In 2019, the market will be defined by emerging technologies that change the way consumers interact with their favorite brands, a more tangible experience (online and on-site), and the emergence of new types of e-commerce. Let’s take a look at five important trends that will shape retail in 2019 and forward. 1. Brand as Culture Millennials’ changing preferences and attitudes regarding corporate responsibility and social consciousness have already impacted how retail brands present and position themselves. The trend has resulted in brands equating their internal culture with their exterior identity. Companies are increasingly engaging consumers outside of traditional shopping parameters and becoming cultural figures. What ideas can you bring to market if you think of physical intercepts as a cultural representation of the connection you have with your consumers vs “buy it now” Companies can embrace physical and ideological experiences that immerse customers into a full buyer’s cycle. The days of clever campaigns being enough are pretty much done. Companies will have to consider the image their brand conveys to the world in ethos, all senses, and in packaging (which are blending more than ever). 2. Experiential Retail The old model of in-store and online retail strictly focused on products being sold. However, consumers have been moving away from strictly shopping for products and are now searching for a more engaging experience. The trend has been primarily driven by millennials and their preference for experiences over things. Consumers are shopping more with their emotions rather than their wallets. Note, we said shopping. Physically walking into a store should be an escape, a chance to browse, a chance to meander. Buying, on the other hand, is assumed to be pretty quick and easy — a few clicks, done. Re-designed signage and remodeling a store aren’t enough, both the stores and the brands now realize they can only survive if they create something worth visiting. For example, stores like Sephora have rethought their retail experiences by combining traditional elements, trial, loyalty programs, and their mobile apps pretty seamlessly. (they’re a client, we’re biased) Samsung unveiled a $43 million “pop-up” that features its products but doesn’t have any for sale. The emergence of virtual reality, augmented reality, and improved mobile connectivity have added new layers of experience to add to their retail models. Packaging for online and on-site stores has also emerged as an essential experiential touchpoint. Gone are the days of brown boxes with packaging tape, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts as “the last mile experience.“ Consumers want their packaging to mean something more. To mean something, actually. Colors, fonts, textures, and materials are all a selling point, as well as its ability to be recycled or repurposed. It’s almost as important as the product it holds. 3. Faster Shipping E-commerce continues its march toward becoming the most popular purchasing medium. In September 2018 the sector expanded by 11.4%. Today, most major brands have an online presence, and they all offer comparable prices. Even stores like Amazon and Walmart have become largely competitive, so retailers seeking to differentiate themselves have had to find other ways to deliver value. A current Marketing Charts study found that the amount of time people are willing to wait for free shipping has dropped from 5.5 days in 2012 to 4.5 days on average. Programs like Amazon Prime have made two-day shipping the standard, so cutting down on shipping time is vital for any e-commerce business looking to stay on top. In-store pick-up, new delivery systems, special access, or making the package worth waiting for are all ways to combat warp speed expectations. 4. Subscription E-Commerce Today’s buyers are also increasingly seeking shopping/buying that is tailored to their preferences and delivered directly to their doors. These trends have resulted in the emergence of subscription e-commerce, which means businesses curate products and ship them to customers with regularity. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, 15% of online consumers signed up for subscription services in 2017, and that trend is only growing. That said, marketing and maintaining a subscription base can be expensive for some brands and retailers. This is an area where a well-defined test is a must. 5. Multi-Channel, aka Omnichannel, aka The Way Consumers Shop & Buy Naturally in 2019 Even though many brick-and-mortar stores are closing, they still play a significant role in the purchase process. The difference is that it has transitioned from the primary point of sales to being part of a broader retail strategy. Instead of a single touchpoint for consumers, the growing trend in retail has been to expand how brands use brick-and-mortar to catch leads and convert them. How can retailers maintain omnichannel active and keep personalization and fulfillment streamlined? This calls for deep integration across all channels, including websites, marketplaces, social media, and brick-and-mortar. It’s time to get departments really working together, and sharing data, and thinking differently about sales attribution. The consumer is already fluid, but most retailers and brands are less so. Multi-channel is vital for captivating consumers and keeping them engaged from first impressions to the point of sale. Focusing on providing excellent experiences across channels is the best way to stay vital in the upcoming years. Oh how we love a good CX strategy. The latest trends in retail are driven by a combination of a changing technological landscape and the shifting preferences of consumers created by millennials. By embracing these trends and preparing for them, retailers can look to 2019 as another favorable opportunity to grow.