It feels like just yesterday I was opening a fresh Word document to start writing a wrap-up for 2017, and here we are rounding out 2018.
With retail transforming at a rapid pace, it’s not terribly surprising that the year has flown by. The industry has witnessed some undeniably innovative changes – checkout-free convenience stores, an embrace of self-service kiosks in the quick service restaurant (QSR) and fast casual industries, and augmented reality playing a larger role in personalizing the customer experience. On the flipside, we’ve also bid farewell to some traditional retailers that sadly couldn’t keep stride with their more inventive competitors.
All in all, though, 2018 really shone a spotlight on the winners of the brick and mortar sector of retail – those willing to regroup, reinvent, and reestablish a presence in their various verticals.
I sat down with my Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc. colleagues to get their unique perspectives on the point-of-purchase and retail industries in 2018. My questions and their answers are below.
Mike Mayer, President
MM: Still solid. Brick and mortar retail remains strong but will need to continue striving to provide a positive and exciting experience to attract customers. Then the retailers need to continue to change to keep them coming back.
Senior Vice President of Sales
DA: There appears to be more category-managed merchandising and displays. It’s about streamlining the shopper experience and removing competing graphics, colors, and messaging. I’m also seeing more measured, ROI-based models for all displays. Because brands tend to have a smaller inventory on the product shelves, ROI is tested even more in regard to how quickly the product sell-through takes place.
Integrated Marketing Manager
CL: It’s been quite the shake-up in retail this past year. Those retailers who are willing to embrace technology to provide a customized consumer experience are proving why brick-and-mortar stores are still integral in the shopping experience.
Vice President of Business Development
JH: OEMs and retailers have had a challenge this year. I’ve noticed in client meetings that many are trying to reinvent themselves to combat online ordering and home delivery as well as separate themselves from the rest of the competition. They’ve had to really examine brand equity issues with buying groups. How they shop and how quickly they want items has an impact.
RL: It appears the ‘pie’ is redistributing with less market share being used at major department store chains, and more warehouse outlets relying heavily on point-of-purchase to tell a product’s story in the absence of sales associates. In some retail stores, the level of style and experience in POP has increased, with brands at these outlets focusing their spending on portraying a ‘showroom’ appearance. After all, while customers may end up making their purchases online, a great display can still help purchasers make a brand decision as people feel better about purchasing something they have seen and touched under favorable circumstances and not just only viewed on their phones.
DA: A trend toward more category-managed displays as well as the use of more semi-permanent materials on permanent displays to reduce overall costs.
JH: I saw a lot of retailers take a step toward “pick up in store” capabilities. It seems to help them minimize some inventories and offers more products that don’t need SKUs out on the floor. It ends up being a win for the customers as well when they don’t need to pay for freight to the store.
CL: We’re seeing multiple e-commerce sites branch into the brick-and-mortar sector, but with nontraditional marketing and customer service plans.
RL: In 2018, I saw better looking, more dramatic, bigger, bolder, more innovative, higher-quality displays in focused retailers.
MM: With so much buzz around self-service kiosks, I expected greater implementation of order entry kiosks in the QSR sector. While slower than originally believed, I think 2019 will be the year we really notice them being executed in-store.
DA: Virtual reality still hasn’t quite caught on at retail. It’s a great solution for flagship locations or a small segment of a company’s overall store count, however, at this point, VR does not appear to be a technology-based resource that will help consumers make a buying decision at retail.
RL: I agree about virtual reality. Apparently, the overall cost and inconvenience (for example, dangling cords, obtrusive headsets, etc.) has been too much for the marketplace to overcome this year. More development is needed to bring this technology into the mass consciousness. I’m hopeful that phone processing power will one day reach a level to help this take off.
DA: The proliferation of self-checkout across a number of retail chains. The momentum will only continue to accelerate through 2019.
JH: Home delivery being offered from grocery stores. Not only can you pick up curbside at the story, but now they’ll deliver your order directly to your home. In fact, Kroger is testing driverless cars that pull up to your driveway and require a code to access your groceries. Even George Jetson didn’t have that benefit!
RL: Not a big surprise, but I continue to see more QSR kiosk examples in the field.
CL: The department store sectors have had to reinvent their traditional models to extend a more experiential shopping trip to customers. Testing products, tailoring services, makeup tutorials, dining experiences – these offerings are drawing the consumer in while the merchandise feels less “center stage.”
So where do our trusty experts see the point-of-purchase market heading for 2019? Keep an eye out for our first blog post of the new year where we predict what the industry has in store!