In some ways, the retail landscape in 2015 is very similar to 2014, with many of the same themes being prevalent, such as multichannel, mobile, big data and analytics.
We can be certain however, that the retail environment will become ever more complex and reliant on technology for success.
It is often overlooked that whilst the large majority of retail sales will still take place offline in high street stores, the speed of growth in online retailing is remarkable and makes ecommerce attractive for companies that are looking for growth in an otherwise challenging environment.
This means that increasingly powerful technology is required, even at the SME level, to bring together online and offline sales in an efficient manner.
A competitive and complex future for ecommerce
The online selling environment will become even more competitive with the likes of B2C, expanding D2C (Direct to Customer from brands and manufacturers) and the rather challenging entry of Direct From China (DFC) sales.
If you had asked any delivery person coming to your business in the last few months about the origin of their deliveries, they would most likely have mentioned a large increase in items bought directly from sites such as Alibaba.
While outbound international sales will continue to offer big opportunities in ecommerce, a growing counterbalance to this will be inbound ecommerce sales. Further complexity will be added to the mix as some countries make cross-border selling more difficult with new laws and online selling agreements.
All of these changes will make for an ever more challenging environment and introduce more complexity into an already complex system.
Ecommerce technology that meets the challenge
This environment will require software that can handle the challenges, with increased business intelligence usage, big data and analytics playing core parts.
There will also be a merging of the online and offline worlds through mobile technology. You can see this in the rise of new technologies such as iBeacon, which notifies smartphone users about items nearby that are on sale and enables payments at the point of sale — so customers don’t even need to remove their wallets to make a payment.
This hugely powerful combination of big data, analytics and mobile technology allows companies to predict the behaviour of individual consumers. Some consumers may react by trying to switch off from this environment when they realise how much data they are handing over to companies.
Aim for success
The companies that will win in 2015 will be technology providers and retailers who are in the right market — and who embrace and master digital selling in all its complex forms.
Having said all this, in a world that moves so quickly, it is reassuring to know that the fundamentals do not change. If you can keep your customer happy and outperform your competition, you will go a long way towards success.