Retail and hospitality trends

A connected future

Retail and hospitality trends

Retail and hospitality trends – what should businesses in these sectors watch out for in the next 12 months and how can they stay ahead of trends that are emerging and/or new technologies and bring them into play, successfully, in their business?

Using technology to engage

As technology continues to advance rapidly, customer expectations too have risen, and the retail and hospitality sectors are presented with the challenge of having to meet and exceed such expectations. Indeed, this is a time of heightened consumer knowledge in which the customer can easily research and compare products or services to ensure they get the best deal. To give an example, while the average consumer shopped at 7 stores in 1993, this doubled to 14 in 2013 hence competition between businesses is now greater than ever before.

In order to get ahead of the competition, businesses need to engage consumers and attempt to gain their loyalty. This can be achieved by using technology in new and innovative ways. For instance, Burberry has taken in-store initiatives such as attaching RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags onto certain items, which activate when customers pick up the product and trigger a video on nearby mirrors showing videos of the item as well as relevant associated products. Hence, while the role of the store may be diminishing in terms of concrete sales, it nevertheless has a crucial role in creating this engaging environment which attracts and inspires customers.

Furthermore, it is crucial to cater for the many channels customers are using. One study found that almost half of consumers are regularly using three or more channels to do their shopping, demonstrating the demand for a seamless omni-channel brand experience be it on an app, website or social media account. A consumer is not going to be favourable towards a brand who is not willing to communicate with them in a way in which they are used to in their everyday lives. Therefore, strategies such as allowing for payment options in which a QR code is scanned and a mobile payment is instantly made, will enhance consumers’ attitudes towards the business as they are accommodating for the consumer’s lifestyle. Further examples from the hospitality sector come from Hilton that has developed an app allowing customers to check-in prior to arrival, choose their room from a floor plan and even unlock their room door using their mobile phone. Such uses of technology allow the consumer to experience greater control over their hotel stay, hopefully leading to a more relaxing and positive experience overall.

The empowered consumer

Another trend for those in the retail and hospitality sector to take note of is the empowered consumer in the feedback and Uber/TripAdvisor generation. This describes the way in which customers are easily able to disseminate reviews and opinions on services or products they have received, again allowing next to no tolerance for businesses that do not meet their demands and expectations. While the first stage to overcome this challenge is clearly to provide the great service and products that the customer is promised, the second is to efficiently monitor, address and act on feedback, both positive and negative. Hence customer service is a great priority, given that customers’ experiences are so often publically expressed and it is vital that businesses are tracking their online reputation, from twitter to TripAdvisor reviews.  Indeed, this provides a public platform for negative feedback to be transformed into a positive demonstration of how well the company cares for its customers, in the form of offering advice, discounts or vouchers to compensate for a negative experience. 

Personalised products

Another way to attract a consumer’s attention and engage them is to provide personalised offers or products. Unsurprisingly, research has found that personally tailoring promotional emails leads to more click-throughs and as a result, purchases. Hence, gathering data on customers is extremely valuable when such information can be translated into a bespoke service for that customer. Again Burberry has shown how to successfully make use of consumer data by equipping store assistants with iPads, which collate information on customers by connecting their information from the till on their previous purchases, items they have tried on, as tracked using the RFID tags and their social media profiles. This provides assistants with a comprehensive profile of customers and leads to smarter recommendations and thus more productive interactions. However, businesses must also be vigilant to data breaches and reassure the consumer that their data is safe and secure.

To conclude, using technology in original ways to engage the consumer, seamlessly incorporating your business into the consumer’s lifestyle, taking reviews seriously, and using big data to capture and target clients, are key to keeping on top of the emerging trends in these sectors.