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5 digital retail trends to watch in the next 5 years

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Mitch Joel, true to form, delivered a thought-provoking First Look session at NRF's BIG Show, discussing the paradigm shift going on in retail right now. The retail world no longer needs to ask itself if consumers want mobile or social or apps - consumers want all of those things. The question is, how should retailers proceed going forward? What's going on in the next five years? Joel offered five ideas to get retailers moving in the right direction:

Direct relationships.

Retailers are at war with brands. Brands and retailers are actively competing against each other in social media spaces for those all-important direct relationships with consumers. As Joel described it, it's the battle for "likes." He recommends turning the problem around by transitioning to the idea of liking your customer. Interesting note: this is exactly why Apple decided to go retail. 



We all know analytics are important. Heck, we've been trying to use them for years! But Joel predicts a massive transition in which retailers combine their current very linear relationship with data with the more cyclical silo that comes from gathering data from many different places. Social CRM is imminent (and we probably won't be calling it that for very long!).  The problem Joel foresees is that retailers just aren't staffed for this kind of analytics yet.

Utility (or death).

So you developed what you thought was a really good app, a lot of consumers downloaded it and then ... no one used it. Your app can't just look cool, Joel cautions. It has to offer your consumers something useful while still connecting them with the brand. For example, Nationwide, the insurance company, offers an accident app. When you get into a car accident, you open the app, and it prompts you through the correct steps of dealing with an accident, such as telling you your location, suggesting you take photos of the event and exchange insurance information with the other driver, and even offering to help you file your claim right there. This is the ultimate in utilitarianism. The app provides a service for the consumer. This should be your goal.

Passive vs. active.

This is probably the biggest shift of all for retailers to come to terms with. First, you need to accept the fact that a lot of consumers are simply passive by nature. That's why TV is still as popular as it is. But the active customers? You can't react passively to them. Your brand needs to interact with them aggressively. And those passive customers? Start thinking about how to persuade them into being more active.

One screen.

The only screen that matter is the one in front of the customer, Joel asserts. Whether it's a mobile device, a tablet, a TV, or a networked screen on the wall of the living room, you need to be on it.