In a media presentation this week, executives at Verizon’s retail division said while the first half of the year was fraught with difficulties, the second-half outlook is bright.
That’s not to say the challenges in the market are dissipating. Fast fashion, dining out and spending on experiences will continue to steal dollars from the fashion apparel and department store segment. But a “technology-rich, consumer-centric environment” offers a well of opportunity for retailers and brands — especially for companies making the right tech and IT investments, said Michele Dupré, group vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solution’s Retail, Hospitality and Distribution practice.
“There is unprecedented pressure on retailers,” Dupré said. “And retailers need to react to changing consumer expectations.” Dupré said there were “brights spots” in the first half, and “there’s time for companies to do some course correction.” She noted that the challenges for retailers include shifting from an internal focus to more of a “customer-centric” model where technology and data are nearly ubiquitous.
Some of the notable trends Dupré and her team are seeing that are driving change in the market include expediting the “last mile” of the delivery and fulfillment process as well as “a more personalized customer experience.” Of the latter, Dupré said it is true across all sales channels and must “cater to all generations.”
Dupré said successful retailers and brands are also leveraging data and using it to improve forecasting. But are most retailers using data in the right way? “I just don’t think they’ve mastered how to make that data actionable — yet,” she said.
Other agents of change include a preference for mobile technology. As previously reported, more consumers are using mobile phones to shop online as well as while they’re inside physical stores. Dupré said that even as online sales see double-digit, year-over-year growth, the physical store is essential and retailers that operate in both environments — online and with a store — can thrive.
Dupré acknowledged that many companies struggle with making technology investments and that “cost pressures” remain. But consumers in the market expect and demand the benefits that technology provides.