Retail trends for 2017: AI shopping, mini stores

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Retail trends for 2017: AI shopping, mini stores

Today’s consumers are increasingly looking for specific and engaging experiences while shopping, according to an analysis from Lotte Department Store’s research team for retail trends. The team proposed a set of guidelines to help retailers prepare next year’s business strategies.

“For modern customers, shopping is not only about buying products, but a complex experience,” said Na Hyun-jun, head of Lotte Department Store’s retail research team. “The key would be how successfully retailers provide new shopping experiences while catering to the increasingly segmented needs of consumers.”

The first is the trend for smaller department stores that focus on catering to tastes of specific demographics. Mini department stores are frequent in Japan. Tokyo-based retail giant Isetan Mitsukoshi has more than 120 small and midsized stores nationwide near airports and train stations. Lotte Department Store opened three “el CUBE” stores in a similar concept this year, and their contents slightly differ according to visitors’ demographics.

Personal curation for shoppers is another target selected by the team. Item choice is becoming more difficult for consumers as new products are constantly released. In the past retailers used personal shopping assistants, but recently shoppers have been using new technology like artificial intelligence and big data. In March, KT released the app Shodoc, which recommends products according to consumer demographics.

Lotte also pointed out that consumers are more impulsive due to the development of technology related to shopping, like easy payment methods via apps. This has helped consumers purchase items immediately after seeing them online or via smartphones. The human-less supermarket Amazon Go launched this month, marked the start of a trend of moving offline.

Retailers are providing virtual reality services at brick-and-mortar stores. Virtual reality is a field especially favorable in the fashion industry. In May, eBay and U.S. retail brand Myer launched a VR department store that is accessible by a VR headset and an app. For luxury or high-end brands, however, expanding contact with consumers and providing the chance to experience products will become a core task in establishing brand image. In the past, companies had the image of being too difficult to relate to due to their premium images. This year, high-end car brand Bentley set up a showcase “studio” in a London mall just for brand image rather than sales.

In terms of product category, retailers are slowly expanding their reach outside industrial goods to products they have not carried in the past. This year, Harrods Department Store in London had a pop-up store to display Emaar Properties’ real estate in Dubai.

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