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Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead
As we head towards 2020, the retail industry in the UK finds itself in unchartered territory. Whilst much speculation has gone into gauging the impact of Brexit and what leaving the EU will do to domestic retail in terms of both supply and consumer demand, there is also further pressure from spikes in retail rent, changes in consumer spending habits and environmental expectations by both governments and consumers alike. However, with the current decade ending and question marks over what the next year will bring, looking at the retail industry in other terms is more beneficial. So, for 2020, where is the industry headed, what part will technology play and what should retailers be doing now?
The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) suggest in their Retail Forecast 2019-2020 report that consumer spending is set to rise by 0.8 per cent, and by a further 1.4 per cent in 2021. It is worth noting that these predictions come with the assumption “that Brexit will occur later in 2019”, and as this political decision still hangs in the air, this could throw the CRR figures into doubt somewhat. Yet taking this aside, the fact that the CRR still anticipates a rise in consumer spending should be seen as encouraging; a further boost comes from their assertion that international world trade is starting to grow again after slowing down in 2019-20 and, even more positively, that they don’t predict a world slump in 2020-21. Looking at these predictions, retailers looking to invest in new technologies and ways of working can do so without having to worry about saving money to combat negative sales as a result of macroenvironmental influences, focusing instead on improving the customer journey.
As always, customer expectations will drive the retail landscape in 2020. Considering which processes make the buying process as enjoyable and frictionless as possible for the customer is always at the heart of any good retail strategy, and meeting these desires will involve the increasing use of technology. Forbes predicts that rapid delivery of items will be a major trend that will have to be adapted to and one of the most efficient ways of doing this is by retailers using auto replenishment systems to move stock between locations where it is most in demand, purchase order management to build up product ranges and warehouse management systems to keep proper track of items.
Forbes also cites ‘social shopping’ as being vital, with a consumer being able to take visuals of clothing items and find them online, click items they see others wearing in images and purchase them, with 360 degree data all playing a part. Ensuring that your product data is consistent and adapted to the correct audience is critical to support the customer journey and using a Product Information Management (PIM) solution will play a vital role in achieving that.
In a case of “plus ça change”, retailers who can best merge being effective with being efficient will rise to the top in 2020 according to the PwC and Kantar Retail ‘Retailing 2020’ report. Whilst this might not be the most ground-breaking headline of 2020 predictions, it does cement the need for retailers to ensure their systems are in the best trading position. The most important aspects that the report highlights is having the “ability to stop doing unproductive work and reimagine new ways to execute” and that “the demands for service in an omnichannel world grow ever more acute.” Retailers who have an omnichannel retailing strategy which incorporates workflow and addresses efficiency will be the leaders in this environment, with those that choose not to embrace technology being left behind. Taking the leap to implement these new systems and ways of working now – ahead of the competition – will not only see retailers reaping rewards, but future-proofing their strategy for 2020 and beyond.