Last week, The National Retail Federation released its 2018 economic forecast, projecting that retail industry sales will grow between 3.8 and 4.4 percent over 2017.
That's clearly a good sign, particularly as 2017 retail sales weren't too shabby. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, retail sales grew 3.9 percent in 2017 over 2016 to $3.53 trillion.
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz had this to say about retail's outlook for 2018: "As the retail industry continues to transform, retailers will leverage the new tax plan to invest in their employees, stores and new formats that engage with the ever-evolving and demanding consumer."
So the question is: are your retail stores ready to capitalize on this growth and to please the digitally-native and demanding consumer?
Most experts, including Kleinhenz, believe that retailers need to focus on transformation and re-imagining store experiences to capitalize on growth. Stores need to become a source of value, entertainment and joy for consumers, and ultimately, a point of differentiation for their brand.
One way retailers are reinventing their stores is by breaking down the barriers between the brick and mortar and online realms to create immersive and digitally connected in-store experiences.
According to Laura Davis-Taylor, Co-Founder of The High Street Collective, and contributor to Aptos' eBook: A New World of Brick-and-Mortar, here are the five main attributes of highly-successful stores:
Digital transformation and change in retail is no longer coming … it's here. It's been almost 30 years since the modern Internet entered our lives. Retailers no longer see consumer technology in the store as a threat. Instead, digital technology inside the store is now viewed as an opportunity to better engage and convert in-store shoppers.
From the outbreak of the digital revolution, traditional retailers and internet brands have been in competition to create a better community for their customers. The key to differentiation is looking beyond the complexity of digital to drive better organization, strategy and transformation management.
Will it be easy to keep up with rapid change in retail? Not likely. But doing so is critical if you want to thrive in 2018.
Editor's Note: Aptos recently polled seven retail industry experts for their perspectives and prescriptions for creating store experiences that engage and convert modern shoppers. Those conversations have been published as an eBook, checklists, a podcast series and more, all of which are available at The Retail Experience Project.