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Six Game-Changing Retail Technology Trends in 2014

Supporting a modern retail experience is on the minds of retailers of all sizes and across the globe. From lean start-ups to international expansion to phygital (yes, I made it up), what will retail look like as we move into 2014?

It’s tempting to want to satisfy every wish and at the same time there is so much to do to keep up with the continued demands and high expectations from customers. Retailers need look hard inside and assess whether continuing to patchwork their business is really going to be effective in the coming years to support a modern retail experience.

Here are six key trends in retail technology we are talking about with our clients in 2014.

  1. (Lean) Start up/Start Over – We are seeing an emerging trend of retailers who maintain a BAU position whilst building their new business off to the side. Our client, Natural Markets Food Group, will be speaking about this at next week’s NRF conference. In summary, many retailers are finding their evolved bricks-and-mortar plus online model too cumbersome to support a real omnichannel experience. So they are simply starting up or over.
  2. Marketplace – For those retailers who have a mature eCommerce business, the threat of Amazon has become just too great, so we are seeing both a desire to move from pure-play eCommerce to more marketplace-based retailing, essentially bringing buyers and sellers together around their core retail segment. There are also a lot of great start-ups popping up who are set up from day one to operate this way. In 2013, for example, we worked with Equipment Street and got their marketplace up and running in eight weeks.
  3. Mobile – Not so much a key trend anymore but a must have. More than 50% of all of our projects globally now have either mobile first or significant mobile capability plans. eBay is set to achieve more than $1 billion just from mobile and tablet devices this year. It is the same in many industries. The work we did with Lastminute.com proves this; not only did they increase conversion by a huge margin but they found new business and opportunity models. And with a whole bunch of cheap tablet devices that hit the market at Christmas, ignore at your peril!
  4. International Expansion – It’s been top of list for many retailers for the past five years now, but with the growth in the Asia markets, particularly for high-end and luxury retail brands it will continue to grow. Some markets have slowed down such as Japan but others replaced them. Southeast Asia seems to be the new rising start. China is still steady.
  5. Time-to-Value – We are already seeing a major focus from executives, the board, CMOs, CIOs who completely recognise that six to 12 month, even three-month release cycles are just not acceptable. Our model of continuous delivery-continuous design is intended to move companies to a position where they could release software hundreds of times a day, reliably or on demand which allows much greater flexibility to A/B test, iterate and roll back if necessary or simply fail fast. For many years we have promoted evolutionary architecture as a sound approach to support a responsive organisation.
  6. Phygital – Made up, yes, but it will become a necessary reality that retailers have to find ways to subtly and seamlessly incorporate digital into a store experience and not just for technology sake or as a gimmick but to tackle core retailing issues like real time inventory, faster checkout, everything in my pocket (mobile – payment, loyalty, receipts, rewards, etc). The behind the scenes analytics opportunities are the significant side benefit to a customer experience premised on digital.

Learn how we are driving innovation faster throughout the retail technology evolution - empowering retailers to redefine the customer experience.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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