The new year is upon us and 2014 is coming to a close - it’s time to take a look back over the year and identify some of this year's key retail trends. As industry insiders, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the trends we've come across this year, but instead a collection of some of the most revolutionary and exciting.
Click and collect
The use of Click and Collect has increased 49% this year compared to last. The biggest developments we’ve seen are in the teaming up of eBay and Argos, with click and collect of eBay products now available at 650 stores.
Collect+ is a business that works with 5,500 independent retailers that offer their stores as pick-up points for goods bought online from more than 260 retailers, including Marks & Spencer, Topshop, Boden and Asos. Click and collect sales in general are expected to rise by 82% in the next five years according to analysts at Verdict Research and whilst 2015 may not see as dramatic an increase as 2014, the rise should be steady.
The rise of mobile wallet
This year we have seen the unstoppable rise of the mobile phone as a key tool for reaching consumers. A well thought-out and functional mobile app is an absolute must and will only continue to be important in the coming year.
Pizza Express have brought the mobile app right up to date with the inclusion of mobile payments, allowing users to book a table, browse the menu and then settle the bill on their phone using PayPal. Other POS solutions embraced this year include Square Wallet and Google Wallet, which although still unavailable in the UK has seen growth this year in the US.
Technology in retail is not limited to online and in apps, but has started to become a part of the store set-up in 2014. The Nike Fuel Station in London has technology that tracks users' movements through the store using huge LED screens.
Another key innovator this year, perhaps surprisingly, has been Marks and Spencer who have integrated browse and order hubs within stores, with large touch-screens resembling iPhones and including a card payment machine. This year the M&S store in Amsterdam also demoed a virtual clothes rail using 6ft swipe-able screens allowing users to browse the catalogue and search for outfit ideas. This technology is not just to allow for shopping, but to engage and entertain shoppers, leaving a lasting impression.
Elsewhere on the high street, Topshop has provided an in-store virtual catwalk experience during London Fashion Week using VR headsets, and Debenhams Oxford Street have integrated touch screens for in-store ordering.
We can witness the blurring of physical and virtual retail both now and in the future - the challenge however is to make this tech/digital integration as seamless as possible.
Retailers have for a while now understood the importance of social media on people’s retail habits. What has been growing is how companies have attempted to harness platforms. Here is a list of the most popular retailers in terms of their social media platforms and hashtag presence, with top UK retailers including Selfridges, Topman and Harrods.
Products such as Fanreel give stores the ability to pull user-generated images of their merchandise from social media. The biggest challenge, however, is integrating shoppable content. Instagram has not made it easy for retailers on this front - retailers require third party applications such as Like2Buy, used by the likes of Forever 21 and Nordstrom and marketing itself as ‘Instagram’s missing link’. When might Instagram buckle and provide a seamless function for this we wonder? Perhaps 2015 will be the year.
Pop-up shops are nothing new, having been around since the 1990’s, however they've had something of a renaissance in 2014. There are several benefits to pop-up stores. Firstly there is the novelty factor of a store that is around for only a few days, weeks or months. Pop-up shops are particularly effective for seasonal sales such as Christmas. One such example is the Etsy pop-up store in Covent Garden that will be open for three days and includes workshops and live crafting sessions.
Pop-up stores' success depends upon choosing the right location with high footfall. It is also crucial that there is a heavy push with PR, social media and creative ideas to create a buzz of exclusivity and excitement for a limited period of time. Pop-up stores are all about creating an offline experience for many brands such as Etsy and eBay… nothing quite beats human interaction and a real, face-to face experience.