Retailers’ top priorities for 2019

“Who said apocalypse?” At a session on the Innovation Stage at NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show, Forrester retail analyst Sucharita Kodali presented a sneak peek at findings from Forrester’s upcoming survey (see last year’s State of Retailing Online study). The headline: More retailers are opening stores than closing them, and many are setting near-term goals and investing in technology to help propel their businesses in an evolving industry.

Short-term investments

Forrester’s findings revealed four main goals for retailers for this year:

  • Grow revenue. Retailers are focusing marketing efforts on acquiring and retaining customers and launching new products to drive revenue.
  • Reduce costs. A competing goal is to reduce costs by lowering IT spending but improving the supply chain and retaining employees.
  • Improve customer experience. Most retailers who responded to the survey said they will be working on both the online and in-store shopping experiences and increasing the frequency of engagement with customers.
  • Improve products and features. Retailers will simultaneously be making products easier to use, launch products faster and increase customer input when designing products.

Long-term investments

Thinking about the longer term, Kodali said retailers are also investing in a variety of technology. Most are interested in improving data security, which has been a focus lately with policies like GDPR and the California privacy law coming into effect. Personalization, mobility and cross-channel improvements are also top of mind, while buzzy topics like AI, AR, VR and robotics are still being explored.

Personalization is hot in retail circles, but shoppers — especially wealthy ones — are still distrustful of the concept: More than half of all consumers expressed concern about retailers knowing too much about them. Shoppers don’t want to share a lot of personal details for purposes of personalization, although 60 percent were willing to share details about products they liked. But “it is incredibly important to continue collecting data in a way that is useful for retailers,” Kodali said.

Mobile’s impact on the shopping experience continues to grow. More people than ever are using their smart devices to compare prices, look up product information and read reviews both in the store and before coming in to purchase. Retailers can aid the mobile shopping journey by addressing how consumers can give frictionless feedback and get self-service anywhere. As the world becomes more connected, it will be more important to get multichannel retail right — especially when creating a seamless process from start to finish through the entire customer journey.

To learn more about how retailers are investing, download NRF and Forrester’s 2018 State of Retailing Online report. For more stories from the show, check out the official NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show recap.

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