Here’s what Bhavesh Unadkat, Principal Consultant of Retail Customer Engagement, told me:

“With customers demanding a deeper emotional connection and more personal experience with brands, we can expect to see retailers revaluating their business models to take a more ‘human-centred’ approach during 2018. Over the past year, we’ve seen a number of brands enjoying success from service-led approaches, including Deliveroo with its delivery service, and Cornerstone with its subscription model. The market could change significantly in the next 12 months as retailers try to deliver a better service driven approach to retailing.  These opportunities will be further imploded by the impact of connected devices becoming more mainstream.

“Innovation has been another big focus area for retailers in 2017. Many have either set up innovation capability or partnered with someone to do so; this is key to leverage emerging technology and have a space to ideate, test and learn to create experiences that provide a differentiator.  Many retailers are comfortable working with new and niche technologies and solutions to break through some of the challenges being faced in retail.  The key challenge I see here is how retailers can take this from a pilot or trial into something which can be scaled across their whole portfolio.

“As these technologies evolve and costs decrease, we will see the retail sector experimenting with new ways of engaging the customer and offering a personalised experience. This could in-turn see the revival of the physical store. In 2017, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods sent shockwaves through the industry – suddenly, the notion that brick and mortar stores are dying was challenged. With the various uses cases for technologies like AI and AR to improve the customer experience, we can expect other retailers to re-evaluate brick and mortar stores as vehicles for driving loyalty in 2018. The store of the future will be based around personalised customer engagement, immersive experiences and selling not just products, but entire lifestyles.”

For more predictions from our wider retail team, read this blog post.