Technology dominates the retail news this quarter as the sector gears up for Christmas and the busiest season of the year.
From smartphones to AI and payments, here’s an insight into what’s making the news, with the retail roundup for September.
Smartphones to drive Christmas retail
For the first time ever, smartphones will be the device of choice when it comes to Christmas shopping, according to a prediction from Salesforce.
The US based CRM conducted research that indicates mobile phones will account for 46 per cent of all orders, edging out computers (44 per cent), and far outpacing tablets (9 per cent):
- Mobile will deliver 68 per cent of all ecommerce traffic this season, an all-time high, which reflects 19 per cent year-over-year growth
- Mobile traffic share will peak on Christmas Eve, when shoppers will turn to their phones to make 72 per cent of all visits and 54 per cent of orders
- Free shipping will prove to be a mandate this season, as 72 per cent of all orders will ship for free, a slight increase over last year
“Mobile is undoubtedly the most disruptive force in retail since the onset of ecommerce,” said Rick Kenney, Head of Consumer Insights, Salesforce.
“This is the year shoppers turn to phones, buying more on phones than any other device, and making far more visits, too. We’ll see more visits from phones this season than total ecommerce visits across the entire 2015 shopping season. And even those in-store shoppers are mobile — 83 per cent of shoppers aged 18–44 are using their phones while in a physical store.”
A moderate year ahead
As the retail industry gears up for the busy Christmas season, Deloitte Access Economics predicts a moderate year ahead for the sector, according to Business Insider.
They note 2017-18 saw retail spending improve, but consumers had to dip into their savings to support it.
According to the latest Deloitte quarterly Retail Forecasts report, real retail sales grew 2.6 per cent in 2017-18, an improvement on the 1.9 per cent of the year before.
Retail volumes rose 1.3 per cent in the June quarter but growth is set to moderate.
“Department store sales were particularly strong after a disappointing start to 2018, growing 2.2 per cent over the quarter,” Deloitte Access Economics’ partner David Rumbens said.
“But this pace of growth cannot be sustained given the pressure on household budgets.”
Sainsbury’s trialling smart payment tech
On the subject of major retailers, UK grocery giant Sainsbury is set to embrace smart technology and trial a new form of payment.
Retail Tech News explains the retail giant is testing a mobile application for bar code scanning and online payment in a bid to shorten queues.
The new technology allows shoppers to scan and bag items in-store before purchasing using online payment via Apple Pay.
“Technologies and new buying habits have transformed the way people shop. Our team is constantly working to offer innovations to customers and we are proud to be the first to get a way to buy without checking out”, Clodagh Moriarty, director of digital operations, Sainsbury’s said.
The new version of SmartShop will be tested in a Sainsbury’s store in Clapham.
Largest clothing retailer to offer all products online
Inditex, the company behind global brand Zara is set to make all its products available online by 2020, allowing consumers in areas where no stores are available to shop the chain’s popular clothing items.
Inside Retail explains the company has announced they want to make all their fashion collections available to all their customers wherever they are in the world.
It’s all about the experience
“Price won’t make the difference. It will be the experience.” These were the words of Samsung’s John Godfrey who recently joined US retail industry leaders at a roundtable hosted by AXIOS.
Godfrey noted consumers can always find an equivalent, if not better, price online than in-store.
Meanwhile US National Retail Federation’s Paul Martino told the group: “In terms of the experience, we don’t see the death of retail. We see a transformation. With augmented reality for example, you’ll be able to put on goggles and see how furniture will look in your home, and how paint will look on your walls.
“Retailers have to use technology to align their interests with customers’ interests, so they always want to come back.”
AI to level the retail playing field
An article in Forbes predicts artificial intelligence will level the retail playing field. Once restricted to the major online behemoths like Amazon, the technology is being embraced by multichannel retailers across the board, with Forbes noting it allows them an insight into stock, pricing and consumer behaviour.
They outline three key benefits of the tech, including:
- Communication through personalised online shopping experiences
- Optimisation of pricing to automatically adjust prices based on competitor prices, consumer demand, and even the weather.
- Rationalisation of inventory to identify gaps, forecast inventory and place orders, but also help reduce excess stock build-up, making retail more efficient.