When it comes to the retail sector, trends are constantly changing. Over the past decade, retail has undergone some significant changes, and those that don’t adapt face being left behind by the competition.
It’s important that stores move forward to keep customers happy. Keeping up with the latest trends is something every business must do, particularly as the digital age has made online shopping increasingly popular.
So, is trend-changing a good thing for your business? While customers expect more and it’s inevitable that retailers will have to change, it can be challenging and expensive for businesses to keep pace with the times.
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Pros and cons
When technology is changing rapidly, it can be pricey. Upgrading the point of sale, improving self-service checkouts, or streamlining the online shopping experience, are enhancements that don’t come cheap! Luckily, the costs can usually be clawed back over time in terms of increased income due to the improvements.
There’s also an argument from some traders that they don’t want to follow trends because they’re in danger of losing their unique identity, but retail analysts say the answer is having a flexible rather than a fixed identity to stop your brand from becoming stagnant.
Many brands are struggling to cope with the challenges created by the digital world – in particular small to medium-sized businesses, that might not have as much disposable income. Those in the fashion and beauty industries, where trends seem to change quicker, also have to work harder to keep pace.
The key to understanding trends is to recognise that they’re a means of finding out what innovations, website functions, in-store features, gadgets, sounds, colours and products people want and then moulding them to reflect your own individuality.
People need to trust your company and once you’ve gained their respect, enhance their experience by tailoring the trends to your own consumer base.
By nature, digital branding needs to be flexible and prepared to change with the times. Think about social media if you’re in any doubt – remember, that Facebook post from three days ago is old news now! The same ethos transfers to the business world too.
Moving with the times and following trends doesn’t mean losing your identity. On the contrary, it’s a way of retaining your identity by keeping your brand relevant and on-trend.
Retailers need to harness the power of the digital age to improve their sales. A prime example is the use of consumer reviews. Recent research reveals 86% of consumers read reviews before using a business. In the 18 to 34-year-old age group, this number rises to 95%.
Customers read an average of ten online reviews before they fully trust a business. Interestingly, keeping current is an important factor in this sector as well. If you see that the last online review was written a couple of months back, the business can look rather dated already.
Research from December 2018 shows 40% of consumers take into account only the reviews written in the past two weeks. In December 2017, the figure was 22%, showing consumers want more up-to-date information before they decide where to spend their money.
In addition, 80% of 18 to 34-year-olds have written online reviews themselves. Any business that isn’t harnessing the power of technology and keeping up with the trends isn’t “keeping its identity” – it’s stagnating!
Analysts are urging brands to look closer at the culture buzzing around them, including on social media, in the news, in entertainment and in fashion. They must then use their awareness to get ideas on how to integrate their business into this world.
It’s even more important to consider the image your brand portrays and to create a culture that matches consumers’ ever-changing values and views.
Another important trend is the way e-commerce is constantly striving to improve its shipping times to compete with the ability of high street retailers to provide customers with what they want on the spot. A recent survey has revealed the average wait for free shipping is 4.5 days – down from 5.5 days.
Major e-commerce platforms like Amazon Prime have made two-day shipping standard, so reducing delivery times is vital if you want to compete with the big boys.
Who’s got it right?
Some brands are forging ahead by keeping abreast of the latest trends and technology. One retailer who’s got it right is the French chain of health and beauty stores, Sephora. The brand has launched its Innovation Lab, where customers can benefit from an augmented reality experience in bricks and mortar stores.
Customers can enjoy a number of tech options, enabling them to personalise their shopping experience – they can try on make-up virtually to match their skin tone to a foundation, or sample a perfume by using a touchscreen and scented air!
The Innovation Lab, launched in 2015, is staffed by product development, marketing and technology team members, who develop and test new ideas. Those ideas that pass their stringent selection procedures are launched for shopping online and in-store.
California-based company, Fitbit, originally known for its pedometers, has evolved to match consumers’ increasing desire to keep fit and live a healthy lifestyle. The original pedometers tracked the number of steps taken by the wearer.
Now, Fitbit devices are high-tech fashion accessories that enable the wearer to track the number of floors climbed, how many calories they’ve burned, or the total distance they’ve walked. The increase in social sharing has led Fitbit to provide a smartphone app that enables wireless syncing with the tracker. In addition, the online dashboard permits the wearer to monitor progress, log meals and give moral support to their Fitbit-wearing friends.
Who’s got it wrong?
In contrast to the brands who’ve adapted well to trends, others have missed the mark. Hitting the headlines recently for all the wrong reasons is the Arcadia Group, which started out in Chesterfield in 1903 as The Cross-Tailoring Company.
It enjoyed massive growth during the 20th century, later becoming Burton and relaunching Topshop to cater to the emerging youth market. They acquired Debenhams in 1985 – then the UK’s largest department store. However, in 1991 the recession set in, leading to a dip and 2,000 staff being laid off.
In 1998, the company was renamed the Arcadia Group and in the early 21st century bought other brands such as Etam, Tammy and the ailing BHS, but company chiefs were left wondering what went wrong at the start of June 2019, when Arcadia Group was narrowly saved from administration.
An eleventh-hour agreement meant the retail empire escaped, just! However, it will still have to close around 50 stores as part of its recovery plan. The group currently represents Miss Selfridge, Topshop, Topman, Evans, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis, employing 18,000 staff.
Retail analysts claim Arcadia Group suffers from high street over-exposure, with too many stores operating in close proximity. It also failed to capitalise on the boom in e-commerce and was over-confident, thinking it had become “too big to fail”, according to the Retail Gazette.
It still sells relatively little online and has struggled against competition from new brands, such as Boohoo and ASOS. The increase of fresh and flexible competitors has “undoubtedly contributed significantly to the group’s demise”, it is claimed.
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