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The Changing Face of Retail and Hospitality in America: Trends and Predictions for 2020

By Kerstin Woods

As we wrap up the largest retail show of the year, National Retail Federation (NRF), it begs the question about the future in this ever-changing industry. I believe that in 2020 we will be faced with similar, yet accelerated trends as we saw in 2019. Let’s take a moment to look at five compelling trends that I believe will be prevalent in 2020:

1. The continued shift from in-person to online will drive the need for retailers to marry the digital experience into their brick-and-mortar establishments. As more and more consumers are versed in online shopping, they will seek the same rich media experience in-person. Static signs, catalogs and menus will be replaced at greater rates by interactive digital signage and the online world will merge INTO the in-person buying experience.

2. Customer experience will be driven by personalization (“you know ME!”) and speed (as fast as my online shopping cart purchase). In a world where we measure time in terms of click-thru rates, the idea of a “frictionless in-store” buying experience will be critical. Think of things like self-checkout, point-of-sale (POS) intelligence and POS printer technologies that help us order, deliver goods and checkout in a seamless fashion—making it more personal to you, as well as delivering the speed and ease you desire. More than 11% of consumers abandon their purchase if the line to checkout is too long, and many never return. I believe checkout time will continue to shrink in 2020.

3. Community outreach continues to grow in-store buying opportunities. Consumers increasingly want a personal “experience” when they shop, and community outreach is a great way to personalize the store for a select audience. I love this one and have seen it work firsthand. Our local athletic store was slowing in sales, so they teamed up with a local workout facility and offered a free class at the store followed by a discount for all purchases made that day. Next thing you know, during an after-hours, slow time of day, their store was packed with 30 women who couldn’t wait to spend money after a great, free workout. The class generated advertising, but most importantly, it generated goodwill for the attendees, which translated into increased sales. Printing out flyers to provide each customer at their store with upcoming classes and outreach opportunities made a huge impact.

4. Customer Experience Amplification. Around 38% of consumers start the complaint process in online reviews these days, and I predict this rate will increase in 2020. This makes the buying and fulfillment experience critical because each consumer interaction, good or bad, gets put on social media for thousands to see. I believe the impact of this on hospitality and retail will continue to grow in 2020, but companies will need to actively encourage the positive posts to counteract the social “venting” that easily happens online.

5. Purpose-built IT. Retail and hospitality are demanding environments often with a young or seasonal workforce. IT systems can’t be built for enterprise-IT services; they need to be built for non-IT users. Hospitality especially is a unique environment: humid, dusty, fast-paced and highly customer-experience driven. It’s unkind to electronics on a good day and brutal on electronics on a bad one. Companies need to invest in technologies that understand and are up for these challenges. In 2020, I predict that retail and hospitality companies will grow their IT investments in purpose-built, retail or hospitality-grade systems. 

So there you have it—a few trends that I think we can look forward to in 2020. In upcoming posts, you’ll hear more about how Toshiba is responding to these trends to address the specific, unique needs of the retail and hospitality environments. In the meantime, how is your company looking at addressing these needs?

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