2019 Year In Review

Eight Top Trends Plus
Three Predictions For 2020

There’s no such thing as a boring year in retail, but even by the industry’s reputation for generating news, 2019 was particularly eventful. Retail TouchPoints’ top trends for the year include both cannabis sales and social commerce platforms coming into their own; more pure-plays putting down brick-and-mortar roots;, traditional brands entering the subscription space; and a whole slew of retail bankruptcies, comebacks and C-level shakeups.

Read more about the top themes of 2019 below.

Cannabis Retail: Spreading Legalization And Social Acceptance Create A Lucrative Market

The state-by-state legalization of cannabis has created a fragmented but robust new retail sector, and with it a whole new slate of up-and-coming players. Public acceptance of recreational cannabis is being helped along by its non-psychoactive cousin CBD, which has found its way into products carried by retailers as diverse as The Vitamin Shoppe, American Eagle and Kroger.

Bankruptcy Is Not The End: Deceased Brands Make A Comeback

Some of the retailers that failed to adapt to changing retail trends were not quite ready to stay six feet under. A few have received second chances, usually with revamped formats: Toys ‘R’ Us has returned as an experiential retailer with small store footprints, while Gymboree is back as a store-within-a-store concept at The Children’s Place.

Social Commerce: Turning Instagram Into A Marketplace

Social media is a well-established discovery channel, but some savvy retailers have smashed the barriers between discovery and conversion, creating a whole new way to shop. Well established platforms like Instagram offer a venue for established retailers to show off their goods, which provides the perfect browsing tool for today’s mobile-focused shoppers.

Experiential Retailing: Physical Stores Offer Something Digital Can’t Match

Growing shopper expectations have turned fun, interesting, meaningful experiences from a nice bonus to a must-have for many retailers. The industry is responding with initiatives ranging from the Express traveling pop-up to Betabrand’s live podcast recordings, which turn shopping trips from a minor chore that can be easily replicated online to an adventure worth the trip all by itself.

The Year In Amazon: How The Retail Titan Shapes The Narrative

As much as retailers might wish they could close their eyes and wish Amazon away, the e-Commerce giant is alive and continued to play an outsized role in shaping the industry. From popularizing cashierless stores to shrinking delivery windows, Amazon is taking the strides other retailers must match if they hope to remain relevant.

Pure Plays Add Physical Stores: E-Commerce Goes Omnichannel

More and more e-Commerce players are launching physical stores, in formats as varied as their merchandise and business models. For instance, Recess, a CBD-infused drink retailer, launched its first NYC shop with an emphasis on events, while Wayfair built on its earlier pop-up approach with a permanent full-service store. However, opening a brick-and-mortar location can also subject pure plays to the same pressures felt by their brick-and-mortar native competitors.

Subscription Services: A Profitable New Channel, But Subject To Growing Pains

Retailers from Nike to Bloomingdale’s have jumped onto the subscription service bandwagon, and with good reason: these offers provide a steady source of revenue and a whole new way of generating loyalty. However, the logistics of the subscription model can be complex, and even veterans like Rent The Runway can hit the occasional snag as their popularity grows and supply chains strain under the pressure.

Leadership Changes: An Evolving Retail Climate Shakes Up The C-Suite

Increasing consumer demands that companies they patronize reflect their values and social priorities is just one of the factors reshaping the retail C-suite — most visibly in the addition of positions like Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Throughout the enterprise, a changing workforce is  affecting what associates expect out of their store managers.

Looking Ahead

Three 2019 Trends That Could Hit It Big In 2020

Voice Commerce: Just A Matter Of Comfort

Voice commerce hasn’t quite hit the mainstream, but the channel is well on its way, and a combination of growing retail investments and widespread use among consumers means 2020 may be the year when this technology hits the tipping point.

Cashierless Stores: A Whole New Level Of Convenience

Amazon Go has proven the cashierless concept can work for smaller stores, and various retailers are experimenting with this technology as hardware and software prices start to come down. Growth could be slowed, however, by local regulations that outlaw cashless stores as discriminating against the underbanked population.

Robotics Outside The Warehouse: From Cleaner Stores To Autonomous Delivery

Robots are a well-established part of warehouse operations, but advances in technology mean they’re starting to appear in stores and even on streets. Many of these programs are just pilots at the moment, but robotic and autonomous solutions could become bigger parts of the everyday retail experience.

Retail TouchPoints is an online publishing network for retail executives, with content focused on optimizing the customer experience across all channels. The Retail TouchPoints network is comprised of two weekly e-newsletters, special reports, web seminars, exclusive benchmark research, an insightful editorial blog, and a content-rich web site featuring daily news updates and multimedia interviews at www.retailtouchpoints.com. The Retail TouchPoints team also interacts with social media communities via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.