Retail Trends for 2018

We speak to some industry experts about what to expect in 2018.

Bobby Shome, Global Business Development Director, Centiro:

“In 2018, retailers will need to keep pace with consumers’ growing delivery expectations. Right the way around the world, from online retailers using buses to deliver items in London, through to grocery chains introducing same-day deliveries in New York City, the range of delivery and fulfilment options has increased dramatically. This delivery innovation will continue throughout 2018, with consumers growing accustomed to having access to more granular delivery detail, such as driver name, location and exact time of arrival. 

Retailers must keep pace with the technological advances that make it possible to meet, and exceed, the expectations of today’s consumers. However, these need to be executed well, or retailers will be in trouble: last Christmas more than three quarters of European consumers said they would switch to an alternative retailer next time shopping online because of a poor delivery experience. To lay the foundations for success, retailers should have a central ’hub’ from which they can easily manage a variety of fulfilment services and providers. The successful retailers of 2018, and beyond, will be the ones that continue to focus on customer service, with a seamless customer experience across all the delivery services they offer, be it a bus, a bike or a drone.”


Ralf Gladis, CEO, Computop:

“2017 saw much talked about technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), fast become reality. Our smartwatches are starting to pay for travel including taxis and our smartphones are just beginning to become a universal tool to buy and pay everywhere.

In 2018, I believe that we will start to hear a lot more about larger devices that will soon process payments for us. For instance, we will see the beginnings of cars that are automatically able to pay for fuel and parking fees. 

With that scenario in mind payment will have to become a silent, smooth and automatic process and only payment methods that support this will have a future. We need established payment brands that consumers already trust. 

We’ll just need to consider how we would want our car to pay for fuel. Credit card, PayPal or our company fleet card? Handing that process over to our devices will be a big change in consumer behaviour. There will be winners and losers.  I believe that new payment brands with no history or trust would keep consumers from embracing new technology and would slow the process down. Established brands will probably make the decision easier.

Other technologies to hit the headlines a lot this year have been virtual and augmented reality. China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba was ahead of the game with VR Pay, which allows virtual reality shoppers to browse through virtual reality shops and malls and pay for things simply by nodding their head. Shopping identity is verified through authenticated account logins on connected devices with passwords or using voice identification technology designed to recognise unique voice patterns of a person.

Whilst not mainstream yet, the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors are all looking for opportunities to commoditise virtual worlds with virtual shop shelves, augmented and 3D product views. These technologies can provide real opportunities to bring visual representations of goods more in line with their physical reality. A particular plus for mail-order and e-commerce companies. Applications like these open up new possibilities for online purchases, but also present new challenges at the checkout: entering billing and delivery addresses is far from plain sailing in a virtual space and media disruptions are to be expected.  Straightforward navigation and easy shopping also call for simplified payment processes. One-click buttons are becoming more and more prevalent.  By positioning them in the shopping cart or even at item level, innovative payment schemes are hoping to appear on the screen as early as possible in the payment process and stay one step ahead of other payment schemes. And, at the same time, the customer benefits as the payment process becomes easier for them.

Whether you’re a fan of virtual reality or not, what’s clear is that virtual reality is by no means simply the stuff of movies. It will become a new sales channel. Businesses, and the payments ecosystem supporting them, must transform in order to offer safe and easy to use virtual shopping experiences for customers.”


Ben Chesser, CEO, Coniq:

Retail data will take centre stage in 2018 due to three key factors:

Value: The role and value placed on data will dramatically shift this year. Shopper data will be regarded not just as a useful insight, but as a business asset in its own right on a company’s Balance Sheet.  The value of data was demonstrated in 2015, when the most valuable asset on Caesars Entertainment’s accounts was not its real estate on the Las Vegas strip, but its Total Rewards loyalty programme where all the shopper data was held.

Quality: Personalisation of the retail experience will be key to driving engagement, revenue and repeat custom, and it can only be achieved with high quality shopper data. The big winners in 2018 will be retail companies who can identify trends in data sets, and use automation to create relevant, real-time engagement and rewards to customers based on their specific behaviours.

For example, our recent research shows shoppers who eat at a retail destination will shop an average of 35 minutes longer, visit 25 percent more stores and spend an extra 12 percent during their visit. This insight allows shopping centres to serve-up relevant offers at the perfect moment, for a customer’s preferred brand enhancing customer experience, building brand loyalty and driving tenant sales.

Compliance: The other big trend for 2018 will be compliance. The General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) deadline is fast approaching and anyone dealing with customer data will need to undertake the mammoth task of ensuring compliance by May 2017.  And don’t think that Brexit is a get-out clause – any organisation doing business in Europe must be compliant. On the plus side, one outcome of GDPR compliance is that data will become more valuable as it comprises highly-targeted, clearly consenting audiences.

In a year where consumers should feel more confident about the brands they engage with, 2018 may well lead retailers and shopping centres to redefine shopper data as a financial asset.


David Buckingham, CEO, Ecrebo:

“Although the dawn of a new year is typically seen as a fresh start by consumers, it’s not always so for brands; rather a new year presents an opportunity to build on the work they’ve been doing, particularly around loyalty.

With Black Friday spending online hitting £1.4 billion in 2016, one of the major challenges retailers now face is competing effectively with the growing e-commerce threat. One of the best ways of overcoming this is through the in-store customer experience, which is inexorably linked to loyalty. Loyalty, and particularly in-store loyalty, has evolved rapidly over the last years, driven by advances in technology and growing consumer savviness. 2018 will undoubtedly signal further trends and changes.

It’s still all about data… and personalisation

We’ve been talking about data and analytics for years now and it continues to play a critical role. Importantly, when it comes to loyalty and personalisation, it’s about the quality of data collected and how the data is actually used. According to research, 61 percent of retailers agree that the quality of data can improve loyalty and retention rates.

So what does this mean going forward? With the compliance deadline for GDPR fast approaching, 2018 will see a change in attitude from retailers. While many are no doubt doing this already and following best practices when it comes to data collection and consent, there needs to be an added level of consumer education in terms of where and how their data is used. We know that most consumers are willing to share their data with brands, but they need to be encouraged to do so, and increasingly, they need to feel reassured that the retailer will use their data appropriately and carefully. This is something that will continue into 2018.

Taking that a step further, the same research revealed that 44 percent of a brand’s customer data is gathered at the till. This presents an excellent and mostly untapped channel of opportunity for retailers. The key? Using this data in real-time at the point of sale to offer loyal customers personalised, offers that they value. This will go beyond stretch spend offers or money off regularly purchased items and extend to messages delivered at the point of sale with additional information about the products shoppers have just bought.

Hyper-personalisation versus automation

Hyper-personalisation is here to stay; there’s little argument here because it just makes sense. Giving your loyal customers rewards they actually find valuable and an experience they enjoy, all based on relevance. However, there’s a slight contradiction here because as the desire for and delivery of personalisation increases, more and more automation will play a role. Can the two work together? For 2018, the answer is yes. While more applicable to the online environment (think about chat bots and the targeted use of data gleaned from shoppers and the queries that can be answered) the strange mix of the two elements will also influence behaviour in-store. The increased presence and popularity of self-help kiosks, mobile points of sale, and store assistants using smartphones and tablets, can all contribute to overall experience and influence loyalty, while still providing those elements of personalisation. Importantly, 2018 will be about finding a balance between the two.

Artificial intelligence or augmented intelligence?

We should worry less about AI and more about augmented intelligence. Yes, AI has a contribution to make to retail; especially as it is predicted that 10 percent of purchase decisions will be influenced by agents (such as chat bots) and the platforms they reside on because of the wealth of information they are likely to gather from shoppers and use it to guide decision-making. But it’s not the use of AI alone that will contribute to success. Instead, as mentioned above when talking about data, it is the mix of man and machine that will have the biggest difference. Forbes states: “AI is not just about harnessing the insights big data can provide on the science side of the marketing house, but having the vision to understand how AI can be used to positively impact the creative process as well.”

In 2018, this combination is expected to influence the in-store experience — if it is done correctly, with greater emphasis placed on recruiting or retaining staff with the skills to make this a reality. 

What are we forgetting?

In-store is a veritable treasure trove when it comes to new technologies that streamline the customer experience and ultimately guide loyalty. From new payment methods, to real-time stock checking, brick-and-mortar retailers are upping their game. There is also the continued use of beacon technology or proximity marketing, which has grown in popularity year-on-year. And that’s not forgetting augmented reality — using a combination of technology, like smart mirrors, and apps to deliver a better in-store experience and help in decision-making. Whether that’s for fashion or furniture shopping, a better customer experience means higher sales at the end of the day.


Good customer experience leads to increased satisfaction, which ensures continued brand loyalty. Sounds simple enough. However, while there are many trends and predictions for 2018, it is important to remember that the customer should remain the focus of all marketing efforts. And this is something that is not likely to change.”


Maarten Bais, VP and general manager EMEA, Elo: 

Supermarket GPS/interactive baskets

Supermarkets like Tesco already allow their customers to scan their own food and pack their bags as they go around the aisle reducing the time wasted scanning and packing items at the till, but there’s still more to come – interactive shopping trolleys or supermarket GPS. A touch display which could automatically suggest meals to make as you scan and add items to your trolley or being able to create a shopping list at home, log in (for scanner in-store), see your list on screen and cross them off as you go. We also predict these trollies to start creating the best possible shopping route just like a GPS system in your car based on your items to help save time.

BOPIS’ becomes the ‘new normal

2018 will see BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store) take centre stage. We’re already seeing a lot of BOPIS being implemented in many of the large retailers and online catalogues, making it easier for sales associates to engage and conduct transactions with customers throughout the store. By blending the best of both online and in-store, retailers will create seamless omnichannel shopping capabilities that enhance customer experience and brand loyalty potential.

Intelligent and virtual fitting rooms

There have been some trials already with intelligent changing rooms and interactive elements, but now we’re starting to see these actually implemented. Such technology includes the use of interactive screens, which will allow customers to check stock and instantly ask sales assistants for a different size while staying in the changing room area. Where a “magic mirror” (using a blend of touchscreens and kinetic technology) allows them to see themselves wearing various items, without even having to try them on.


Graham Jackson, CEO, Fluent Commerce:

As the needs of the consumer continue to evolve, it is essential for merchants to embrace technologies that enable them to optimise their daily functions, enhance their business productivity and provide the greatest flexibility for their customers.

With over 44 percent of consumers likely to shop at retailers that offer click and collect, as time progresses, there is an increasing demand for convenience and personalised fulfillment. This will continue to be a prominent trend in 2018, which is why brands will need to utilise the right technology in order to enhance their omnichannel strategy, driven by innovative solutions, to reduce inventory and operational costs, whilst maintaining a greater view of stock.

Retailers with a limited view of inventory can indirectly provide customers with a poor service and it’s therefore critical they take full advantage of technology to provide the ultimate  experience (that’s efficient) for their customers.

With many purchase experiences as simple as a three-step process, retailers need to ensure that they are faster, easier and more accessible than anyone else in their space in order to remain competitive and profitable.

Certain retail technologies are able to provide a platform for retailers to make the consumer experience both more personal and convenient which has previously been a challenge to achieve in this particular sector.

Research has shown that customers who shop via multiple channels are likely to spend more than if they have just the one channel. This is because these customers are given a greater level of flexibility to fulfil their orders; encouraging them to buy more products and be more inclined to remain loyal to a particular brand.

Currently, omnichannel in the UK, and indeed worldwide, is more aspirational than actually executed. Many brands have spent vast amounts trying to update their omnichannel experience for customers but still fall behind the ‘Amazon perception’.

In 2018, we will continue to see retailers look toward invention rather than ‘me too’ innovations and the idea of orchestration in the cloud seems to be trending. It’ll be interesting to see the use cases of this workflow-based approach over 2018. If it’s the silver bullet many hope – then retail will be able to execute their aspirations in a quite spectacular way.”


André Hordagoda, Co-Founder, GoInStore:

“Growth of Live Video Solves the Omnichannel Challenge. Online customer interactions with sales staff via live video will solve the challenge retailers have with high traffic websites that yield much lower conversion rates than in-store visits. Importantly, it will bridge the gap between the online and offline experience. Enabling online customers to buy from people, via their phone or laptop, at their chosen time and place creates a massive opportunity for retailers to help address the challenges of time-pressed consumers.

Live Video Creates New Customer Facing Roles. Live video is adding a new dimension to the way brands engage with their customers. Sales staff roles will extend into providing more of a visual and audio experience for online and in-store customers than simply carrying out a transaction, ultimately helping to improve customer experience and drive increased customer loyalty.

Stores Are Becoming Lifestyle Destinations. The bricks and mortar of retailing continues to change; shops and shopping malls will become lifestyle destinations. Customers will continue to research and make their purchase decisions online and still visit the store to immerse themselves in the brand experience. Live online product and brand demonstrations will be broadcast through shopping centres, stores and websites simultaneously, which will provide localised and personalised content and experiences for shoppers within their chosen location

Live Video + Augmented Reality (AR) = Better Customer Experience. Live video featuring augmented reality will soon become the norm. Whilst the live video element still provides the human interaction, AR will provide product and brand information overlaid on the live video stream. For example, a sales person can show pricing and graphical measurements alongside the physical product in the live video. This extra information provides support to the sales person and importantly, helps the customer in making a purchase decision.”


Duncan Hill, Managing Director, HL Display:

“Forward thinking convenience stores have already started to position themselves as community hubs as well as retailers, offering products and services that their core customers appreciate having right on their doorsteps. This trend will gather pace in 2018 as independents seek to drive loyalty and differentiate themselves not just from other c-stores but the larger multiples.

Independents are in many ways leading the way in terms of merchandising too. We have seen an increase in demand for many of our solutions from convenience store operators this year, including shelf merchandising systems such as Multivo™ and our 3eBin™ solution for displaying bulk products.

Across the grocery retail sector there will be a focus on reducing waste, not only as part of corporate social responsibility policies but also to maximise profits.  Food waste especially is a national problem at present that the sector is becoming more committed to addressing.

From a merchandising perspective the right solutions can contribute significantly to reducing product waste. Broken, damaged and out of date products are disposed of, so systems that hold products in place firmly and prevent items from getting lost at the back of the shelf using a feeder mechanic to continually bring stock forward are key.

As well as being able to offer such systems for non-perishable products, we now have solutions that can be used in chillers. While merchandising systems are only part of the solution, systems like this will have a significant, positive impact on a retailer’s ability to waste less and sell more.”


Luke Griffiths, General Manager, Klarna UK:

“Although technology has radically changed the way that we shop, the overall mission for merchants remains the same: how can we create a seamless experience built around the needs of today’s consumer? Much of the this has so far focused on eCommerce. But as the line between online and offline shopping becomes increasingly blurred, in 2018 we’re going to see stores going back to basics and focus on their bricks-and-mortar strategy to deliver as frictionless a shopping experience in-store as online.

A big part of this will revolve around the diversification of in-store payment options. With payment schemes such as try first pay later and pay in instalments now available online, it’s up to retailers to deploy new options that work for customers offline, too. eCommerce has succeeded in giving flexibility and choice to consumers. It’s now time to give customers more control about how they shop and pay in-store – exploring options that include self-service, higher limits on contactless payments and offline versions of pay later.”


Andy Cockburn, CEO, Mention Me:

“Black Friday was once lauded as the new hero in the retailer’s calendar, arriving earlier than the January sales and capitalising on the pre-Christmas consumer spending mood. Insights from the past two years however reveal disillusionment with the hype and an accompanying fall in both public and retailers favour. 2017 didn’t witness the queues and mass hysteria on the High Street of the years when Black Friday was in its infancy. What we have started to see and predict will continue in 2018, is a changing face for Black Friday:

  1. Consumers are doing more of their purchasing online
  2. Retailers are moving their sales forward and spreading them out during the week before; Cyber Monday became a normal trading day again in 2017
  3. Emphasis for retailers is gradually shifting back to customer loyalty and lifetime value


We have seen more brands start to engage existing and new customers with referral marketing way ahead of November, and to then use the programmes to be able to re-engage and sustain these customer relationships throughout the peak period. By including refer-a-friend call to action in their online checkout, retailers build in an opportunity for Black Friday customers to share their brand with a friend. In the weeks following Black Friday the referral offer provides stimulus for the new and existing customer to purchase again – usually within a few weeks.”


Bruce Fair, Chief Revenue Officer, MetaPack:

“In 2018 customer loyalty will be driven by eCommerce delivery. This is the key finding that came out of research we recently conducted amongst over 3500 consumers across the UK, US and Europe. Our research found that half of all shoppers will abandon online shopping baskets if delivery choices on offer are unsatisfactory and 60 percent will buy their goods from one online retailer over another if they offer more convenient delivery options.

With the Internet rapidly becoming the shopping destination of choice, this is a clear message to retailers from consumers that delivery has the power to make or break their online experience. What’s more, retailers need to make sure that they can meet their delivery promises every time because 39 percent of those surveyed said they would never shop again with an online merchant following a negative delivery experience.

To keep customers happy retailers will need to keep ahead of the game. Last year 92 percent of customers happily waited at home for their purchases to arrive, but this year that number had dropped to 82 percent. Instead, they opted for collect in-store (44 percent), collection from a local pick up point or shop (39 percent), and delivery to the workplace (19 percent) or a locker (11 percent). An impressive 8 percent even plumped for delivery via a personal concierge service.

We will see the growth of other trends such as try-before-you-buy, delivery loyalty programmes and eco-delivery options, which resonate strongly with customers. In fact, retailers would be wise to ensure that in 2018 they focus on providing convenience and personalisation as a priority when they are making their strategic eCommerce decisions, and present as many feasible delivery options as they can support. This will ensure long-term customer loyalty.”


Rob Gleave, Managing Director, Momentum Instore:

“2018 will see a further rise in personalised box deliveries across multiple sectors including, but certainly not limited to, food and drink, books and magazines, make-up and toiletries, clothing and pet-related goods.

‘Endless aisle’ technology, where customers are able to see many more options than are physically available in-store, will be another growth area in 2018.

There will also be further changes in terms of product delivery, with rapid-response teams becoming more and more visible in the marketplace. Retailers of all sizes will become much more savvy around omni-channel retailing and tweaking their strategies for a much-improved, more seamless customer experience across online and off-line.

Despite the frenetic pace of modern life, customers of whatever age or demographic just want convenient shopping that makes them feel valued. Time in-store now has to stand up to the stringent convenience requirements of super-fast, super-easy online shopping, as well as being a memorable, fun, joined-up customer experience. Omni-channel retail strategy is now essential but, equally, retailers have to invest time, effort and spend into making sure time in-store scores highly in all these areas.”


Channie Mize, Senior Vice President & Global Retail General Manager, Periscope By McKinsey:

“As we look ahead, here are three trends retailers should push:

1) Focus on experience: retailers need to shift away from commodity products, pricing and especially bland experiences. This means being intentional about your customers, the products they want to buy, the experience they expect. For example, the right products, clear signage, appropriate pricing, personalised outreach, etc. 

2) Curate your offering and augment with service: So many retailers’ websites have become a graveyard of endless aisle products that don’t fit the retailer’s brand, image or customer goals. Curate the assortment and augment with real service. For example, show your customers a complete outfit and allow them to easily add all items to the basket with an offer to see an in-store style coordinator. 

3) Dial back promotional intensity: with retailers pushing digital/email offers very hard over the Christmas season, they will need to do a step back to re-evaluate their strategy. The deluge of offers really deadened the impact with many retailers offering 50 percent off nearly the entire season. Unfortunately, hot promotions have become the quick fix drug for retailers, and this can be an effective short-term strategy as long as retailers are also fixing the underlying issue (e.g. declining market appeal). 

It’s time retailers reset expectations with the high street and their customers. This means 2018 could be a great time to get back to retail basics by focusing on the experience, assortment and promotional intensity.”


Guy Chiswick, Managing Director, Webloyalty Northern Europe:

“The use of technology in the retail world has increased over the last 12 months and 2018 will be the year that it moves onto the shop floor to engage customers by empowering sales assistants. With access to vital product and stock information at their fingertips, store employees become expert consultants, better able to recommend the most suitable products or outfits.

Some retailers in the fashion industry are using the Mercaux in-store technology solution. The system provides necessary merchandise information to sales assistants via tablets including inventory levels, cross-sell suggestions and alternative product recommendations.

This uniquely combines the benefits of online shopping with a personalised in-store experience that means it will be quicker and easier to meet each customer’s increasingly diverse needs. This will create a more positive brand experience while eliminating the chance of lost sales for retailers by offering the customer alternatives. 

Such systems also enable head office managers to login to control and affect in-store selling and merchandising. Offering real-time shop floor customer insight, this data can be used to inform each store’s sales targets and stock levels as well as local marketing activities. For example, with data suggesting a sudden regional increase in snow boot enquiries, marketing and merchandising strategies could be adjusted.”


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