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2017 Predictions: Retail Experts Weigh In

From Our Partners by Jeff Ketner, President of Ketner Group
What Does 2017 Hold?

2016 has been a fascinating year for retail. From major acquisitions like Walmart’s purchase of Jet.com, to an election cycle that kept everyone guessing, to a holiday shopping season that broke almost all of its own records, there were more than enough stories and themes to keep us on the edge of our seats.

Now, with 2017 within shouting distance, it’s time to think about the major stories of next year. At Ketner Group, we’re lucky to have some of the brightest minds in retail among our client roster. A few of those experts have channeled their inner Nostradamus and see some interesting themes emerging in the year to come.

Jenn Markey, VP Marketing, 360pi

The dawn of the golden era of the marketplace: Marketplace sellers account for 96.2% of all products offered on Amazon.com, but on November 17, 2016, Amazon announced that half of all merchandise sold on their site now comes from these third-party sellers. This allows Amazon to capitalize on high-volume items with strong margins, while allowing third-parties to assume the risk on less popular items and keeping consumers confident in their ability to get their product from Amazon’s website.

Similarly, Walmart’s recent $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet.com highlights how strategic Walmart deems their marketplace to be to the company’s future. Walmart clearly intends to broaden its online assortment, appeal to more third-party sellers and accelerate the attainment of their stated ambition to add one million products a month to their digital shelf.

Curated sales instead of sweeping sales as retailers shift away from traditional shopping holidays: With more and more large retailers seeking to create their own “shopping holidays”, like Amazon’s Prime Day and Alibaba’s Single’s Day, and with micro-shopping events accelerating in popularity, retailers are arming themselves with a promotions-based lens into the overall market, capturing insight into who is discounting what, for how much, and on which key micro-shopping dates. Investing in competitive analysis allows retailers to establish strategies that not only make the customer happy, but also position them appropriately in the market. Knowing when and where to be aggressive on price is critical at all times, and promotional seasons don’t change that reality.

Nick McLean, CEO, OrderDynamics

Omni-channel visibility gains momentum: To keep up with Amazon’s pressures, not just in commerce but in the supply chain, retailers will be investing in omni-channel solutions that provide complete inventory visibility across the enterprise, eliminating the channel silos of years past and allowing them to provide far better customer experiences. They’ll be able to give customers any fulfillment option they want, start leveraging their physical stores as distribution centers and manage returns much more efficiently. All of this will allow customers to shop and receive goods how they want, when they want, and boost business outcomes across the board.

Leveraging OMS, not POS, for merchandising strategy: As retailers try to anticipate how much stock to put in each physical location, they often rely on POS data from past seasons. But POS doesn’t necessarily tell you the full story of a true omni-channel business. In 2017, inbound and outbound logistics processes will start to provide much better operational insights as data is harvested more from order management systems (OMS) than POS systems.

Sterling Hawkins, Operations & Venture Relations, CART

Alexa and Siri become new retail customers: Home-based digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri will proliferate and expand into ecommerce, enabling consumers to ‘shop by voice’. These assistants will also spread outside the home as these ecosystems expand into automobiles (Amazon is already integrating Alexa into Ford, BMW, and Hyundai cars) and a growing number of devices.

The digital brick and mortar store hits prime time: We’ll see the growing number of in-store analytic tools move from testing and pilots to more widespread implementation as they are integrated to real-time, in-store marketing capabilities.

In-store goes online: Augmented reality (AR) will make its way into supermarket and CPG retail as the technology is used to provide rich, supplemental information and experiences for shoppers. Virtual reality (VR) pilots that provide an immersive in-store experience will grow.

AI to make sense of it: Data and channel proliferation will require more artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools to make sense of all the data and give human operators relevant information they can take action on.

Rob Taylor, CEO, Convey

The last-mile delivery experience will be a core focus: To succeed in 2017, retailers will need to compete for shoppers on the basis of experience rather than price. Our research shows that 70% of shoppers are unlikely to return after a poor delivery experience, and 1/2 of all shoppers will experience a delivery issue every year. Retailers need to stop handing over control of the delivery experience to carriers to meet their customers’ rapidly growing expectations. 75% of shoppers already expect proactive communication about their shipments and want to know retailers are resolving any issues that may arise on the journey. To achieve this experience, retailers will invest in teams and technology to improve visibility and manage the experience at the shipment level.

A revolution in free shipping: Over the last few years, Amazon set a standard in delivery that is unsustainable for most retailers: two-day shipping and free returns. The sustainability of this model is only becoming more difficult as customers expect more. In 2017, retailers will shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to offering customers more transparency and control with additional delivery options. The ultimate goal is a personalized experience at an improved margin, which can only be made possible by improved tools and data.

Jeff Ketner is the President of Ketner Group PR + Marketing, a full service PR firm with extensive experience supporting B2B vendors in the retail technology industry. Jeff is an expert in corporate branding and communications and has decades of experience leading teams focused on delivering consistent and informed services to clients of all sizes.