Rife with advancements in technology, new financial regulations and waves of thinking, the landscape of modern business is constantly evolving; pushing forward-planning to the forefront of driving success. This year has already seen the implementation of PSD2 and the launch of Amazon’s first check-out less supermarket, but there are a number of other exciting developments still to come which small businesses can capitalise on.
The landscape of retail is constant evolving but keeping up with consumer demands and delivering an excellent customer experience are set to continue as a core focus for retailers. And with growth high on the agenda for many high-street businesses, we’ve captured a few top trends which will help you hit the ground running this year.
From Millennials to Generation Z
Now in 2018, it’s time to really take note of the next wave of consumers – Generation Z. Born after 1998, this generation grew up with the Internet at their fingertips, available anywhere and everywhere at the touch of a button; so, naturally they are more oriented towards digital technologies.
With growing demand for convenience, flexibility and overall speed of service, this creates a world of opportunity for small businesses who meet these needs and tailor their sales strategy accordingly. Larger players such as Amazon are already capitalising on this, as seen with the pilot of its new Amazon Go supermarket, combining physical and online shopping experiences.
On a more accessible level, one way to better target Generation Z is by harnessing the power of social media and technology. This boost in convenience and enforcement of your brand will ultimately drive customer loyalty at this vital time; and support your high-street business in keeping up with this ever-changing trade environment.
Rise of new technologies such as AI driving the customer experience
Growing demand for integration between online and offline retail channels also raises some important questions about the future of the UK high street. Despite the omnipotence of ecommerce, 46% of SME owners believe that trading on the high street still has a positive future.
2017 saw a boom in machine learning, touching on the use of artificial intelligence (AI), including robotic process automation, speech recognition and virtual agents to support efficient business processes. Could 2018 be the breakthrough for AI, impacting the retail world as we see it?
The smart technology behind AI can enable retailers to utilise large amounts of data to not only perform multiple, repeated tasks efficiently but also to enrich and personalise interactions with customers. With Alexa and Google Home quickly becoming our next family members, their recommendations for which products to buy online, for example, are increasingly becoming significant in customers’ decision-making process.
Review your marketing plan in line with the above and ensure you stay on top of the latest trends to gain a competitive edge for your business, and an ease of transaction for your customers.
So far, we’ve looked at the benefits of digital transformation, but whilst this shiny new tech can be impressive it is also important to be prepared for any potential challenges they might bring; especially as, in just the early weeks of 2018, we have already begun to witness changes to the retail landscape.
On the rise in the world of regulation is PSD2 which, due to the shift into Open Banking, will be essential for small, high-street businesses to take note of. This shift will transform the payments industry as we see it today. With a cashless society on the horizon, Open Banking could open up a world of opportunity for the high street, adding value to both the payment process as well brand loyalty.
The alternative finance space is also developing rapidly, offering a way to grow your business through collaboration with trusted partners whilst enhancing your business potential and working in line with your needs. Make sure you are familiar with all of your options when looking to support your business to ensure you’re on the front foot with the latest developments.
It’s an exciting time to build your business and, in an exciting, ever-evolving environment, you can get ahead by capitalising on the above trends and adjusting your strategy accordingly. With new developments always on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get a head start to ensure success.
Rob Straathof is CEO at Liberis, the leading alternative finance provider, offering a better way to finance UK small businesses