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What Trends Are Shaping Retail In 2019? 49 Experts Share Their Insights

  • 21 June 2019
  • Sam Mire

Think of your five favorite retail spots. Where do you shop? Are they stores you visit by hopping in the car or Uber? Or do you make the vast majority of your purchases online? Many of you may find yourself straddling the line separating e-commerce and brick and mortar.

There's no denying that retail is going digital at a rapid clip, but there's still some value in the brick and mortar retail experience. Where does the intersection between all-digital retail and the all-brick and mortar world of the past lie, and how will that divide look in ten, twenty, and fifty years?

Industry insiders leaned on their expertise to give us their visions of the future of retail. Heres what they have to say:

1. Antonia Hock, Global Head of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center

Antonia Hock“Most analysts will focus on big tech trends like AI, but frankly, I think that our expectations for authentic human connection in real time have skyrocketed. And that is channel agnostic. As a consumer, I expect a brand to proactively engage me in any channel I choose. If I struggle online, I need a personalized chat. If reach out via email, you will impress me if a real human responds in less than an hour. If I am in a store, and a loyalty member, greet me by name and acknowledge my last purchase-show me something great that I will love.”

2. Nikki Baird, Vice President of Retail Innovation at Aptos Retail

Nikki Baird“We see retailers still very focused on the store and the store experience. This has been a problem area for years, but the urgency is higher than ever to be able to deliver rich digital experiences in stores, and seamless omnichannel experiences to customers. Retailers are investing heavily now but consumers should start seeing more of the results by holiday 2019.”

3. Cate Trotter, Founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends

Cate Trotter“The industry is responding more and more to different consumer preferences and concerns around the impact of packaging from sustainability to ethics. As a result, we’re seeing a lot more experiments around refilling and reusing, second-hand sales and rental models. The retail industry of the future won’t be focused exclusively around the ownership of things. We’re also increasingly seeing brands adopt an iterative or disruptive stance when it comes to their retailing. Not everyone wants or needs to completely reinvent the way we buy, but I think every retailer should know which camp they fall into if they want to succeed.”

4. Jaime Bettencourt, SVP of Business Development at Mood Media

Jaime Bettencourt“○Customization: While this has been a key trend since the beginning of the decade, it is becoming more industrialized at the point of sale.

○ Brand Immersion: Getting consumers immersed in the brand’s universe is imperative. Brands have two very important tools at their disposal: art and play.

○ Community: With the development of conversational technologies, brands will no longer exist independently; they must become part of their customers’ daily life and gather real communities around them.

○ Convenience Redefined: Digitalization has deeply renewed the approach of this pillar of retail, to better accommodate customers’ core needs.”

5. Bryan Eisenberg, Co-Founder of Buyer Legends

Bryan Eisenberg“The most practical innovations are shaping 2019. We are seeing more robotics helping in-store and behind the scenes in logistics. In the front of the store, customer experience side we are seeing associates enabled with technology that will allow for customer checkout wherever they are ready (to avoid lines) as well as to enable CRM capabilities.”

6. Bryan Roberts, Global Insight Director at TCC Global

Bryan Roberts“In general terms, shoppers are getting older, more ethnically diverse, more urbanised and more male – these trends are causing retailers to reinvent their stores in terms of design, assortment, size, location, marketing and technology. E-commerce continues to gather momentum and retailers are learning the hard way that it can be difficult to balance store-based and online retail without endangering their profitability. In more emotional terms, shoppers expect authenticity, humanity and responsibility from retailers: technology can only do so much. “

7. Kasey Lobaugh, Chief Retail Innovation Officer at Deloitte

Kasey Lobaugh“Eight disruptive forces are influencing the retail battlefield, across four dimensions: consumer, competition, configuration, and climate. Consumers have access to more choices than ever. Meanwhile, a substantial income gap and a steep rise in non-discretionary expenses have given rise to a bifurcation of the retail landscape. Among the competition, we see a myriad of new, small companies stealing market share from incumbents, resulting in share fragmentation. Amazon is adding additional pressure by opening its online marketplace and entering the physical retail space. The configuration of the workforce and the value chain is being disrupted by unprecedented adoption of automation technology. Finally, the uncertain political and economic climate is forcing retailers to operate as nimbly as possible.  These forces have and will continue to fundamentally reshape the competitive environment.”

8. Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner at Retail Systems Research (RSR)

Paula Rosenblum“Even though we are halfway through the year, the biggest impacts are yet to be felt. Tariffs threaten the holiday season, particularly for apparel and footwear. Separately, the “order in” or “eat out” phenomenon is having an impact on grocery stores. Perhaps most importantly, consumers’ desires to see only those items that are relevant to their lifestyle needs are creating a lot of disruption. There is a tremendous bifurcation between mass merchants (I can buy everything I need for my household in one trip) and specialty retail (I know what I want, and don’t want to shop “by department”) with department stores hanging sadly in the middle, providing neither one-stop shopping nor lifestyle specialties.”

9. Brian Kilcourse, Managing Partner at RSR Research LLC

“Shoppers want relevance and are no longer willing to be inconvenienced by large standardized assortments and big impersonal stores.  Consumers look for solutions to their lifestyle needs in the digital realm and expect to be able to purchase their choices in the most convenient way that fits any situation.  Retailers are responding with more directed value offerings, more fulfillment choices, and more locally focused store offerings.  The challenge is, how to do all these things profitably?  That is retailers’ top priority.”

10. Miya Knights, Head of Industry Insight at Eagle Eye Solutions Limited

Miya KnightsRetailers are modernizing store and supply processes to integrate with their latest digital systems. In doing so, they also need to harness the data generated about sales, products, and customers in order to build and orchestrate a truly profitable omnichannel business. This is fuelling continued interest in AI-driven analytics and automation to develop systems that can generate the next-best price or offer for every type of customer at scale and on-the-fly. They are also investing in tech to incentivize the digital search, browse, discovery and purchase phases of the shopping journey through capabilities such as reverse image search, location-aware offers, scan & pay, and discount or delivery subscriptions.”

11. John Rampton, Founder of Due

John Rampton“2019 retail trends are focused primarily on personalized experiences and interactions as well as less friction, biometric security, and fast transactions. More tools are being introduced that move the control over shopping to the consumer when and where they want to hear about products, where and when they want to buy those items, and how they can find out about similar products.”

12. Steve Dennis, President and Founder of SageBerry Consulting

Steve Dennis“More personalization, better integration across customer touchpoints. Further collapse of the middle.”



13. Doug Stephens, Founder of Retail Prophet

Doug Stephens“We'll see a lot more investment in artificial intelligence on the back end of retail.  AI and big data analytics will provide a significant return on investment in terms of supply chain efficiency and store operations.  In turn, we'll see more retailers investing in upping their in-store and online customer experience.

Look for continued automation through the use of robotics, AI and computer vision to take care of routine in-store activities like inventory control, product merchandising and loss-prevention. On the other hand, the role of retail people will increasingly become that of brand ambassadors — skilled and dynamic problem solvers.”

14. Shep Hyken, Author of The Convenience Revolution 

Shep Hyken“Staying in the customer experience world, a big trend that is shaping the decisions of consumers is convenience. It’s simple: customers love convenience. They love an easy and frictionless experience with who they do business with. Companies like Amazon are setting a high bar for what convenience looks like – and customers are expecting others who they do business with to follow suit.”

15. Yigit Kocak, Inbound Marketing Manager at Prisync

Yigit Kocak“One trend shaping the future of retail is pricing automation and dynamic pricing. The reason pricing automation has a lot of impact is because the global economy is getting tighter and the competition in each industry is getting fiercer. As a result of this, consumers are much more price-sensitive to any product sold in any market. The technology of dynamic pricing software will adapt to market movements and consumer demand to optimize prices for businesses while selling and staying competitive for the future.”

16. Bob Phibbs, CEO at The Retail Doctor, a New York Consultancy

Bob Phibbs“BOPIS – Buy online pickup in store is growing and a way brick and mortar retailers are competing with the online bandits. Robots will continue to pick up basic maintenance and picking of online orders. Subscriptions will continue to grow though churn is a huge issue. Part-time has become the norm with less full-time staff, customer service will continue to decrease.”

17. Rory O'Connor, Founder and CEO of Scurri

“Customer experience is shaping retail in 2019. Delivery is an area where
e-commerce retailers can add huge improvements to the consumer experience. 25 percent of all consumers have experienced issues with delivery and 72 percent of e-shoppers wanting to know the delivery company at checkout. We are seeing those retailers that build relationships between the carriers and the customer improve the overall customer experience and increase overall lifetime value.

The solution? More cooperation in the carrier market is needed, necessitated by rising costs, complexity and competition. Carriers need to collaborate to optimize coverage, especially on less profitable routes. Customer experience is fast overtaking price and product as the key brand differentiator. The smartest eCommerce stores will pay close attention to these trends in behavior and be ready to adapt.”

18. Kevin Sterneckert, Chief Marketing Officer at Symphony RetailAI

Kevin Sterneckert“In recognizing the importance of a full understanding of the consumer, retailers will push insights to the next level of granularity, moving beyond shopper segments to deliver personalized experiences, assortments, offers, and promotions.

Retailers with physical stores are focusing on precision and operational excellence. The success of companies like Best Buy shows that having competitively priced items in stock, with inventory visibility, is key to competing in omnichannel. Grocery click-and-collect and home delivery will see impressive gains, with a greater share of total revenue shifting to sales channels that do not involve a customer walking the store floor.”

19. Richard Heyes, Managing Director at Tecmark

Richard Heyes“In short, an increase in pop up stores. This trend started in 2018, and allows independents and online retailers to provide a better experience through engaging with their clients personally. And more importantly, providing a ‘physical showroom' of sorts for those products that consumers like to touch and feel. There's still a fear of long term commitment of long term leasing and pop-ups provide a perfect platform to test ‘a bricks and mortar' strategy to compliment online.”

20. Dennis Wakabayashi, VP of Digital and Integrated Marketing at The Integer Group

Dennis Wakabayashi“As we end 2019 and head into 2020, we'll see a sudden “gold rush” for brands as point of sale systems, third-party data overlords, and retailers lose their iron-fisted grasp on data surrounding customer shopping behavior. Mobile devices are already shifting to the epicenter of consumer intelligence, and in the years to come, monitoring live demand for all products and services will be as easy for you to do, as it is for Amazon and Uber now.”

21. Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder and Publisher of Retail Minded

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle“In 2019 I have seen a rise in how consumers identify where they shop based on what payments are accepted. This is reshaping the ecosystem of retail and how retailers must react to their marketing and overall support of customers, as well. Additionally, digital continues to impact how customers shop and how retailers behave. This includes the influence of artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

22. Bo van der Putten, Managing Director at Monarch Capital Partners

“Dependent on Food or Non-food retail, most of retail is really undertaking digital transformation, with the aim to create a center stage platform for their brand where technology (as a tool), connectivity, immediacy of response and personalization for customers is critical for success. The power of the consumer increases and the key is really about understanding your customer and the customer journey and stay on top of the customer’s needs and how to deliver this, both bricks ánd clicks. Digitally native brands –  “pure-plays” –  now recognize the value and supporting function of physical stores to stimulate sales (and the other way around) and provide all kind of convenience services and events.”

23. Keith Anderson, SVP, Strategy and Insight at Profitero

Keith Anderson“2019 seems to be all about economic and environmental sustainability in retail. With growing volatility and uncertainty in the global economic and political environment, retailers are hustling to future-proof themselves by seeking new revenue streams (like selling advertising and media placements); rationalizing assets (stores, assortment, and inventory); increasing efficiency; and minimizing waste.”

24. Stephen Rector, Bakertown Consulting

Stephen Rector“A big trend in 2019 is about stores – both opening new ones and closing old ones. There will be a record amount of stores closed this year. This is needed – we are overstored as a country. However on the flip side, we will see new stores opening from many direct to consumer brands (DTC) that will be targeting wealthy high end shopping districts and malls as well as the dollar stores continuing to dominate rural and less wealthy markets.”

25. Kosta Popov, Founder and CEO of Cappasity 

Kosta Popov“Improved product visualization, AI for both in-depth analytics and boosting engagement levels, and revival of the physical store are the e-commerce trends to keep up with in 2019. These trends, when combined, form a solid foundation for a holistic business strategy meant to boost sales and pave the way for brand innovations and a futuristic, yet satisfying, customer experience.”

26. Nate Masterson, CMO at Maple Holistics

Nate Masterson“There’s reason to believe that there is a steady rise in consumers value of experience over commodity. People don’t just want the ‘thing’ that they need, but they want it to tell a story and to mean something. Whether that’s a personalized item, or just generally supporting a brand that has ethical values, 2019 is about buying something that means something.”

27. Carlos Castelán, Managing Director of The Navio Group

Carlos Castelan“Product transparency and sustainability is increasingly important to customers and a trend we saw continuing to grow in the future. Customers want to know how products are being sourced, what ingredients they contain, and a view into the supply chain. As an example, RX Bar, a protein snack bar made with healthy ingredients, became popular because of the simplicity of the product and having transparent labels that highlighted the bars’ limited ingredients on their packaging. Other brands from food to apparel are starting to do the same to highlight sourcing practices and provide transparency into their supply chain.”

28. Zarar Ameen, CEO of CANZ Marketing

Zarar Ameen“We have noted that people are shifting to Shopify CMS pretty quickly since
the introduction and the boom of the drop shipping business model. This was
mainly because of the integration options that were offered by third-party
plugins which would allow for products to be directly listed on the website
from Ali Express with any additional coding or setup.

This has changed the face of retail and is now aiming for small online shops to go forward and do wonders. I think retailers are jumping on online platforms and would be using social  media to directly sell and promote their brands and shops.”

29. Ryan Sim, Co-founder, Managing Director, We The People

Ryan Sim“Crowdfunded products will draw consumers to brick-and-mortar retail outlets: While online sales will always be important, many consumers are drawn to crowdfunded products because they want to see and touch them before they buy. We will see the blurring of boundaries as more and more retail outlets showcase crowdfunded products to draw in those discerning shoppers. Crowdfunded products will be a big growth opportunity for retail outlets that understand the market and meet the needs of consumers who are interested in products that don't come from big brands or giant superstores.”

30. Jacquie Young-Sterling, Director of Customer Experience at CompliantIA

Jacquie Young-Sterling“Buy online pick up in store (bopis). BOPIS is a win-win for retailers and customers, especially for retailers that can offer same day pickup. Customers get the convenience of ordering from an app on their phone, retailers don't have to deal with the logistics and expense of shipping. Picking up curbside is appealing for busy families and the option to pick up at a designated area in the store is the perfect opportunity to showcase amazing in-store experience (and encourage impulse purchases).”

31. Alen Paul Silverstein, CEO of Imagination Park Technologies

Alen Silverstein“Leveraging the mobile phone to engage shoppers to try on, experience, and view items prior to purchase (VTO). This trend will continue forward for the next few years and then ultimately transition to wearable lens. This interactive and direct one to one interaction thru a device will be the future of retail. Physical retailers have to create an experiential environment to engage and activate shoppers. Retailers creating a ‘FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) campaign will grab the attention of their target audience and should leverage AR for activation.”

32. Robyn M. Bolton, Founder of MileZero

Robyn Bolton“Digital Native Brands' moves into brick and mortar is the biggest trend shaping retail. For over a decade, traditional retailers, who no longer enjoy the brand equity and loyalty they once did, have comforted themselves with the belief that their online competitors would never develop the operational ability or intestinal fortitude to do business in real life. However, as brands like Warby Parker, Bonobos, and M. Gemi rapidly set up shop in the real-world, traditional retailers are losing their last safe haven.”

33. Ville Levaniemi, co-founder of HappyOrNot 

Ville Levaniemi“The latest trend to hit retail, and which will carry on shaping the industry in 2019, is a shift towards hyper-personalization, mainly triggered by a combination of shifting preferences of consumers but also an evolving technological landscape.

On one hand, this change in consumer behaviour has resulted in more demanding customers who have much higher expectations. They now seek more engaging shopping experiences that are tailored to their preferences, and that are more convenient, relevant and authentic.

On the other hand, the fact that consumers have enough power to destroy a company’s reputation has made listening to consumer needs and hearing them out absolutely crucial if retailers wish to deliver a faultless and personalized customer experience, and ultimately, preserve the loyalty of their customers.”

34. Rob Maille, Head of Strategy and Customer Experience, CommerceCX

Rob Maille“Success in any situation involving a customer rests heavily on how well a brand can reduce friction along the customer journey. With FedEx testing out delivery bots in Memphis, Walmart integrating robots into their store operations, and Kroger working with Microsoft to integrate an in-store RaaS product, we’re seeing AI, and specifically robotics, make huge waves in retail this year. These trends are pointing to a revival in brick and mortar retail/grocery stores, as well as better supporting brand’s online/mobile offerings and how they connect customers with the things they want and purchase.”

35. Paul Duffy, President of NexTech AR Solutions

Paul Duffy“The entrance of mainstream AR wearables, such as glasses, are proving to be a game-changer for consumers using these technologies and the brands deploying them. More accessible headsets/glasses, combined with machine-learning technologies which can help retailers gain insightful data into customer behaviors and preferences, will open up more opportunities for personalized, branded AR content, promotional offers and geo-targeted, enabling brands to reach their target audiences more easily.”

36. Jimmy Duvall, Chief Product Officer at BigCommerce

Jimmy Duvall“The biggest trend in retail this year is easily the convergence of making purchases while living our lives. Instagram Shopping, where you can click on a shirt or hat you see in a photo and buy it directly within the Instagram app, is just the beginning. Often called contextual commerce, people are going to start seeing more ways to buy things in the context of where they discover them, whether that's on social media, TV, or, eventually, on another person walking down the street.”

37. Penny Bauder, Founder and Owner of Green Kid Crafts

Penny Bauder“Subscription services have exploded in the retail space in the past few years and 2019 is shaping up to be the biggest year yet for the subscription industry as huge brands enter into the market. is further burnishing its ambition as an affordable fashion retailer by embracing the e-commerce trend of customizable subscription boxes with its recent partnership with Kidbox. And is getting into the game as well with its recent launch of Amazon Subscription Boxes.”

38. Michael Hardman, CMO at SAIS Group

Michael Hardman“Storytelling and having non product specific content drive commerce. As the retail business becomes more and more digital focused, and the consumer increasingly savvy and unsusceptible to being force fed self-serving product information, the production of content to support a brand’s digital platforms be it a dedicated website, mobile app or social media channels has to evolve simultaneously. Brand storytelling and lifestyle content is becoming more prevalent and has proven a successful model for the likes of Net-A-Porter. It’s becoming a well-known fact that the more customers engage with your content the higher the propensity they have to buy.Imagine a car tyre business, instead of describing your product about the grade of rubber used and detailing the grip it has a lifestyle story on how to plan a ski trip with insights on top resorts, with a subtle mention of the recommended snow tyres might prove more effective.”

39. Brandon Leong, VP of Marketing & Growth, RangeMe

Brandon Leong“In 2019, emerging retail trends focus on protecting people’s values, health and the planet. Purpose-led brands are committing to corporate social responsibility and sustainability to consumers’ trust. Cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) has evolved into an in-demand ingredient for health, beauty, personal care, food and beverage products. As more consumers reduce their sugar and consumption, food suppliers face pressure to reformulate their recipes and develop low-sugar innovations and more plant-based meat products. In addition, consumers are increasing pressure on retail companies to reduce the amount of plastic waste their operations create.”

40. Erik Huberman, CEO and Founder of Hawke Media

“Experiences and in-store activations are a major trend occurring in retail these days. Customers demand personalization, so if a brick-and-mortar store isn't offering that through experiential tactics, they're going to struggle.”


41. Agnes Teh Stubbs, Retail Analyst at Software Advice

Agnes Teh Stubbs“As shoppers continue to make purchases online, more retailers are establishing an online presence to deliver added value. They’re also realizing that two-day delivery is now too slow as the amount of time people willing to wait for free shipping has decreased from 5.5 days in 2012 to 4.5 days on average. Amazon is already meeting that demand by cutting its standard Prime shipping time from two days to one day and in some cases, one to two hours with Prime Now. This type of accelerated delivery experience will be a key differentiator in an increasingly saturated market.”

42. Mark Van Zuylekom, General Manager, Australia and New Zealand, at Esendex Australia

Mark Van Zuylekom“I see retailers continue to work on providing a holistic customer experience across all channels. Whether it is bridging online and offline experience, linking e-commerce and brick and mortar stores or connecting data back to the consumers, the key is to use all technologies and data to offer consumers a seamless journey no matter where and how they get in touch.”

43. Emil Waszkowski,  Head of Consulting at Future Mind

Emil Waszkowski“The industry is already undergoing a significant transformation, with worldwide retail tech spending expected to increase by 3.6% to $203.6 billion in 2019. It’s mostly due to the rise of new technologies, changing patterns of consumer behaviour, as well as the influence of companies that put digital first and become true pioneers of the industry. Collecting and analysing customer data more effectively, leveraging new technologies like AR and IoT, and incorporating innovative payment systems such as cashierless stores – are only a few examples of how technology can transform in-store shopping.”

44. Ethan McAfee, CEO of Amify

Ethan McAfee“Convenience and personalization. Customers are looking for a shopping
experience that is easy to navigate, looks appealing and treats them like they matter. Gone are the days of sifting through a cluttered store and  hoping for the best; with online shopping, customers have instant access to reviews, price comparisons and selection. As the online shopping experience improves and delivery times shorten, consumers have high expectations for their shopping experience and are looking to online retail.”

45. Rob Keve, Co-founder and CEO of Flow

Rob Keve“The global nature of search along with the proliferation of mobile and social commerce is generating enormous demand from consumers overseas for non-domestic brands. It is easier now than ever before for brands to set up online storefronts and virtual supply chains, which is one key factor driving the growth of DNVBs and allowing them to sell into international markets and expand their reach quickly.”

46. Marc Gingras, CEO of Foko Retail 

Mark Gingras“Unsurprisingly, several retailers are already looking towards the future
and reimagining the in-store and customer experience in 2019. Retailers like IKEA, Target, and Nordstrom (and, more recently, Abercrombie & Fitch) are shrinking their store footprints and creating small-format stores to cut down on logistical and supply costs and offer customers more curated shopping experiences. Ulta is experimenting with digital stylists in six stores and chatbots online to help give customers the information they need when buying products. And omnichannel fulfillment is expanding in the form of self-serve lockers (Walmart, Canadian Tire) to make in-store picks ups easier, and give associates more time to focus on what matters most: helping customers.”

47. Mark Smith, President of Kitewheel

Mark Smith“One trend we see is the proliferation of channels connecting businesses and consumers. Customers and businesses today interact over more than 120 marketing and delivery channels. A customer might see an ad for a product on a social platform, read some online reviews of it through Google, then visit a store to test it out, all before finally making a purchase on your website, following that up with a call to customer service.”

48. Benny Saban, CEO of Sonarax

Benny Saban“True convergence of digital and physical in the real world whereby connectivity to shoppers mobile phones through location-based technologies, such as sonic connectivity or BLE connectivity, are responsible for this disruption and revolution of the retail shopping experience. You can still have products delivered to your home, but you can socialize and shop together with friends or as a family, get advice from store clerks that are experts in their product field, have a human interaction and keep all the  convenience of personalized discounts, and finding exactly what fits you and never waiting in line.”

49. Brandon Leibel, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Sand Cloud

Brandon Leibel“When it comes to Gen Z, social media and how it leads to social causes. Their generation has grown up in a society where they’ve had ready access to social media platforms to communicate their thoughts and ideas – they haven’t existed in a world without mobile technology. They’re far more digitally connected than other generations were at their age and through this connection to technology, they are much more aware and passionate about social justice issues because they see the world’s problems in real time. I’ve seen businesses try to add on a social mission to their company just to make it attractive to these younger generations, but without any real feeling or action behind it. This can majorly backfire. Gen Z can immediately tell when your social mission is not genuine, so make sure that your activist efforts are real and authentic.”

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About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.