Voice controlled smart speaker help create improved customer experiences.

We’re in the midst of an exciting yet unprecedented time in retail — the retail landscape is evolving with incredible speed, pushed forward by changing customer expectations and needs. As demands on customers’ time and attention continue to increase, brands are offering greater conveniences, customized experiences, and deeper levels of personalization. With so many new strategies and innovations at play, it’s helpful to identify the trends that are making the most significant mark on retail. Across the industry, a few key trends stand out, including:

An analysis of these trends points to one key theme: Brands are placing customers firmly at the center of their strategies, and they’re expanding their thinking about how to engage those customers. What was effective yesterday isn’t necessarily effective today or tomorrow, and these trends represent the race to remain relevant through innovative thinking.

Bridging the Gap

As digital avenues continue to pave the way for growth in retail, brands are looking at innovative tech-enabled capabilities to solve for challenges inherent in shopping online, like not being able to try a garment on or see how a couch may look in a small space.

These tools are bringing fit solutions, product visualization, customer service and personalized guidance to life in digital channels, often leveraging mobile technology. Augmented reality-based try-on capabilities, human- and artificial-intelligence-powered chat conversations, smart speaker experiences and other technologies are helping to enhance customer satisfaction and increase comfort with buying specialized products online.

Custom clothing company Original Stitch is solving for fit challenges in bespoke apparel through customers’ smartphone cameras. Their service Bodygram creates precise measurements by scanning front and side photos of the customer. The company stands behind their technology — they claim the sizing is 99 percent accurate and customers can return the clothing for free if the fit is off.

artificial intelligence, brand marketing digital advertising

Driven by Artificial Intelligence

Many brands are experimenting with artificial intelligence throughout the customer journey, from surfacing new customer insights to informing new product development to personalizing the customer experience.

Some of the most exciting developments are occurring when brands use data-driven algorithms to determine web site design, ad messaging and placement, and product recommendations in real time, generating impressive efficiencies and enabling one-to-one personalized journeys at scale.

For example, L’Occitane en Provence created a tailored web experience that customizes the web site layout to each user, based on their location, local time, previous purchases, customer profile data and more. The result was a 3 percent increase in revenue per visit, per customer and a 4 percent increase in average revenue per customer.

Actionable Simplicity

As consumers’ need for more time converges with the availability of always-on technology, brands are developing “smart” devices that go beyond monitoring the tasks of daily life; these products quite literally are doing the work themselves. From placing dinner reservations to correcting yoga poses, these forward-thinking brands are developing solutions that work smarter and harder to make everyday life easier.

One company leaning into this trend is Wearable X, a fashion technology company that created yoga leggings with sewn-in sensors that vibrate to correct the user’s posture. The brand’s app provides additional, in-the-moment information about how to correct posture. Another example is Waggit, a wearable collar that tracks pets’ health, learning the pet’s habits, alerting owners of unusual activity levels, and sending reports directly to the veterinarian’s office.

With more than 16.6 million U.S. homes using integrated smart devices that can connect and interact with each other over the Internet (Statista, 2018), more hard-working smart solutions are assuredly on the horizon.

This glimpse into the trends shaping retail in 2019 makes it clear that brands are placing an emphasis on innovations in communication, experiences, and customer interactions that respond to their customers’ unique preferences. That means that, more than ever, it’s essential for brands to intimately know their customers through data-driven insights, ensuring their innovations are deeply relevant to their customers. As we head into 2019 and beyond, customer insights will be the foundation for the retail trends that are here to stay — and that pay off the most for brands.

Shannon Andrick is vice president of marketing advancement at Alliance Data’s card services business, and focuses on emerging trends in the retail landscape. With more than 20 years of retail merchandising experience, Andrick’s areas of expertise include CRM, patterning and competitive analysis, deepening customer loyalty through innovative products and services, and growing credit sales penetration.