8 Retail Trends Small Business Owners Should Know For 2017 & Beyond

Score strives to help small business owners succeed through mentoring and education. Here are 8 retail trends they want you to be aware of so your store keeps ringing up sales in 2017 and beyond:

1. Loyalty programs are going high-tech –  According to Bryan Pearson, president and CEO of LoyaltyOne Inc., loyalty programs are a growing trend for retailers, especially now that they’re no longer limited to old-fashioned paper punch cards.

Today, loyalty programs are largely digital, providing even the smallest retailers with sophisticated options. In addition to boosting customer loyalty and sales, the majority of loyalty program software offers a marketing component that’s making it easy for retailers to develop offers tailored to customer interests, demographics, and past purchasing behavior.

2. Social media is driving sales – Social media persists as an important motivator of retail sales, especially among younger consumers. The purchase process generally starts when a product is seen on social media sites such as Instagram or Pinterest.

The president and CEO of LoyaltyOne Inc., Bryan Pearson, suggests improving your social media profile by offering your customers rewards for social behaviors. You could, for example, hold a contest in which you award a gift card to the winner. Additionally, you could reward customers for sharing your posts, visiting your store, or sharing photos of what they purchase from your store.

Enhancing your social presence through advertising on social media enables you to target your specific customer base directly.

3. Brick-and-mortar is experiencing a resurgence – Yesbrick-and-mortar retailers still face challenges competing with e-commerce giants like Amazon, but physical stores are enjoying a resurgence of interest.

BOPIS, or “buy online, pick up in store” (also known as click and collect) allows customers to purchase products online and have them ready for pickup at a local retail store, and it’s growing in popularity. If your retail store has an e-commerce site, you can gain a competitive edge by offering this convenient purchasing option.

4. Generation Z is on the rise –  According to a 2016 FutureBuy study, Generation Z (those born between the early 1990s to mid-2000s) exceeded all other shopping-aged groups in the U.S. who preferred shopping in physical stores.

Gen Z’s preference for physical stores is due to 3 key factors: immediacy, enjoyment, and concerns about online data privacy. This generation will become more important to retailers as their spending power grows.

5. Americans want to purchase experiences, not just products – Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst, Retail, at the NPD Group, says that “Americans of all ages are spending less on products and more on experiences, and this trend will continue in 2017.” To attract customers interested in a retail experience, you need to make shopping at your store fun, exciting and memorable .

You can create an “experience”  with interactive elements such as tablets that entertain shoppers’ kids, holding in-store events and contests, or providing drinks or refreshments. Activities of this sort all help to boost the entertainment value of your retail store.

As an added bonus, if your store is located near theaters, restaurants, museums, and boutiques, you can generate interest in your own store by offering coupons, discounts, and passes to other popular community attractions.

6. Good salespeople make a big difference  – Salespeople are a key differentiator between the in-store and online shopping experience. A LoyaltyOne survey indicates that 83% of consumers believe that an “exceptional” salesperson gives a retail store an advantage over the competition.

Because shoppers have a world of information at their disposal via smartphones, your salespeople need to be equally as knowledgeable about your products so they can make suggestions and recommendations.

7. Mobile devices improving the customer experience – Join other smart retailers who are taking advantage of the vast amount of technology tools available to even the smallest businesses. Providing your salespeople with mobile devices, such as tablets, will help them quickly look up product information or inventory status to answer customer queries more efficiently.

You can also speed up checkout by using tablets to accept customer payments anywhere in the store. These tools—and many more—are becoming more and more affordable for small retailers, and they can help you gain a significant competitive advantage by improving the customer experience.

8. The future of retail looks bright – All things considered, it’s a good time to be a retailer! With aging baby boomers, young Millennials and affluent consumers all seeking a more personalized retail experience, they’ll be looking to you to provide them with the special services and products that only local small businesses can provide, suggests Pam Danziger, author of Shops That POP!

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.