- Cryptocurrency will emerge as a method of purchase
The value of Bitcoin – perhaps the most well-known and widely used of cryptocurrencies – experienced a dramatic surge last year, with its value climbing from less than $1,000 to over $6,000. This will likely grow further still over the course of 2018, meaning retailers who previously dismissed cryptocurrency as a fad must now look into how best to integrate the payment method into their business.
Japan has already taken a leading role in this regard, with the country’s government granting cryptocurrencies legal status as a means of payment in April last year. Hundreds of thousands of retailers in Japan now accept payment in Bitcoin. This trend will see growing adoption in other regions during 2018, as cryptocurrency sheds its reputation as a shady enabler of cyber-crime, and gains acceptance from the average consumer and general public.
Cryptocurrency’s role in the retail industry is not a question of if, but when? The answer to this – for many retailers in the UK and EU at least – will become clearer next year. A number of governments have stated plans to roll out regulations and new legislation which will bring cryptocurrencies in line with anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing laws, by increasing transparency.
- Augmented reality will move into mainstream retail
Excitement around AR for retail was palpable throughout 2017, when a number of major players launched augmented reality apps. Sephora’s Virtual Artist, Ikea Place, and Dulux Visualiser all went live last year. However, Amazon’s backing of the technology and launch of its AR View in November 2017 will really kick the rest of the industry into action in 2018.
The AR market was valued at $2.39 billion in 2016, and is expected to reach $61.39 billion by 2023. Set to revolutionise the shopping experience, AR technology delivers the benefits of traditional bricks-and-mortar tangibility, whilst harnessing the most futuristic of digital technology. However, this will only be realised if AR is made accessible to all.
As such, 2018 will see the emergence of AR-as-a-Service. White labelled point-and-place type AR solutions will increasingly be adopted by retailers looking for a means of offering an enhanced, immersive shopping experience, without the costs and effort of building from scratch. A monthly subscription fee will allow retailers to affordably enter the AR scene, and scale their offering in line with consumer demand and tech developments.
- Speed will be crucial to keeping pace in the retail race
Speed will be of the essence in 2018’s retail race. Shoppers expect to be able to browse and buy at the time they want, on the device they want, without having to wait for slow page loads, outdated stock level information, or limited and sluggish delivery options. They also expect this kind of slick service in-store, meaning retailers must adopt new techniques and innovative services, as well as updating back-end technology, to stay competitive and relevant in 2018.
The unstoppable rise in online sales has been accompanied by the demise of many high street stores which have failed to deliver on shopper demands. Fewer people chose to visit bricks-and-mortar shops to buy Christmas gifts in 2017; a trend that continued on Boxing Day, with total shopper numbers 4.5% down on 2016.
This is more than a passing trend, and instead marks a general shift in shopping habits that all retailers must acknowledge and adapt to next year, or face tough times. Next is a prime example of a retailer that has done just that. Investing in its online operations allowed Next to reap the rewards of an unexpected sales surge over Christmas, with a 13.6% rise in online sales boosting overall growth.
- The rise of personalised, adaptive shopping experiences
Personalisation of the shopping experience has moved from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’ for retailers. A one-size-fits-all approach to presenting products and shopping experiences online is no longer enough to gain and retain consumers. In 2018 we’ll therefore see a rise in the number of retailers offering personalised shopping experiences and product pages that adapt to an individual consumer’s preferences.
This will be particularly relevant for those retailers and marketplaces that sell content from multiple brands. They may all have the same product content on their pages, but all consumers shop differently. As such, the layout, style and type of content on one retailer’s website may appeal to one kind of shopper, but not another, even if the product itself is identical.
Video, reviews, 360˚ imagery, bullet points, icons, lengthy descriptions, stock information, a zoom function, social media ‘share’ buttons, product recommendations: these are just a few of the multitude of functions and features which should be tailored according to a shopper’s preferences.
This year, we’ll see more retailers experimenting with syndicating content according to what shoppers prefer, delivering personalised pages depending on their previous and real-time behaviour.