2018 is here: It’s time for retail strategies

When the going gets tough, the tough get more data. The rapidly changing retail environment is shaking up insight practices as new data points are coming into a dashboard near you in 2018.

Does my bum look big in this? Cara Delevingne: move over. AI is replacing models with new software creating 2D visuals of garments draped on customers’ bodies generated from a simple flat lay photo. Online shoppers enter their height and weight, pick a garment, then the new software from Vue.ai offers the image of what they would look like wearing it, even providing feedback on how it fits. This is a good example of how sharing individual data with the retailer builds a better collective picture of body shapes and allows the brand to improve cut and design, as well as minimise returns. Win win!

Tinker, tailor and the spy retailer? Machine-learning and AI will be retailers’ weapons of choice for India’s newest retailer EasyDay. Rolling out an extra 400 convenience stores in a year, the format of a corner store equipped with footfall sensors and cameras will be a combination of a data-gathering hub and retail space. Once the habits of the customer are known, the EasyDay system will be able to prepare a set of products recommended for each individual shopper on the basis of their previous preferences. Google’s location data can also provide a better definition of catchment area to identify new locations for EasyDay’s new stores. Big Brother has reached retail? You bet.

A/B testing on the high streetOver 2,000 footfall sensors are deployed in central London to help food and drink companies like Tortilla to optimise their offer. Hourly, daily and monthly footfall data offers an understanding of which menu in the window is bringing the punters into the eaterie. You can now A/B test promotions or trial names of dishes, as understanding how many people pass by and how many actually come in is helpful when crafting a better proposition. Tortilla, a café chain, joined these sensor trials and found out that they needed a better morning food offer. Footfall sensors from the Local Data Company are a great way to dip your foot into Internet of Things waters and improve your understanding of what your customers really really want.

Brick-and-mortar? Nope, doesn’t make it into the strategyAsos, still only a teenage company (founded in 2000) is now the official winner of the young fashion category. Low cost but powerful cloud computing has changed organisational maths for retail – today a smaller, more agile fashion business can compete with high street giants without having to build up a massive brick-and-mortar infrastructure. The Asos strategy shows that rags-to-riches can be a very fast process indeed in the cloud-computing era. It took Topshop about 23 years to get to their £600m turnover. That same total took Asos about seven years. Future-fashion-leading brands need to be agile and hyper-responsive, with rapid collections updates and feather-light head office functions, build on OaaS (Office as a Service). The Asos app is providing data on what customers like to browse, how long they spend on each page and even which part of the page they gaze at. With data like that, no wonder Asos is winning.

Crypto or cry: No strategy for retail in 2018 can be complete without a cryptocurrency option. The meteoric rise of Bitcoin has made it difficult for retailers to take it as a payment, but smaller, alternative coins like Litecoin are now increasingly accepted for games (Steam), toys or gift sites like All-Mints.com. Cryptocurrency is going mainstream so dip your foot into the digital money and set up pilots to test which coins suit your brand best. There is plenty of demand for goods and services that can be bought for digital currency, so 2018 will be the year of the battle of which ONE will become the online high street’s currency of choice. Get in touch at eva@theretailpractice.com for guidance to this new world.

We’d like to wish all [retail bytes] readers a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. May the Force be with you during the crucial Christmas sales! We’ll be back in 2018, with our crypto-wallets set up and ready to go!