As always, with a new year comes new trends in the world of retail and ecommerce. From innovative retail technologies to surprising new sales channels, here are 10 of the top innovative retail trends to keep an eye on in 2019.
1. Physical stores for digital native brands
While digital native brands like Bonobos, Glossier, Casper, and Warby Parker started online, many are launching and expanding their physical presence.
According to real estate experts, digitally native brands are predicted to open 850 brick-and-mortar stores in the next 5 years, with New York being the most popular destination.
Most of the digital brands opening stores sell apparel, which makes sense; it’s a category where shoppers definitely benefit from interacting with the product in person. We’re sure to see plenty more storefronts from these ecommerce brands — apparel and other categories alike.
“In 2019, we’ll continue to see marketplaces and traditional retailers converge. It’s happening both ways, where marketplaces like Amazon are moving to forms of traditional retail, and traditional retailers like Albertsons are making the move to marketplaces to stay relevant in the digital economy.”
– Greg Chapman, SVP Business Development, Avalara
2. Shopping with AR
The future is now: augmented reality (AR), machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) are here to stay. Retailers are leveraging AR technology to bridge the gap between the digital and the physical.
Mega-brands like Target, Lowes, and Amazon have launched AR features that allow shoppers to picture furniture in their homes. With the AR market anticipated to reach $133 billion by 2021, smaller retailers are undoubtedly close behind.
To help level the playing field, Shopify is making this innovative retail technology more accessible to smaller brands through Shopify AR (see below). This feature provides an easy-to-use toolkit for businesses to create their own AR experiences to showcase their products to customers using the Safari browser on iOS 12 devices.
“Facebook is also betting heavily that Oculus and AR are going to be big in the next 3-5 years. It’s a next-gen shopping experience. I still see adoption as a major challenge, so time will tell if this becomes more mainstream.”
– Nii Ahene, Cofounder and COO, CPC Strategy
3. Product customization
One-of-a-kind products are a classic symbol of luxury: having something that nobody else in the world has.
Ecommerce and brick-and-mortar stores alike are offering more options than ever to customize your purchase, from monograms and embroidery to fully unique color schemes.
Customization lets shoppers purchase a product tailored specifically to their needs and style.
“Major brands such as Levi’s are now offering personalized embroidery for a few reasons. It offers a unique one-of-a-kind look for your wardrobe and it lengthens the lifetime of a piece. You would think this would decrease sales, but if anything it’s shining a light on the creation of something new- and it’s become a craze.”
With the opening of Levis largest customization and tailor shop in Manhattan NY, people are becoming more aware of themselves and the clothing that they would have otherwise ditched in the trash.
“People have been chasing trends and still continue to do so, however, this idea of customization has become attractive because it allows the wearer to stand out in a sea of duplicates. Other brands such as Atelier and Repairs and Lot Stock&Barrel have based their entire company around this concept and it has only continued to grow.”
“Customization connects people to the idea that they can not only repair their clothing but they can revamp the entire look of it.”
4. Visual search
Another AI-powered retail trend, visual search allows shoppers to find and buy a product just by snapping a photo. AI works its magic to identify the product (or similar ones) across multiple sites and retailers in just a click.
Pinterest’s Lens feature, for example, uses AI technology and the camera on the Pinterest App to search for visually similar pins. Searches on Lens increased 140% year-over-year between February 2017 and 2018, proving that visual search is more than just up-and-coming.
To benefit from visual search in 2019 , retailers should make sure that their visual assets are high quality and current. AI-powered search is sure to become more and more common, making it easier for shoppers to find and buy what they want when they want.
5. Omnichannel experiences
It’s 2019, and omnichannel commerce is still a buzzword. In 2017, Harvard Business Review reports that 73% of shoppers used multiple channels to shop.
The rise of omnichannel is sure to continue in 2019, so retailers need to offer a consistent buying experience across channels, both online and off.
As the lines between digital and physical shopping experiences blur, retailers need to make sure to be agile and responsive to customer needs with branded touchpoints at all parts of the buying journey.
“Consumers simply don’t think in terms of channels. This isn’t 1998. No one is sitting around and thinking, ‘Hey, I think I’ll do some online shopping.’ For many years, and certainly, in 2019, it’s all just ‘shopping.’
Shopping journeys now go through a variety of branded touchpoints, digital for sure, but physical touchpoints too, and they are nowhere near linear shopping journeys. Brands need to be nimble, agile and responsive to shopper needs, and they need to deliver seamless, friction-free paths for their shoppers to navigate.”
– Ray Hartjen, Marketing Director at RetailNext
6. Pop-up shops
Speaking of digital-gone-offline, pop-up shops are having a moment: according to Storefront, temporary retail is expected to generate $80 billion on an annual basis.
Temporary storefronts leverage the scarcity principle and the excitement of never before seen products to provide an experience that drives shoppers to show up — and buy.
From Amazon to luxury fashion brands, retailers of all sizes are popping up across the country. These impeccably designed and curated shopping experiences engage customers are a great way to generate new revenue, interact with customers face-to-face, collect shopper data, and generate social buzz.
7. Same-day delivery
When it comes to online shopping, it seems like customer expectations for ship times are only getting faster. First came 2-day via the rise of Amazon Prime, then next-day. But in the age of instant gratification, shoppers want their orders ASAP.
PwC reports that 88% of consumers are willing to pay for same-day or faster delivery. From Amazon’s Prime Air, which uses drone technology to deliver shopper’s orders in 30 minutes or less, to the rise of delivery robot startups, delivery is only getting faster.
While same-day shipping is far from a new concept — as of 2018, 51% of ecommerce retailers already offered same-day delivery — we’re likely to see it become the norm in 2019 and beyond as order fulfillment technology and standards evolve.
“If a shopper knows they can get free two day shipping (or free same day shipping) and the unmatched customer service experience they get with Amazon, they will often choose them over lesser-known retailers.”
– Pat Petriello, Head of Marketplace Strategy at CPC Strategy
8. Social shopping
Ecommerce and social media are becoming intertwined. Shoppable Instagram posts and stories in particular have taken off in the last year, with 41% of ecommerce brands using this feature.
We know that consumers are heavily influenced by what they see on social media, especially from influencers; being able to buy directly on their social platform of choice is the next logical step in omnichannel commerce.
Social shopping is still relatively new, which makes early 2019 a great time for retailers to get on board and leverage the channels their customers already use.
Retailers can take advantage of the rise in social shopping by partnering with social media influencers and dedicating time and resources to building out shoppable social profiles, especially on Instagram and Pinterest.
9. Private label brands
To differentiate in today’s retail landscape, retailers have invested more resources than ever in private labels.
According to CB Insights, sales of private label products are growing three times faster than branded products. Private labels can help legacy brands stay relevant in a landscape where shoppers care more about quality and affordability than a brand name.
In the fashion industry especially, trends change so rapidly that retailers who don’t have control over their manufacturing and product lines can rapidly fall behind. Having full control over the design and supply chain helps brands stay ahead of the game.
As we move into 2019, keep an eye out for more private label brands that will leverage shoppers’ obsession with finding the balance of high quality and low price.
10. Ethical and values-based brands
According to Forrester, shoppers are increasingly evaluating products and brands based on a company’s ethics and values. Consumers are becoming more and more conscious of the ethos behind the businesses they buy from.
Brands like The Body Shop and TOMS have always highlighted their values as a cornerstone of their business, but as consumers demand more transparency, brands who are less forthcoming will no longer be able to get away with hiding any sketchy business practices or environmentally unfriendly operations.
Offering genuine transparency and taking a stance on ethical issues can be risky for brands, but when done right, it can build lasting customer loyalty and trust.
One example of this is Stephanie Ertzberger, a first-time entrepreneur in San Diego who is on a mission to raise awareness about the harmful effects of clothing waste through the launch of her eco-friendly fitness apparel company – Perspective Fitwear.
In the following interview, Ertzberger explains why she decided to develop an ethical fitness line of clothing for women, and how she is leveraging local marketing and advertising channels like Facebook, Instagram and Amazon to educate & empower her target audience today.
What innovative retail trends are you most excited about for 2019? Comment below and let us know!