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Consumers Now More Than Ever Crave Personal Connections

Retail 4 Growth | January 16, 2024 by Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz

Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, International President - Retail Design Institute, New York, feels a mix of discount bonanza, AI/AR technologies and human connection will define retail in 2024. Check out her views in this exclusive column for Retail4Growth as part of ‘2024: What’s In Store?’

With the calendar now turned to 2024, the retail industry is abuzz with predictions for the upcoming year. Some of what you see and hear will be novel, but much of it will echo familiar themes from past years. What do I mean by that? Well, for starters, I believe we will continue to see enduring consumer emphasis on brands’ accountability for their sustainable initiatives. A closer examination of emerging trends reveals a blend of the groundbreaking and the revamped, underscoring the persistent consumer call for transparency and eco-friendly practices within the retail sector. 

Here are five things to watch for in Retail for 2024:

Discount Leads the Way

Discount brands will continue to grow, fueled by genuine concerns about the economy. According to the 2024 US Macro Outlook Report from Cushman and Wakefield, “The discount sector added nearly 1,800 net new stores in 2023, contributing significantly to the overall retail industry’s increase of more than 1,000 stores. The three names that opened the most stores — Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree — accounted for 30% of all new store openings this year, accounting for more than 16 million square feet.”

Ethical and Sustainable Retail

Consumers have become, and will continue to be, more conscious of sustainability and ethical practices. Retailers will need to emphasize eco-friendly products, transparent supply chains, and ethical sourcing to attract environmentally and socially conscious consumers.

Tech-Savvy Shopping: Retail’s AI Revolution for Personal Bliss

Retailers are expected to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning for personalized shopping experiences. AI can analyze vast amounts of customer data to offer tailored recommendations, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technologies will play a more prominent role in the retail experience, providing immersive shopping experiences, virtual try-ons, and enhanced product visualization. 

Example: Savage X Fenty fitting rooms equipped with 360-degree technology that measures you and can calculate your size down to a bra cup.

A Word of Caution: When technology doesn’t work as intended, it can discourage consumers. Retailers must invest in thorough research before integrating technology into the shopping experience.  

A Revamp for the Retail Backstage

Retailers are awakening to the realization that crafting an exceptional shopping experience extends beyond the showroom. In the throes of a competitive labor market, the quest to lure and keep top-tier talent has thrust the employee experience into the spotlight. Consequently, the backstage – the back-of-house space – is undergoing a makeover. Recognizing the connection between contented employees and delighted customers, retailers are investing in creating inviting and appealing environments behind the scenes. After all, a happy workforce paves the way for truly satisfied customers. 

Above All, Personal Connection 

Amid the algorithms and virtual spectacles, one truth reigns supreme: the human touch remains crucial. In 2024, consumers, more than ever, crave personal connections, not just with the brands they love but with the smiling faces at the stores. Retailers have taken notice that happy and knowledgeable employees will lead to engaged and satisfied customers. 

So, as we navigate the retail landscape of 2024, let’s revel in the discount bonanza, dance with the AI wizards, and dabble in augmented realities, but above all, cherish the connections that make the shopping experience truly magical. 

First posted here.


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