The retail landscape is changing at a rapid pace, driven by technology which is being constantly developed and refined to meet the needs of today’s digital-first consumers.

We can confidently say that any new retail trend for 2020 will involve technology in some way, but what will that technology be? And how much will it transform the sector? Let’s take a look at seven retail trend predictions for online and in-store this year.

1. AR and VR to become more mainstream

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have gained traction in recent years, adopted by forward-thinking retailers wanting to create more engaging and immersive customer experiences. Think apps that let customers try on clothes without moving a muscle, or sample what pieces of furniture will look like in their home before they buy.

Consumer demand for convenience, coupled with advancements in AR and VR which has made them more affordable to implement, means the tech is set to become more widespread this year, thinks BizTech Magazine.

2. Retailers to explore new shop formats

Forbes believes more brands will trial opening stores like Amazon Go, where sensors detect what shoppers pick up and charge them accordingly, ridding the need of checkouts or cashiers. It’s yet another progressive step in the integration of digital and physical retail, improving customer experience while slashing labour costs for retailers.

3. The death of marketing ‘clickbait’

Speaking to Econsultancy, Phrasee CEO Parry Malm believes this year spells the end to what he calls the ‘clickbait decade’ – think messages like ‘Act NOW,’ ‘There’s only X amount left,’ or ‘You’ve only got X to BUY BUY BUY’. The issue with this race-to-the-bottom marketing is that it’s short-termist and risks damaging long-term brand equity.

“Short-termism and exploiting people’s emotions & vulnerability is SO last decade,” Malm says, adding: “Focusing on dwell time with your brand and producing valuable content that engages your audience is the only thing that will prevent you from being the unenviable winner of the race-to-the-bottom.”

4. IoT to be adopted by more stores

As physical and digital retail continues to blur, more retailers will look to implement the Internet of Things (IoT) within their stores. It’s predicted that there will be 30 billion IoT devices in operation in 2020, up from 15.4 billion in 2015. The Mckinsey Global Institute believes that the economic impact of these devices on the sector will amount to between $410 billion and $1.2 trillion by 2025.

IoT powers things like smart shelves, automated checkouts and personalised discounts. Shoppers can receive discount alerts when they are near a certain store, while those stores are able to harness IoT to more effectively track inventory and improve efficiency. This year, more physical stores will be using IoT to create experiences that rival online.

5. Big players explore blockchain technology

Crypto-currencies such as blockchain offer the chance to bypass ‘expensive’ forms of payment, notes RIS, provided those currencies can keep the transactions cheap. But it’s not yet a reality in retail – mainly due to the complex processes involved, along with security issues.

That said, there is scope within the industry to harness the technology for things like trade spend/ promotion management, warranty tracking of goods and product sourcing. We’re likely to see big consultant and tech partners continue exploring and evolving appropriate applications for retail this year.

6. The continued rise of visual search

Visual search is proving to be a big hit with shoppers, especially younger generations. Shoppers can search for clothes or other items by uploading a photo onto platforms like Google Images, then use that to inform the search with artificial intelligence (AI). It’s helping to refine consumers’ product search process, improving CX as a result.

Retailers have a good incentive to adopt visual search: Gartner predicts that brands harnessing the technology will see their digital commerce revenue increase by 30% by next year. Brands targeting younger shoppers should make it a priority.

7. Focus on mobile shopping app security

Today’s consumers are very aware of the vulnerability of their data when shopping online, with a study showing that almost six in ten consumers who don’t use apps are worried their information will be compromised. It’s pivotal that brands have effective solutions in place to put consumers’ minds at ease.

From safeguarding point-of-sale payment information to ensuring processes are GDPR-compliant, retailers will need to respond to consumers’ shifting security needs. This will involve putting apps through the same type of penetration testing and endpoint precautions that companies use to protect other parts of their networks.

What next for your retail business?

No doubt these trends will affect your retail company in some way or another. Success will depend on you anticipating the trends and technologies likely to make the most impact in your specific retail sector, and putting in place processes to adopt them before the competition.

If you need any help harnessing the latest technology trends, why not get in touch with the Delta Group? As Europe’s leading in-store, outdoor and online visual communication specialist, we can help you to create enriching, innovative experiences for consumers and drive sales as a result. Give us a call today!