Around 57% of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important for companies they purchase from to be innovative. As the expectations of today’s modern shoppers constantly evolve, innovation is a word that is never far from the conversation across the retail industry.

So how do you keep on top of trends and provide an experience that will attract customers to your brand over that of your competitors? To help you get started, here are some of the latest retail innovations, and some ideas on how you can embrace them successfully.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been part of the larger conversation for some years now, with a number of successes (see fitness trackers like Fitbit) and few high-profile failures (see Google Glass). That said, the IoT trajectory continues to trend upward, with the IoT becoming a major player in retail innovation.

While obviously the cornerstone of the “smart products” industry, the IoT’s potential is much wider. For example, it can help you improve customer service through features like location-based answers to queries, localized reviews, and regional social commentary. How about smart price tags that you can change in real time based on demand? The IoT can also play a role in supply chain, with smart shelves for updating inventory that send notifications when supply is low.

Regardless of how you leverage this retail innovation, the result is the same: invaluable, real-time consumer data that you can use to create smarter, more engaging shopping experiences.

Did you know that 65% of American adults use social networking sites, including 90% of adults aged 18–29? This has made targeted social media campaigns a serious avenue for any business.

But let’s think beyond the campaign. Today’s consumer wants to be able to shop instantly — anywhere, anytime, from any device. This desire has created a huge opportunity for one-touch mobile payment accelerators and in-app shopping, which makes the path from discovery to purchase both seamless and immediate. For example, you can inspire potential customers with an engaging campaign in their Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest feed, then offer them buying options directly from your post.

 
 
After launching Apple Pay across its entire portfolio in only a matter of weeks, Wolverine saw a 19% increase in total mobile conversion and a 21% increase in iPhone conversion.

Online marketplaces such as Amazon represent another new channel worth exploring. These platforms provide excellent opportunities to leverage brand collaborations and extend your reach to new customer segments. You can also adopt their buying features (such as Amazon’s fulfillment and priority shipping), which can have a significant impact on conversion rates.

Beyond new retail channels, you might also consider new retailing formats. For example, try extending your footprint into pop-up stores, guideshops, and fit stores — all innovative opportunities to delight and inspire shoppers by meeting them wherever they may be.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. People have intelligence-driven experiences every day through favorite apps, product recommendations, face and voice recognition, and more. Indeed, 63% of business buyers expect companies they purchase from to use artificial intelligence to automatically purchase or recommend products based on their company’s preferences.

Bottom line? Today’s shoppers now expect these highly personalized, AI-powered experiences across every brand they interact with — including yours.

By embracing AI innovations, you gain the power to easily transform raw client data into something actionable, resulting in game-changing shopper experiences. AI can generate personalized product recommendations, tailor search results and product sorting, and generate 1:1 predictions for every single shopper in real time. AI can also arm your team with intelligent, data-driven commerce insights and automated merchandising tasks that save both time and effort.

 
 
150+ million shoppers reveal huge revenue lifts from personalized commerce.

Technology today is evolving exponentially, with each new innovation unlocking new opportunities for you to connect with shoppers.

Consider the rapid rise of voice-operated apps, products, and digital home assistants. The speed and ease of voice recognition is making serious waves in all industries — 24% of consumers now own an in-home voice-controlled device, with another 20% planning to purchase one in the next year. Now is the time to optimize marketing and SEO strategies for voice-driven shopping, as the market embraces this new method of user interaction.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) also provide opportunities for new retail models as brands experiment with their capabilities. For example, virtual shopping has the potential to give customers an immersive brand experience, right in their homes. They can explore products, test them out in different settings, “try on” clothes, and then complete their purchases right then and there.

However, there are simpler and cheaper ways to tap into the VR/AR trend. It might be something as simple as targeted ads with instant purchase options, or AR features that customers can use in-store to check online availability for products that are out of stock. Regardless of what the future holds for VR and AR, it is safe to say that the possibilities for retail innovation are endless.

Seventy-five percent of consumers expect companies to provide them with a consistent experience, regardless of where they engage with them. As retail becomes even more spread out across new technologies, new devices, and new channels, it becomes even more important that you provide customers with a seamless, cohesive experience — regardless of touchpoint.

Centralized, cloud-based commerce platforms like Salesforce Commerce Cloud empower you to manage all channels as a whole, enabling consistent branding and content management across every touchpoint. Even more importantly, the agility of cloud-based solutions enables significantly faster implementations of new innovations and significantly easier updates — without the usual disruptions.

Innovation in retail is always going to be important, but by embracing emerging technologies and evolving shopper behavior with an agile, cloud-based platform, you‘ll enjoy a significant advantage over your competition. More importantly, you’ll be able to provide your customers with the innovative retail experiences they crave. After all, in the constantly shifting world of retail, customer satisfaction is the one trend that will never go out of style.

 
 
The Commerce Cloud Shopping Index provides a quarterly analysis of 500+ million shoppers worldwide, revealing the most current consumer behaviors and trends.
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