1. Universal carts

Universal carts allow customers to purchase from different online stores through the one website. Hall says universal shopping carts could transform marketplaces and affiliate-based businesses into a much more convenient place to shop.

“These sites may be much more important to retailers and brands. It’s not a big step to imagine a time when we all own our own mobile carts,” Hall says. 

2. Click and collect

Last Christmas in the United States was an “epic fail” for delivering gifts on time, according to Hall.

“As a result, retailers do not want to get burnt again. They are trying all sorts and it is really interesting to see,” she says.

Hall says the problem with traditional online shopping with home delivery is that it is not as convenient as we thought it would be.

“Most of the time we are not at home. The growth of click and collect is one of the ways of bridging that gap,” she says. 

3. Curbside pickup

Retailers are experimenting with other more convenient ways of delivering purchases beyond click and collect.

In Australia, The Iconic is going to allow ordering before 1pm and getting your goods after 5pm.

“In the US how you receive and return goods is a key battleground ahead of the holiday trading period,” Hall says.

Examples include department store Sears, which has launched an in-vehicle pickup. Customers wait outside the store and a staff member carries the order to their car. 

Meanwhile, Target is piloting a pickup service called Curbside where customers pick up from a tent outside the store.  The Curbside app uses geolocation technology. Customers don’t have to let the retailer know when they are ready to pick up. When their car is 30 minutes away from the store the retailer goes and gets your order ready for you. 

4. Click and commute

Hall says a growing trend is retailers introducing lockers and collection points into transport hubs.  

In the United Kingdom, department store John Lewis has opened a 3000 square metre store at London’s St Pancras station, which sells stock but also provides a venue for click-and-collect pick up. 

Fashion retailer French Connection recently opened its first “convenience store” at a tube station in London. It allows shoppers to pick up online orders on the same day if they place the order by 1pm and pick up at 5pm. 

5. A single view of inventory

Hall says the thing that unlocks many of these trends for retailers and shoppers is a single view of inventory, with 70% of the new technology and apps relying on a single view of inventory.

“If you are not working towards that in your business and making it a real focus then you are never going to be able to capitalise on a lot of the new technology,” she says.  

“This is where you get innovation for customers and you can achieve better margins for your business.”

6. Last touch service

Hall recommends retailers innovate around their end game to “elevate brand experience”. 

French company Darty has a physical help button that customers stick on their appliance. Customers pay a service charge and press it when something goes wrong and within one minute receive a call from a Darty service adviser.

In the United States, online jewellery retailer Baublebar adds a present into every purchase. There is no mention of the gift before purchase, it happens after purchase and is a surprise to engender goodwill. 

“I think we are likely to see much more of this post-purchase innovation ideas by retailers as they look to lock in loyalty post the purchase experience,” Hall says. 

7. Mobile payment

Hall says the launch of Apple Pay in the IPhone 6 has upped consumer awareness around mobile payments. 

“Mobile payments will unlock all sorts of innovation and change in retail and will change the way we shop,” she says.

“Millennials are already really willing to embrace new forms of payment.”   

New security features are allowing mobile checkouts to become faster and more convenient. 

In the United States, Venmo is providing a new payment option with peer to peer payments. Venmo is predicted to reach $90 billion in payments in the next three years. 

8. Data-driven

“Learning algorithms are increasingly being used by retailers to guide the path to purchase,” Hall says. 

Amazon is the pioneer in this area but other examples include US fragrance retailer Scentbird, which tailors recommendations to customers, and the home and renovation app Houzz.

Houzz enables people who are renovating their houses to browse for inspiration. “In theory, the more you browse the service the better the recommendations get,” she says.

9. Connecting customers

“The process of buying something is becoming a learning journey on both sides,” Hall says.

UK pure play furniture retailer Made has launched Unboxed. It’s a social platform for existing customers to upload images from their own houses to show how they have used furniture and styled it.

“You can connect really satisfied customers because they are geo-located,” Hall says.

“At its simplest, Made doesn’t want to invest in expensive retail or showroom space.”

10. Surprise and delight in-store

Hall says retailers need to surprise and delight in-store using technology.

“There is not enough of this going on but there is a real opportunity to do this,” she says.   

UK retailer The White Company has installed tiny digital projections in stores to animate products such as messages scrolling across pillows encouraging customers to touch them.   

“We are so caught up with technology that we almost forget how to charm and delight like this.” 

11. Visual search apps 

In the US, Macy’s and Target have launched visual search apps.  

Customers can pull up a photo of a friend wearing a necklace and then use the apps to find similar products.

“This technology is getting better all the time,” Hall says. 

12. Going hyper local with beacons

Hall has seen a “massive push” in terms of trial and innovation around beacons with Timberland, Apple and Macy’s all using beacons in stores. 

Hall cites research which shows 53% of customers are willing to share their current location in order to receive more relevant information.

“The question is how can retailers use beacons to impact the sale,” she says.

US department store Lord & Taylor is using beacons to track dwell time and the beacons send push notifications to alert customers to deals.

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Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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