The Set List: Retail 2018 Trends and Predictions
Lara Marrero in Retail, Retail trends, The Set List

Retailers have given customers a voice providing them with a place to share their brand experiences. Image © Ian Schneider.

Editor’s note: this blog is the first in a series discussing trends and insights into the world around us. This post originally appeared in Retail Focus.

Retail isn’t dying; the industry is going through a metamorphosis. We’ve seen this happen a few times in history—the dot com boom of the early '00s being the last time retail experienced a massive transformation. The biggest changes we’re seeing now are challenging the fundamental notion of what retail is. Retail used to be a place where people bought stuff. Now it is a state where a person experiences a brand and its offerings. As customers blur the lines, so must brands.

Brands have more of a responsibility to their customers, both their current customers and the customers they are trying to attract. They need to respect and value their time, and 'walk their talk'. If a customer feels that a brand is inauthentic or not considerate of their time, they will vote with their feet.

Here’s a look at some trends we’ve seen this year:

  1. A community of individuals. In 2017, we saw an increased number of physical retailers giving a voice to customers and providing them with a place to share their brand experiences via communities in retail environments.

  2. Service-driven seamless experiences within the retail sector grew exponentially in 2017, blurring the boundaries between channels, and putting service at the core of engagement.

  3. The Menaissance. Euromonitor International found that men are now outspending women by 13 percent. As such, many retailers have been focused on understanding their male customers, and creating spaces and experiences focused on men’s preferences and lifestyles.

  4. The Menaissance—men are now outspending women by 13 percent. Image © Mariya Georgieva.

  5. Small is the new large. As more and more people migrate into the city, the rise of local, more personal shopping experiences via highly curated and thoughtful product edits will be key.

  6. ‘Play and stay’ instead of ‘grab and go.’ Deloitte, in a recent survey, found consumption of 'experiences' has outpaced the consumption of 'goods', therefore, I think the future of retail will encourage customers to 'play and stay' rather than 'grab and go'. Programming and dayparting will be core to this, thinking of ways to create events and engagement in spaces to provide customers with a reason to go to a physical environment.

  7. Service-driven seamless experiences within the retail sector grew exponentially in 2017. Image © Mike Wilson.

  8. AI and AR gain traction. In the next few years I predict that more brick-and-mortar stores will use the same targeting and personalisation offered online through investments in augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

These trends will continue to manifest themselves in 2018 and beyond as the retail industry continues through this constant transformation.

Lara Marrero views shopping as both an art and a science. Her education in marketing and psychology combined with her love of boots, bags, and baubles, arms her with unique insight into retail and ethnographic trends. As the strategy director and a Firmwide regional Retail Practice Area Leader based in Gensler’s London office, she helps inform the design process through research, trend analysis, and her knowledge of brands and consumer needs. Contact her at
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