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The top retail trends in 2020

Shopify API

Retail is an ever-changing beast. From the rise of Instagram shopping to artificial intelligence, the way we shop is constantly evolving. And retailers need to evolve with it.

So, what can retailers expect from 2020? With the arrival of 5G and a move towards a circular economy, it’s set to be a period of new challenges and opportunities for brands. To help you stay up to date, we’ve rounded up some of the top trends you need to know about this year.

Extended reality

Over the past couple of years, extended reality (XR) has been making some impressive waves in the retail industry. Used as the umbrella term for immersive tech – such as augmented and virtual reality – XR has effectively bridged the gap between online shopping and physical stores, allowing consumers to virtually try on clothes, change their hairstyle and feng shui their furniture.

Although some brands have started experimenting with virtual reality (VR) – like McDonald’s Happy Meal headsets – it’s augmented reality (AR) that’s really captured the imagination of shoppers. Already used by brands like Ikea, Lacoste, Tesco and Cadbury, augmented reality is the process of superimposing augmented images or 3D models on our view of reality, giving customers a better idea of what a product would look like in real life.

In terms of tech, extended reality is still a fairly new development, meaning it holds a huge novelty for consumers. And it’s getting better all the time. In 2020, we can expect to see a lot more brands adopting and extending the uses of XR.

Social responsibility

You can throw your whole budget at enhancing customer experience, but if your brand’s values don’t match your customers’, it’s a wasted effort. With 76% of people refusing to buy from a brand that supports an issue contrary to their beliefs, it’s more important than ever to think about your company’s cultural impact. Not just for the planet, but for your bottom line.

Increasingly, shoppers aren’t just focused on getting the best quality for the best price. There are a multitude of social and cultural responsibilities that consumers want brands to adhere to, including the environment, sustainability and employee and animal welfare. They want to know your brand is helping (or, at the very least, not causing unnecessary harm).

To align with consumer expectations in 2020, brands should be looking to be a part of the circular economy, with a focus on reducing waste and pollution. And it doesn’t have to involve huge changes; there are hundreds of small ways you can reduce your brand’s environmental impact, whether it’s working with charities or reducing your reliance on single-use plastic.

Autonomous mobile robots

It’s hard to overstate the impact the ‘Amazon Effect’ has had on retail. From increasing customer expectations to extremely competitive pricing, Amazon has made it hard for independent brick-and-mortar stores to compete. And, as if that weren’t enough, they now have over 100,000 robots working in their warehouses.

These autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are a simple, cost-effective answer to the industry’s staff shortages, with warehouses struggling to keep up with peak sales periods. A form of automatic guided vehicles (AGVs), they can be implemented quickly and easily, without any changes to a warehouse’s infrastructure.

To keep up with Amazon, it’s predicted more than 580,000 AMRs will be installed in warehouses by 2025, effectively streamlining brands’ fulfilment services. If you’re a rapidly growing business and need a scalable fulfilment solution, these robots might be the answer.

Omnichannel

Following more than a decade in development, the widespread rollout of 5G marks a new stage of connectivity, opening the doors for more advanced technology. But while more and more brands race to be the trailblazers and adopt more tech, it’s more important than ever to nail the basics – which means offering an integrated experience across your channels.

Whether it’s your online site, physical store or social media channels, your marketing communications should be completely unified. For example, beauty giant Sephora does this by connecting customers’ online accounts to their in-store visits, allowing them to access their wish lists using the store's tablets.

This year, before throwing yourself into new tech, think about how your different platforms can work together. It should all feel the same to your customer, regardless of which touchpoint they’re accessing.

Stock management

More and more brands are investing in warehouse automation as a way of improving their bottom line. As well as autonomous mobile robots, rapidly growing businesses are turning to smarter systems and integration to eliminate the need for manual stock management. By enabling real-time inventory figures, automation makes it easier for retailers to manage the flow of stock, reduce waste and avoid costly human error.

Whether through an iPaaS like Patchworks or through custom-built point-to-point connectors, the need for systems integration is set to increase exponentially over the next few years.