5 trends that will drive retail innovation in 2022

Recent global developments have accelerated the digital transformation across nearly every industry, nowhere more so than within retail organizations. From decision intelligence with ground-breaking AI recommendation engines to engaging new AR/VR customer experiences, keeping up with ever-evolving innovation trends within the retail space is fundamental for retail business growth.

#1 – Understanding your customer in the online-offline world

Due to unprecedented events over the past few years, a new frontier in retail has emerged. Accessibility across platforms and cross-border platforms have opened up the world of digital retail. Bridging the online-offline world and creating a hybrid approach to retail is front and center of any retail strategy. To do that, organizations need to understand how customer habits and routines have radically shifted due to lifestyle, world events, and technological breakthroughs.

Consumers are the driving force behind any retail business, their needs and desires come first. Retail organizations that are making the move to digital transformation are proactively responding and keeping up with changing behavior. Technology is now providing solutions to tap into their retail needs, and to solve for them in real-time in both virtual and real-world shopping experiences. 

#2 – Staying one step ahead of the customer

In today’s retail world, brand values hold higher priority for customers than ever before—customers expect brands to not just understand them but to understand them better than they do themselves. The bar is high, and expectations demand that businesses deliver relevant, valuable, and meaningful offers and services, to ensure repeat purchases by customers and to develop customer loyalty. Creating a sense of trust is also paramount and transparency is key. Brands that are trusted by customers are creating deeper experiences that lead to new revenue streams. For brands that are just chasing profit, customers are walking away.

Brands are responsible to meet a variety of customer needs:

  • to personalize retail experiences
  • to offer relevant retail experiences at both a local and global level
  • to enable customers to contribute to positive causes globally
  • to contribute to and understand local communities

#3 – The ever-increasing role of AI to drive retail growth

AI will continue to be a revolutionary trend—optimizing AI within the customer experience helps achieve harmony between human tasks and machine capabilities. The customer data strategy and the use of artificial intelligence are key components to addressing the entire customer experience. This involves designing a human-first data experience, where customers see their data being used in helpful, meaningful ways and improving the overall customer experience.

It is essential to be tuned into the world we live in, to stay informed, and interpret the needs of the customer. To do it all, requires data processing far beyond what the human brain is capable of. To manage and extract what is needed from this data, organizations need to have the right systems in place. As the multi-channel shopping journey takes priority, customer expectations demand that retailers shift towards automation, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics. 

Hyper automation will continually evolve as it adapts to automating multiple processes and business ecosystems. What does this mean for retail? Marketers can think less about the technology and more about the strategic application of it to transform a customer journey. Data processing will become even more impactful with data insights moving from being predictive—to prescriptive. Insights derived from AI-powered analytics enable decision intelligence and create purpose and planning. More holistic customer service solutions, such as producing timely offers, will make the world of difference for business optimization.

#4 – Merging the customer with product

In the age of big data and measurable outcomes, gathering data across every touchpoint is pivotal. All data should be utilized—combining internal organizational data with external signals. Customer data platforms integrate vast amounts of data collected from disparate sources. No longer do organizations need a team of data scientists—a software-as-a-service platform like Cerebra, can embed AI capabilities directly into the product suite. 

Instead of focusing on a particular aspect of the customer need and segmenting the audience, or skewing a platform towards a product need, such as inventory optimization, now you can have it all—the customer and the product communicating with each other. How is this possible?

The availability, the accessibility, and the awareness that data brings, enables the customer and the product to merge. On one hand, we can listen to what the customer wants and cares about. On the other hand, we can deeply analyze internal data at a product level to understand what the organization can offer, to respond to the customer needs with existing products, or engineer a solution.

By combining all the data, businesses can create the perfect synergy immediately—In the short term, match the right product to a specific customer need, and merge the demand with an offer. In the long term, data can inform a business on which strategies to have in place for the future, setting themselves up for success, with the next season on trend items, for example. With merchandisers and marketers working together, customer needs can be met in real-time, their desired product delivered.

#5 – Elevating the human experience in retail

Looking forward to 2022, the human experience will be pivotal within online shopping experiences. Chat commerce is on the rise, enabling brands to create personalized relationships with their customers, and gather informative insights, firsthand. From virtual shopping experiences that facilitate group appointments, to building entire worlds in the metaverse with the human experience at the core, a wealth of new, rich data will create dynamic insights. Better products, optimized operations, reduced costs, increased sustainability, and breakthrough customer experiences are all on the horizon.

Empathy and a sense of appreciation are crucial. We are still serving human beings; 
technology is always at the service of humanity. Every element of every technology 
needs to be able to serve the customer better, and make them feel valued, and 
important.

As we look at the bigger picture of what is truly possible with such an abundance of rich data, it is critical not to lose sight of our main aim—to get closer to and shorten the distance between the brand and the customer.

What 2022 is really about

2022 will see retail organizations that have already embraced digital transformation soar ahead with business optimization and customer experiences. A proactive customer engagement strategy will prove critical to maintain customer loyalty. Utilizing all data with AI-powered analytics will enable retail organizations to merge customer and product seamlessly. Some things remain the same—the customer continues to come first; empathy is at the core of every customer interaction. The difference is now technology enables retailers to enhance the customer experience even further.