Retail moves fast, and 2023 was no exception. Rising inflation rates led shoppers around the world to cut back on spending, meaning retailers had to work harder than ever to provide value and appeal to consumers. But this also led to a wave of innovation within the retail world, as brands turned to in-store experiences and omnichannel customer journeys to differentiate themselves.
With 2024 around the corner, we spoke with Sam Panzer, Talon.One’s Director of Industry Strategy, and Simon Suarez, Director of Enterprise Architecture at AbsoluteLabs, to hear what they think are the biggest opportunities for retailers heading into the new year, the retail tech they’re glad to leave behind, and which brands are killing it at the moment.
What are the latest retail technology trends you’re seeing in brick & mortar stores?
AbsoluteLabs: Physical stores are becoming more than a selling channel, and are now curated spaces to display products and enable client interaction. The rise of true mobile POS – enabled with new features such as Apple’s Tap to Pay on iPhone – is also changing retailers’ approach to store layouts, as there’s less need for static, clunky checkout areas. This instead leaves visual merchandisers more space to be creative and hopefully to find room for innovative and exciting customer-facing tech.
It’s also in-line with Forrester’s Predictions 2024: Payments report, where they state “The businesses that make a difference in 2024 will be those that wrap more value or utility around payments — those that realize it’s about the payment experience, not the payment itself.”
What’s an amazing experience you’ve had recently when it comes to retail innovation? Who’s killing it at the moment?
Sam: I love what Harry Rosen, the luxury Canadian menswear store, is doing to digitize the one-on-one client-adviser relationship they’re famous for. For years, store associates would pick a selection of products ahead of customers’ visits to their store, based on previous purchase history and preferences.
Associates are now replicating that in-store experience online. Texts have become the first point of contact for associates to communicate with clients and understand their needs, preferences, and sizing. Using an app on their phone, associates can create complete looks for clients, and present each one on a personalized webpage. The app is connected to Harry Rosen’s CRM, a real-time inventory feed and an AI-based product recommender – it’s a great example of a brand re-designing their tech stack to offer better omnichannel experiences.
Image: An example of Harry Rosen’s curated looks and product pages, personalized to each client. Credit: Commercetools.
AbsoluteLabs: We’re biased, but we have to give a shout-out here to sportswear retailer Footasylum for their frictionless in-store payments – a recent project we worked on and rolled out together with NewStore and Talon.One in under 90 days. As part of the project, customers can now pay for their products with NewStore-powered iPhones carried by sales associates – enabling associates to reduce the number of devices they’re carrying around the store, simplifying the customer journey whilst also enhancing security. Whereas the technical side of the project was no small undertaking, the success has really been felt when visiting the stores, and the work done is so appreciated by the sales associates. They embraced the change which is not always common when replacing systems that are the sole touchpoint for those who use them. Talon.One has been a massive piece of that puzzle and although not consumer-facing – has powered on behind the scenes.
Image: An example of the NewStore-powered iPhones carried by Footasylum sales associates, removing the need for bulky Point-of-Sale systems
Who’s killing it at the moment? Fast fashion brands and middle-tier luxury as a whole. With recovery from Covid and massive uncertainty across the retail industry recently, it’s amazing to see the resilience in our clients and the innovative and cost-effective ways to disrupt and reinvigorate their businesses.
What’s your pet peeve when it comes to retail technology, or an outdated retail practice you’d love to see the back of?
AbsoluteLabs: For a lot of retailers, inventory processes are still an archaic process of scan and hang. It would be great to look towards a mode where RFID-based receiving and inventory counts were commonplace everywhere. Another pet peeve is disjointed and disconnected loyalty schemes and promotions across channels, especially since consumers expect the same offers to be available no matter where they choose to shop.
What do you think is the biggest opportunity for retailers when it comes to in-store transformation in 2024?
Sam: I think there’s a huge opportunity for retailers to use their point of sale system as a data collection opportunity or driver of loyalty program enrolment. I was recently back in the US, and every local coffee shop & restaurant was running a Square, Toast, or similar lightweight POS, with a clear flow to sign up for newsletters (often with a coupon if I did) or enroll in a loyalty program.
Image: An example of how small retailers are using their POS systems to encourage newsletter sign-ups in exchange for discounts
Talon.One works mostly with enterprise players, so I’ve been thinking about what this means for them. First and foremost, it means that marketing & loyalty is more saturated than ever. You’re not just competing against other brands with sophisticated CRM and marketing orgs. You’re competing against every small business using a cheap mobile POS. Programs & promotions, more than ever, need to offer real value to consumers in the US, otherwise you’ll be wiped out not just by Amazon and Target, but by your consumers’ local favorites too.
AbsoluteLabs: I’d love to see more retailers focusing on clienteling in-store in 2024, working on how they can build long-term relationships with their customers based on existing data about their preferences, behaviors and purchases.
Previously only seen as part of the luxury brand’s toolset; customers now expect a personalised experience when shopping at a lower price point too. With web experiences now highly personalised and tailored to users, it should also be extended to those in-store. Loyalty platforms are going to be increasingly important in that journey and a differentiator for those looking for everyday fashion and apparel.
Looking to learn more about the impact of an omnichannel retail strategy? Download our guide, The Ultimate Guide to Omnichannel Retail.