To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Rumors of retail’s death are greatly exaggerated.”
That was one of many major takeaways from NRF 2018, held earlier this month in New York City. Online and mobile-based shopping is bigger than ever, (as shown by a massive 18% bump in online Black Friday and Thanksgiving sales figures,) and the overall retail landscape is undoubtedly changing, but the if this year’s NRF is any indication, the chatter around the impending retail apocalypse is due to die down.
Brands will continue to seek to reach and retain a broader swath of digital-savvy customers, and personalization of the customer experience will remain a prime focus of retailers seeking to differentiate themselves and offer a higher-touch level of personalized service than is possible firing off countless impersonal email blasts. Mobile remains a strong and growing channel for retailers, but the gulf between mobile-based traffic and actual conversions continues to vex merchants. Peter Sheldon, VP of Strategy at Magento Commerce, told Diginomica that based on their figures, mobile represented 60% of total web traffic, but only 30% of orders.

Data Won’t Save Brands Lacking Clear Value Propositions

Brands also will be looking to clearly identify and make clear their specific value to customers. Global Customer Strategist David Ciancio noted in an interview with Diginomica that data science, once thought of as a panacea for retailers, will do little to buoy those who don’t have a clear market focus or a deep bench of loyal customers. He says that data science becomes most useful once a brand understands its value proposition.

Online and Offline: Two Worlds Becoming One

There will also be more online/offline convergence as brick-and-mortar and online merchants borrow strategies from one another in their ongoing quest to find that elusive sweet spot between digital and in-store. In an interview with Retail Dive, Chief Huang, CEO and co-founder of online bulk-buying wholesale retailer Boxed, said he envisions a future for the company that includes a blend of online sales and brick-and-mortar stores.
It was a refreshing change to get away from the doom-and-gloom predictions of retail’s future that have inevitably peppered the conversation around the industry in recent years, but retailers still face real challenges, and will need to continue innovating and defining their place in the market in order to find success in the rapidly changing retail world.

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