Watch these 4 retail trends in 2018
Experts weigh in at Retail’s Big Show
2017 was, by all measures, an eventful year for retail.
There were store closures, layoffs, and loads of new competition. But there was a record-breaking holiday season, and developments in marketing, store operations and supply chain that made businesses more efficient and resilient.
So what’s coming up for the industry in the new year? At NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show on Tuesday, a panel of experts looked ahead at what’s on the horizon.
Picking up the pace in stores
What’s the most important quality consumers value in stores? Increasingly, according to NRF VP of Research Development and Industry Analysis Mark Mathews, it’s speed. Among shoppers polled by NRF, 73 percent said they go into stores to buy something specific, and 58 percent said their chief concern is finding what they want quickly and easily. 
“When a consumer goes into a store, they go into that store with a laser focus. They know exactly what they want. So what consumers want these days is a quick, efficient, frictionless experience. What’s incumbent on retailers is to figure out how to provide that,” Mathews said.
In 2018, Mathews said, expect to see retailers focusing on in-store pickup features, digital payments, and other solutions that expedite sales.
“Consumers aren’t necessarily looking for the bells and whistles. They’re looking for things that make their lives easy,” he said.
Raising the bar for fulfillment and delivery
Consumers have ever-higher expectations when it comes to order fulfillment. Increasingly, they want their orders fast and they want them free.
According to Mathews, NRF research shows four in ten online shoppers expect retailers to offer free two-day delivery. At this point, that offer is “table stakes” for many retailers, Mathews said.
“The next step is one-day delivery, same-day delivery,” Mathews said.
Those are tough tricks for retailers to pull off. But as pressure from customers soars, and online competition continues to grow, retailers are going to do their best to make it happen in 2018.
Understanding Generation Z
For retailers, getting to know the up-and-coming generation of shoppers is vital to their future success. But many retailers haven’t yet begun to shift their attention to today’s youngest consumers. In 2018, expect that to change, said Laurence Haziot, IBM’s Global Managing Director and GM of Worldwide Consumer Industries.
Digitally-savvy Gen Zers are “influencers in their families,” Haziot said, and even the youngest among them already play a big part in purchasing decisions at home.
“The fact of the matter is that Gen Z has become a very profound impacter on parental spending. When I was a child, when my parents bought a couch I didn’t have any say in it. But when I bought a couch my son came along and believe me he had a say in it,” Mathews said.
As more Gen Zers come of age and earn income of their own, their unique shopping preferences and habits will have to be chief considerations for retailers. Many Gen Zers, for instance, want to collaborate with brands to develop new products more than older shoppers, according to a recent IBM Institute for Busines Value survey of 15,600 Gen Zers developed in collaboration with the NRF. 
Focusing on mobile
2017’s Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history. It was also the first $2 billion mobile shopping day. 
In 2018, expect retailers to use that as further motivation to keep investing heavily in the mobile side of their business.
“If you’re focusing on the customer, and the customer now has this tool in their hands to make life easier, the mindset [for retailers] needs to start with that point of view and work backwards,” said Phil Rist, EVP of Strategic Initiatives at Prosper Insights & Analytics. “If there’s one recommendation going forward it’s mobile.”
See more of IBM’s innovations featured at NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show and find out more about how we’re transforming retail.