Six Trends That Will Cause Bricks and Mortar Retailers To Lose Sleep in 2012
It’s customary to look ahead at the retail trends that will shape 2012 and the buzz, profits and challenges to profitable retailing. Here then are the good, the bad, and the ugly that will keep bricks and mortar retailers from the smallest mom and pop to the largest big-box executives awake at night:
1. Expect renewed interest in customer experience. Many brands, having come off of two successively better holidays than anticipated, will free more money to improve training for their employees.
2. At the same time, expect more technology to debut making employees into call centers with legs. From the fitting room to the kiosk to the smartphone, retailers will roll out technology fraught with unforeseen consequences that will give the impression of increased speed of service but build resentment in the employees.
3. Suppliers and manufacturers will be squeezed even more to make a deal so expect more dating so that manufacturers can push more of their merch to the retailer, inhibiting their competitors from being able to do so later when the merchandise actually could sell. (Think toy stores here.)
4. More frustrated writers, looking to save a penny, will cover even more stories about how “deals” are the only way to get people to buy. This trend continues to ramp up with the perception that since everyone is offering them, they must be working. It's just that a lot of people are getting less creative and discounting even more.
5. Expect the hype around mobile to again be pitched as a great thing. Except that Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla in the room no matter how many points you virtually give a customer who “checks in,” no matter your fancy app, your “omni channel strategy.” All of that falls by the wayside when your bricks and mortar boutique is made into Amazon’s showroom. Yes, we’ve had big boxes devour independents – now big boxes who have the most name brand product, have the potential of being devoured by Amazon.
6. Expect the popularity of social media of course to increase. While F-commerce will get the buzz, the well-trained salesperson will still get the sale.
In 2012, the best retailers will show the ultimate engagement of a customer is not a website, the palm of a customer’s hand, or an app, it is through the human being that has been trained to deliver an exceptional experience.
The worst retailers will continue to come out with gee-whiz technology that masks the hidden truth that fundamentally, they believe people are too hard to manage. Their marketing messages will be pinned on the house of cards of deals.
It will be this fundamental difference between banking on technology or people that will make the difference in 2012. For six more retail trends and predictions, please visit the Retail Doc blog.
A retail consultant, motivational speaker and frequent guest on MSNBC concerning marketing, branding and business strategies, Bob Phibbs, CEO of the Retail Doctor®, has helped thousands of businesses in the retail, hospitality, manufacturing, service, and restaurant sectors. His sales management training seminars have been presented to some of the biggest brands in the United States including LEGO, Yamaha, and Hunter Douglas. Phibbs’ books include The Retail Doctor’s Guide To Growing Your Business, Groupon: You Can't Afford It and You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting.