by Joe Pendlebury (@theuxchap)

5 “Realistic” Retail Predictions for 2018

It’s not even Christmas yet, but the self-declared Retail “aficionados” are already out in full-force, sharing their outrageous predictions for the year ahead. They must have been hitting the Babycham and eggnog, early this year…

Here’s a harsh lesson from the Retail school of hard knocks, on the reality of what is likely to lie ahead, and what needs to happen, in 2018.

1. Becoming ‘customer-obsessed’ is an absolute must

Sephora has done it. So have The Home Depot. Instilling a culture where the customer is evangelised and celebrated from the C-Level down is the differentiator between stagnancy and growth. As those above have proven, it drives long-term engagement and loyalty.

It’s not a new concept, nor is it a costly one to invest in — and it’s definitely not difficult to get a grasp of. It just needs to be the focal point of every employee’s efforts — instore, online and across all touchpoints.

2. Don’t jump onboard that tech hype bandwagon just yet

AR, VR, AI and Voice, are undeniably exciting. That said, in reality, only a tiny percentage of Retailers are currently in a position where they may be able to utilise it to add value to their product or service offering.

Not only that, your customers might not even want it! User research will go a long way to helping you understand, whether there is a desire, on their part.

Adopt a “Humans First, Technology Second”-type of mentality.

Fit new technology around genuine user needs and business goals — not the other way round.

3. The appeal of working for a “big name” Retailer has lost its loving feeling

Another year passes, and the promise of “adapting to Agile ways of working”, “delivering innovation” and “focusing on the customer”, is all but a dream. False promises are the gift that keeps on giving and the announcement of store closures and filings for bankruptcy, are now a near-daily occurrence. The prospect of career progression and the appeal of having that Retailer’s name on your CV, just doesn’t have the same pull factor, it once used to.

Expect to see a significant increase in entrepreneurial free spirits, flying the nest of job security to try their hand at running their own business — or likewise, working for a startup to gain experience, before taking on the former.

It’s hard to ignore the success of the likes of Casper, Bonobos, Away and Warby Parker. The attraction of fulfilling that lifelong ambition to run your own company is there now more than it’s ever been.

4. A setback of catastrophic proportions is what it will take for some Retailers to realise the need to change their ways

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Don’t be fooled by this saying. To survive beyond 2018, some Retailers will have to experience a seismic shock to realise the need to ditch their bad habits — and innovate. It shouldn’t have to even come to that, but for many, it’s when the proverbial penny will finally drop. Hopefully, by that point, their demise won’t have already been plotted for them.

Only when forced out of their comfort zone, will they have to analyse where in their foundations, the cracks were formed that led to this disaster. The organisational structure? The management team/culture? The approach to project management and delivery? Plenty of avenues for investigation.

The most important action is the review itself — identifying the cause, why it happened in the first place, fixing it and taking preventative steps to ensure it doesn’t happen it again.

5. The bigger they are, the harder they will fall

Sears Canada’s collapse was the standout story for me this year. In 2018, we’ll undoubtedly hear about more store closures from the likes of Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, J Crew, Gap and Staples. These are all big name Retailers, who are treading on thin ice.

Over here in the UK, today’s announcement regarding the potential collapse of Toys R Us UK later this week, should be a massive wake-up call. Again, a similar story with Claire’s Accessories.

Tough times ahead. Do or die, for many. It’s only going to get worse before it gets any better.

One Last Thing…

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