5 Trends to Give Retailers The Competitive Edge in 2020

Whew! We made it! We’re back to work in a new year nay,  a new decade! How are you easing back to into the grind?

Are you like me and need to read something light and fluffy before you hit the ground running (see 50 of the best things that happened in 2019 to lift your spirits)? Or do you rip off the band aid and get right back to it?

If you’re in the latter camp, then this post is for you.

Retail in 2020 is shifting. The task of creating great shopping experiences is moving back to brick and mortar, commerce is turning more and more to omnichannel platforms, including social media, and consumer preferences are veering towards sustainable products, all of which must be embraced by retailers.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking “I needed three cups of coffee just to get my butt to work today, now you’re saying everything in retail is changing?” I get that, so let's take it nice and slow. We'll ease into 2020 together.

Here’s a look at the trends and consumer behaviors that are influencing and shaping the next year in retail. 

#Commerce is shifting to #social

Social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook have long been used by brands to sell their products. Social commerce has become an avenue for retail and this trend is only going to get stronger in 2020, with Instagram leading the pack with a complete on-platform commerce solution for brands to capitalize on.

Around 600 million of Instagram’s 1 billion users already use the social platform for discovering and buying products on their newsfeeds. Instagram launched Instagram Shopping in 2018, enabling brands to tag products and prices to stories and posts, linking to third-party e-commerce sites. And it’s working well for brands. According to Facebook, every month, 130 million Instagram accounts tap on a product post to learn more.

In March 2019, Instagram launched Instagram Checkout in the U.S. Instagram Checkout allows for purchasing tagged products without ever leaving the platform. Instagram even keeps the consumer up-to-date on the status of the order with push notifications. Once it’s expanded outside of the current closed-beta stage, businesses will be able to integrate directly or work with partners including Shopify, BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CommerceHub, and more in the future. Payments will be processed in partnership with PayPal.

It’s an interesting feature for some retailers, but it’s not #Seamless quite yet. As of now, shoppers can’t checkout multiple items in an order, saving on doubled shipping costs. Nor is it risk-free, as retailers would be required to rely on Instagram’s technical support for a major e-commerce revenue stream. And, if the platform goes down (most recently on Thanksgiving last year), retailers would miss out on a full day’s worth of revenue.

However, this technology is constantly being developed to be a value-added revenue channel for retailers, as consumers are ever looking for frictionless checkout platforms, wherever they want, whenever they want.

Sustainability & social responsibility

Consumers across generations are moving toward a desire to purchase fewer goods that are made to last, adopting the so-called minimalist lifestyle. Furthermore, consumers are embracing goods made from recycled materials and companies that give back to communities or offer sustainability programs.

Retailers and consumers alike are environmentally conscious and are paying more attention to the footprint they’re leaving on the planet. Resale is not a new practice in wireless retail, but is surging in general retail due to the extreme environmental impact that fast fashion and plastic industries are having on the environment.

More retailers are taking part in circular economies to promote sustainability (the practice of extracting the maximum value of a product while in use and recovering the materials of the product after-use). Apple, for instance, has recognized that this strategy increases connections and attractiveness of their products and is investing heavily in robotics to disassemble and recover valuable materials inside. Its newest robot, Daisy, can disassemble up to 200 iPhones an hour. It separates parts and removes certain components as it goes. The valuable materials are recovered and recycled as needed. Additionally, Apple operates their facilities on 100% renewable energy.

Easy ways to put it in practice? Check out the post I wrote for World Environment Day. Other, simpler green initiatives retailers can take on:

  • Eliminate plastic bags at checkout counters

  • Encourage & reward your employees for recycling, and reducing their carbon footprints, i.e, carpooling or biking to work

  • Offer trade-in programs

Show-off your flexibility with payment options

With endless payment options from expanded credit card options, cellular payment (i.e. Apple Pay, Android Pay), e-commerce, social media checkout functionality, and tap technologies becoming the norm, flexible payment options will continue to be paramount in retail. Furthermore, payment experiences through Starbucks, Uber, Ready, Alexa, and Google Home are driving change in other markets, and that type of innovation is coming to retail. Customers will demand seamless interfaces between stores and the apps they use.

Offering more payment options is good for your bottom line too, as customers want to pay by credit card and wireless options including NFC. Offering chip and “tap” payment means faster transactions, leading to an increased potential for spontaneous accessory and add-on sales. Digital payments are also more secure and easier to track and reconcile.

You don’t have to offer all of these options, but the key is that there are so many options out there, being flexible in payment options is critically important for shorter check-out lines and a personalized customer experience.

Looking for a new POS system for 2020? Ask yourself these questions first

Experience is everything

Here’s the thing: The “Retailpocalypse” is behind us, yet, the gap between online shopping and physical shopping is quickly closing. Which means that retailers need to offer the best-in-class shopping experience that shoppers can’t get online.

Retailers who will thrive in 2020 will offer more than a product; they focus on convenience, value, and an incredibly unique experience. Every visit to the store means a customer can find new product offerings, strongly curated assortments, and featured local goods with an emphasis on environmental experience.

Wireless businesses can integrate themselves into communities by offering special initiatives, such as educational classes, networking, and charitable events. Devices change quickly, so educating customers is increasingly important. Retailers can host events as new devices are launched or announced. With charitable events, retailers should find causes that resonate with their brand and the local community. These events can help foster a positive brand reputation and showcase the in-store experience.

Customers who choose to shop in-store pose a challenge to retailers; you need to not only ensure they remember their visit, but they must be driven to spread the word among friends and family of their great experience days after their visit.

Smarter stores with 5G technology

Finally, arguably the most exciting retail trend in 2020 will be innovations in back-and-front-of-house technology with developments in 5G technology.

The shift to 5G-data networks will mean faster internet speeds, lower latency, and increased connectivity, which will impact wireless retail for the better. 5G will create opportunities to add technology to retail that will create better experiences, and if you don’t currently have these technologies, we suggest the following for easy,  no-brainer implementations:

  • Omnichannel fulfillment capabilities to create a seamless online-to-offline shopping experience
  • Digital payments to offer even more flexibility in payment options, faster check-outs and accurate reconciliation
  • Improved back-office technology like labor, task-management, surveillance and in-store analytics software to be hyper-efficient with front and back office staff, achieving economies of scale,
  • Digital pricing so there’s no uncertainty with customers that they’re getting the latest and greatest price on your products
  • In-store wifi to boost your experiential retail game with endless opportunities for in-store engagement with shoppers
  • Mobile POS and customer-facing screens to make checkouts quicker, more personalized, and memorable

And that’s it!

Curious on how to make these implementations in your store? Check out our 3-Step guide on how to implement 5G technology in the Smart Stores: Strategies for 5G Readiness Infographic exclusively written by the retail experts at iQmetrix.

Get the Infographic