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What does the future hold for the retail industry?

As the world changes, so does the retail industry. The days of merely opening a store and enticing customers in through the door to browse and buy products and items have moved on – potentially forever.

Retailers need to be smarter, sharper and more agile than ever before to continue to thrive in the future. So, what does the future hold for the retail industry?

The importance of customer service will only grow as their influence widens. Much of this is down to the widespread digital access to information through the internet and mass of social networking platforms, effectively giving consumers a direct line in to businesses. This can be good and bad, of course – customers become impatient and expect instant feedback. Never easy to manage!

With customer impatience comes higher expectations of delivery from online retailers. The advantages of ordering online, within a click or two of a button, are negated if customers are kept waiting two, three or more days to receive their item. In fact, anything over and above a day is considered too long. Next day delivery will become the norm – or will it?

In the future, online retailers will start to shift to same day delivery – or even same hour delivery. Want it faster? Amazon Prime Air is an unmanned drone delivery system aiming to despatch items to customer in just 30 minutes… amazing.

Side by side with customer service comes customer experience. Forbes discussed this at length in this article, which touched up the importance of customer experience and looked at five trends which may emerge over the coming year and beyond.

One of these is augmented reality, or AR. This is an experience which effectively allows potential customers to feel, taste or see a product via their smartphone or tablet – replicating the experience of physically standing in a store. Imagine being able to smell a perfume through your phone… or touching the fabric of a blouse or shirt. This is already being trialled and tested by brands and may become a reality sooner than we think.

With a few short years, the notion of customers even using their fingers to type and search for items online might seen out-dated. With the rise of voice-assisted search comes voice-assisted commerce – just ask a search engine what you’re looking for, then order what you need. The process, if it runs as predicted, could be virtually effortless for the consumer.

For retailers, technology brings improvements and advantages. Payment systems will become much slicker, with recent software developments tracking your inventory, reviewing customer history, detailing best selling items and more. The gains for retailers here are in accuracy and efficiency, removing a large amount of admin. Compiling all of these elements into one handy cash register, means retailers can track everything in one place – making their business life much easier.  

The future for retailers will remain challenging but ultimately exciting, with more evolving technology leading to increasing opportunities.

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  1. It helps to have a robust and growing economy, too. The US economy is on a huge upswing and 2017 was one of the best years ever for retail sales in the US. It looks like 2018 may even be better. Tax cuts have led to the hiring of more people and expansion. More people have more money and they are responding by purchasing more goods. It is an upward spiral that began with setting the economy on the right track, finally.

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