Predictions for the retail industry in 2019

Retailers experienced a turbulent year in 2018, with unstable consumer confidence and increasing concerns around the economy and business rates. Many retailers also found to struggle to be relevant to a younger generation as they move into adulthood.

David Nicholls, Retail and Hospitality CTO for Fujitsu UK (pictured), says that retailers must balance the demands of an uncertain environment with the need to have a clear long-term vision. Here, he shares his top six technology trends for the retail industry to consider as they move into 2019:

Digitalisation: A number of retailers have looked at digitalisation of the in-store environment over the past year, and we expect to see this accelerate over the coming months, driven by a need to increase employee productivity. With external factors and costs outside of retailers’ control, such as business rates and the national living wage, they’re under mounting pressure to find ways to improve operations and the bottom line. As a result, investments in digitalisation will become more of a focus to improve business process, the store environment and store operations, as well as drive a better and deeper customer experience and entice people to come into store.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA): We also expect more and more retailers to experiment with RPA to explore its potential, driven by a need to improve accuracy, processes, productivity and product availability. We will see retailers embrace automation more widely across the supply chain and within the store to cost effectively manage the movement, control and availability of product both within the store and to the customer.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Up until now, AI has been focused on specific environments to create a dashboard on what’s happened, rather than on what’s going to happen. Retailers will begin to use AI to extract value from all forms or real-time data being collected across their operations, such as from their refrigeration systems, CCTV and control systems. Previously, this data all sat in separate silos, with retailers unable to make correlations between the data. However, through the use of AI, retailers can link the data together in real-time and create new business insights and actionable data to engage the customer, optimise stock availability and movement, drive operational efficiency, and prevent loss.

Mobilisation: With the increase in digitisation, comes greater mobilisation for store colleagues. Retailers will accelerate investments to empower store colleagues with access to product information and store systems in the aisle and warehouse to support customer journeys and optimise operations. Up until now, employees have had to carry clip boards or go to certain desk points in the front and back end of the store to help with queries and tasks, which has been an unproductive use of their time. However, we expect to see retailers’ rollout smaller form factor colleague devices and wearable technology and use actionable real-time data and insight generated to assign tasks dynamically to colleagues and mobilise them to the benefit of customers and the overall operations of the store.

Move to Services: Driven by the need to deepen customer relationships and foster growth against a backdrop of retailers struggling to differentiate themselves from one another, in the coming months we will see retailers evolve to offer services alongside their product offerings. The move to services will provide retailers with both higher margin and revenue growth opportunities and deliver an improved, more tailored customer experience for the increasingly time starved consumer.

Collaboration and partnerships: In 2018, collaboration between retailers grew as we saw the likes of Sainsbury’s and Asda, Tesco and Carrefour begin to forge partnerships. Over the course of the next year, we will see an acceleration of retailers partnering to deliver a more curated customer experience to make big box retailers a shopping destination once again. Retailers will combine operations for shared beneficial services to deliver lower operating costs and allow these savings to be passed onto the consumer.