8 Retail Trends to Prepare for This Year

Perhaps no industry is changing more rapidly than retail. To help you keep up, I’ve gathered some predictions from two recent retail studies, “How We Shop Now,” and a report by TOBE presented at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, that will give you insight into upcoming retail trends and may help your business.

Upcoming Retail Trends

Rent, Don’t Buy

Taking a cue from the sharing economy and businesses such as Uber and Airbnb, 15 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in renting products from stores. The most popular products people wanted to rent are exercise equipment (17 percent), consumer electronics (15 percent) and furniture (11 percent).

The general idea is a subscription program that lets customers rent a certain amount (or an unlimited amount) of the items in question. Millennial consumers aged 25 to 34 are the most interested in this idea (35 percent). If you have merchandise that’s past its season, try renting it instead of putting it on clearance.

Class Is In Session

Nearly one-third (32 percent) of consumers are interested in going to classes or lessons at stores. U.S. shoppers are most interested in health or fitness classes (29 percent), cooking classes (27 percent) and learning from experts (20 percent). In addition, 17 percent are interested in clubs that meet at retail stores.

Teaching a class yourself or recruiting an employee or local expert to do so is a great way to attract new customers. Offer some type of discount for purchases made the day of the class to boost your sales. Or start a VIP club of your best customers and have monthly special events just for them. For instance, a clothing store could set aside one evening a month for its VIPs to come in and check out the new shipments.

Rich Rewards

Consumers in the survey are interested in loyalty programs — but with a twist: They’d like to be rewarded for making good life decisions. For example, 23 percent would like to get rewards for recycling, 23 percent would like to be rewarded for exercising and 11 percent would like to be rewarded for volunteering for charity.

Depending on what you sell, there could be ways to implement this type of loyalty program in your store. For example, a quick-service restaurant could give customers loyalty points for putting cans and bottles and recycling bins or using fewer paper napkins. A sporting goods store could kill two birds with one stone by sponsoring a running club and giving customers rewards for every mile they run with the group.

Sensory Stimulation

In an increasingly screen-oriented world, consumers in the survey want to stimulate all five senses when they actually go out into a real store. Not surprisingly, vision and touch were rated as the most important senses in the store experience, but smell and sound matter, too.

Differentiate your store from the online experience by focusing on appealing merchandising that encourages touching the products and background music that fits your brand.

Seeking Slouch

On a related note, stressed-out consumers are looking for relaxation wherever they can find it — even in retail stores. Think about how you can incorporate simplicity, serenity and calm into your store’s look, feel and design.

Sweet Memories

In today’s fleeting digital world, consumers are attracted to temporary retail experiences, such as pop-up shops or limited-edition product lines. At the same time, they also feel nostalgic about the pre-digital days, so retailers who can appeal to a retro sensibility in new ways will succeed.

Feel the Passion

Authenticity, purpose and social consciousness are all hot buttons for shoppers right now. Consumers want to spend their money with businesses that share their passions. Make sure your marketing clarifies your business mission, and if you’re involved with charitable or other socially responsible organizations, get your customers involved too.

Uniform Approach

As a reaction to the customization and personalization that’s currently dominating retail, uniformity will become increasingly popular. Streamlining your store down to a few well-curated items or putting all your sales clerks in uniform could be the wave of the future.

Retail Image via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

3 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    I am in the sharing economy. I think that we are already accumulating so much stuff that we have to stop. Sharing or renting is one way of battling this.

  2. One demographic we’re seeing these ideas embraced is the Boomers. Specifically with companies that offer experiences. Of course, they have always been passionate and loyal consumers, so making sure they understand how your company aligns with their values is key to keeping them.

  3. Renting for one-off situations I support. It prevents buying something, not using it and then throwing it away. However, too many people rent things over long periods of time and spend more than they would have just purchasing (think your cable modem). Buying can be a good decision and if you don’t have the money to buy it right now, start saving.

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