Consumer and Retail Trends in 2018

Consumer Trends in 2018. Hi, guys. I’m, Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail, and 2018 is going to be an exciting one. While 2017 saw what some might call the retail apocalypse, I have always steadfast and say, “Hey, retail is not dying. Retail is evolving,” and 2018 is going to be where we really see that shift. So let’s unpack a couple of these key pointers and go deep into what these consumer trends are going to look like.

Number one, we’ve got a shift towards consumer-centricity. Next, we’re going to be talking about voice search and what that means for the consumer and for you as a brand or retailer, followed by individualization and how consumers are looking at individualization. Next, we’ve got mobile-first and mobile-only technology platforms. Gen Z and Gen Alpha, which is going to be coming up after Gen Z, is also seeing a rise of new online apps and platform. This is super exciting. Platforms that you guys have not heard of yet are going to be starting to really gain a lot of steam. After that, we’ve got the ever so prevalent pop-up shops, shop-in-shops, and the concept of co-retailing. Co-retailing is going to be a big thing that we see in terms of consumer trend.

So let’s unpack consumer centricity. So consumer centricity is really the synergizing of your sales, marketing, and merchandising in order to better service the consumer. Now, what does that mean in more specific details? Well, that means that everything from how you communicate on your mobile devices, on your newsletters on a weekly basis, are all going to be really big and impactful ways in which your consumer is going to be completing that customer experience. It’s not just about getting in that first-time buyer, guys, it’s about getting those repeat purchases. And so consumer centricity really draws upon the after-sale, the after-care after you’ve actually sold that product.

Text messaging is going to be one of the biggest waves that we see really come back in terms of consumer centricity. I’d like to say, guys, that we’re just moving back towards how we used to do old-school clienteling. Remember the black book? Remember how sales associates would have a book of all of their clients and what they purchased? Well, that’s now transitioning into CRM or Consumer Relationship Management system, similarly with text messaging. It used to be that sales associates would text their customers, give them a call when new products came in. But now, guys, we have the ability to do that on mass and on scale by some of the new text messaging applications.

So consumer-centricity, it is not just getting them in the door, it is servicing them outside of just the product. It’s about selling to them a lifestyle, showing them that your products and that who you are as a company really plays a role in their life, not just in terms of buying one thing one time but really serving to add value. And the ways in which consumer-centricity, aside from text messaging, is going to really take form is how you’re leveraging all of your different social media platforms and how you are getting in front of your customer in real life.

Next, we got individualization. Now, what does that mean? Well, guys, these days every single person out there is an entrepreneur, right? You’ve got this big gig economy out there. Everyone can go out there if you’ve got a license and drive an Uber. Everyone can go out there and rent their apartment on Airbnb. So this idea of being able to turn every single person into their own business is really interesting. Similarly, while we have the rise of the gig economy, we also have people who are looking for more personalized services. 3D printing, for example, is an amazing way in order to offer customization. People are looking to be integrated and spoken to when they log on to your website. They’re more and more likely and open now to integrate and sign up with Facebook or any other social application.

Why is that important? Because it gives you guys so much information and data about who your customers are. Sometimes, we like to see it as a relationship between the consumer and the brand or the retailer. Just as much as consumers want to be sold to, they want to be sold to in individualized ways, and as retailers and brand owners, we want to be leveraging that data to better offer better services, products, and price points to that consumer. So on this point of individualization, I would say go back to understanding your data analytics. What kinds of tools and business intelligence software can you integrate with? Data is the new oil. How are you mining for that data?

Next, we’ve got voice search. Now, what’s so cool about voice search is that it’s really as simple as being able to pick up your phone, turn on that dictation, and say, “Hey, where is the closest Starbucks?” Siri is one of the first to adopt this kind of voice search technology. However, guys, it is now being proliferated through Google Home, Alexa, Amazon Echo amongst others, like Siri, for example. If you’ve ever picked up your phone and asked for directions or you’ve started to use any type of voice dictation, you are already implementing these kinds of technologies into your own life.

Now, one thing that I think is so fun when we get a chance to speak in front of big crowds is I always tell people, “Take a look at your own consumer habits. Take a look at how you guys are consuming and using data and technology. Similarly, your clients are also adapting and using those similar types of services.” So, guys, when it comes to understanding voice search, what’s going to be so fascinating for you is that it’s going to really impact SEO. Before, it used to be that from an SEO standpoint, you could have misspelled words because, obviously, some people would be typing so fast that they would misspell certain keywords or key long tell phrases. But now, you’re going to see less and less search misspellings.

You’re also going to see platforms like Alexa, like Home start to have partnerships with different retailers and different ways of curating product. So you’re going to want to make sure that you are partnering up with these services in order to find out how you can also take advantage of search. And lastly, you might also encourage people on your e-commerce platform to be searching. You might say on your little sidebar, in the hello bar, you know, “Press your voice dictation. Let us serve you better.”

Now, we’re also going to see, alongside with voice search, is also moving towards chatbot. Now, what’s so interesting about chatbot is yes, it’s great to be able to offer a live person who can chat with you in that moment, but if you guys are not able to have someone who is actually behind the scene, then having a chatbot where it says that you’re online or not available doesn’t really do you much good, right? The consumer is still left discouraged. So if you have the ability to have customer service on the backend to manage those live chatbots and live chats, then amazing. If you are selling a high-end product or service or you think your customer might need to get a little bit more information to close the sale, then you do want to make sure there’s someone on the other line of that chatbot during the regular operating hours.

Now, the chatbot really relates to another huge trend, text messaging. Text messaging, again, goes back to old school clienteling back in the day when you’d have your CRM software and have your black book and start to connect with your consumer. But what’s so cool about text messaging, guys, is it is brand new for the consumer. There is a 98% open rate on text messages. Why is that? Because it’s so new. Not everyone is implementing and using it.

Now, I’ve seen it executed in a few different key ways. The first one in which you can execute that is by having a text, you know, XYZ phone number in order to get 15% off your first purchase. You can also send a bounce-back email or something that informs your customer, “Hey, we’re going to notify you via text message when your product arrives. We’ll keep you posted up to date with news and shipping and information.” You can also include that on your checkout, when you have a little box to sign us up for the newsletter, “Let us inform you about your purchase via text message.”

And then obviously, guys, when you start to implement text messaging, you want to make sure that it says, “Hey, message and data rates may apply. Text us back with ‘Stop’ in order to end.” Because there are going to be some legal requirements that do come up with text messaging and you do not want to get in trouble with any of those local or federal laws regarding using someone’s phone number. But, guys, text messaging is the new form of email.

I love how a couple of brands are implementing this. And I’ll tell you how they’re doing it. The sneaker company, GREATS, is doing an amazing job of executing on this, and how are they doing it? Well, not only are they notifying me every time there’s a new product on the site, but they’re even leveraging it to tell me about interesting collaborations and things that they are doing. For example, they just partnered up with Nordstrom’s, and you know what, they send a text message out to everyone to say, “Hey, we have this cool collaboration. Click here to learn more about it.”

Similarly, there is a brand new fragrance company out there called PHLUR, at P-H-L-U-R, and what’s so interesting about they did is when they shipped over a product, they also sent me a text message and said, “Hey, we hope you enjoyed your samples. Let us know if you have any questions. By the way, text and message rates do apply. Text us back ‘Stop’ if you no longer wish to receive these messages.” And what I thought was really interesting is one is obviously using it in order to drive traffic and keeping interest and the other is really on a customer service platform.

Next, guys, we’ve got Gen Z apps. Now, what’s so cool about Gen Z is that these are the guys who are…you know, the oldest Gen Zs are really the bottom, you know, right underneath the youngest millennials. And I think the term “millennials” is really, it’s so varied, right? It’s so wide. You have older millennials who have children right now, and then you also have younger millennials who are graduating out of college. But the Gen Zs are the ones who are in high school. They are the ones who are just starting college and they are implementing some really cool apps out there in order to get people interested. So big for 2018 is ICMs like YEAY, Y-E-A-Y, and other types of online apps like Yellow, and online hangouts that are really geared towards Gen Z to activate them. I love these platforms because they’re allowing teenagers to be able to also adapt into the gig economy. They’re also allowing for teenagers to be able to sell things online.

So oftentimes, when we think about new technologies and new social media apps, sometimes, we go, “Let me wait and see how it’s going to adapt first before we actually adopt this for our business.” However, by the time it becomes big, guys, you might be late to the game and late to the platform. So what I suggest doing is really keeping your eyes and ears on the ground for the latest new technology apps in terms of social selling and just in terms of social media. Every single young person out there today has the capacity, again, to become their own business and their own entrepreneur.

If you can capture those audiences and turn them into tomorrow’s influencer and tomorrow’s sales ambassador, you’ll start to see better and better partnerships. A great example of that is musical.ly, right? musical.ly, which started off as a platform for lip-syncing, has now turned into a major platform for young people to be able to do performances. And guess what? Imagine sponsoring or having your jacket or your T-shirt on a musical.ly singer, right? This is amazing product placement for Generation Z to be able to be influenced. And trust me, guys, these are the people who’ve been growing up with YouTube. These are the people who are growing up with Snapchat. They already know the power that they can have over an audience and the power that they can have to be entrepreneurs.

Now, the final three things that I think are really valuable have to do with the physical space. Certainly, guys, we’ve seen a huge trend toward spending more and more money in terms of digital marketing, online dollars, how we drive traffic. Mobile selling is so valuable and important. A lot of companies are launching with mobile-first platforms and then building e-commerce after the fact, and what I think is so important about that is it gives you guys an opportunity to be able to really leverage and test and have different strategies for your mobile sites versus your e-commerce platforms. And, of course, you’re going to want to leverage those opportunities to drive traffic and to drive in real-life experiences.

So co-retailing is one of those big ideas that really came out of 2017 until end of 2016. Co-retailing simply means there is an empty space and you’ve got a few different partners and brands in there that are renting that space. Usually, they are in high-traffic, high-dense areas, and the reason why brands are flocking to these spaces is because of how difficult it can be to get bought into retail stores. Because the market has been tight and very difficult because there are so many brands, brands are taking it on themselves to be able to collaborate with one another and to rent spaces together. You’re also seeing sites like Flying Solo and Dreams on Air, which are brick and mortar spaces that are finding, selecting, and curating brands. And Wolf & Badger is another great example of that. And you can actually rent space from them to have your product there in a high-traffic area.

Now, the other two things that I love about being in-store is we’re seeing the rise of the shop-in-shop. 2017 Saw so many examples of big-box retailers opening up shop-in-shops. Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom certainly with their new brand new initiative, and even going into 2018, even Marcus is starting to introduce more emerging designer shop-in-shops in their spaces. Now, you might be asking yourself, why do all these big guys care so much about emerging designers and emerging brands? Well, guys, it is the age of emerging designers and emerging brands. Consumers want newness. Retailers need to find that newness. Well, how do you find them? Well, you go to the brands that are not being sold everywhere else. So don’t be afraid if you’re a brand out there to pitch those retailers, and, retailers, please keep your eyes and ears on the ground for these brand new designers. These designers are the ones that are going to drive the newness, the freshness, and help you to attract a much stronger consumer base.

Now, of course, guys, pop-up shops, one of my favorites. Pop-up shops will continue especially as you see the decline and storefronts closing on a national level. Recently, on a trip to New York, I was walking around the West Village and I saw so many empty storefronts, and I said to myself, “What a great opportunity? What an amazing opportunity to be able to have a pop-up shop?” And the pop-shops are no longer just branded pop-up shops with a single brand. You are starting to see retailers open up satellite locations with other smaller brick and mortar spaces. This is an amazing opportunity for you if you are a small retailer or even a larger retailer and you’re looking to get in front of and curate a smaller selection of products to that customer. Back in the day, J.Crew did a great job of that when they opened up their men’s store, right? This was a little satellite store that they had in New York City that was really curated towards that particular man and towards that consumer. You will start to see more and more of that happen.

All right, guys, those are my consumer trends for 2018. If you have difficulty or trouble or even want to run by your strategy and make sure that you are honing in on the right market platforms, please do send us an email at hello@scalingretail.com. We work with amazing brands globally in terms of getting together a strong market entry strategy, making sure that you’ve got the right communication voice, and harnessing on technologies for tomorrow that are going to impact your customers for today. Leave a comment below. Watch our 2017 Retail Strategy Consumer Forecast because lots of interesting things there, guys, and you’ll see, I kind of know what I’m talking about. All right, leave a comment below, shoot us an email, and come find us. We’re on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. We are where you are. Thanks so much. Bye.