Insight

A consumer led 2018

Trevor Pereira, digital and commercial director of intu looks at predictions and retail trends for 2018

At this time of year, we are inundated with predictions for the future of our industry, how will it evolve? Will the store experience still be as important to shoppers in 2018? Will we see robots in customer service roles?

It is undeniable that the retail industry is going through a time of change but can you really remember a time when it hasn’t been? There are so many influencing factors that impact our industry that it’s difficult to think of a time when retail has stood still. Retail is a rollercoaster of ups, downs, twists and turns. There are always those predictions of doom and gloom to come or indeed, of better days ahead, but as I read through countless projections for the year ahead it becomes abundantly clear that the one influencing factor which is undoubtedly the most important, is the consumer.  

Defining the shopping experience

It’s easy for us as retailers or landlords to think that we’re the curators of compelling retail experiences but we’re mistaken if we think we’re in the driving seat when it comes to deciding what those experiences look like. Retail doesn’t evolve because of us, we change because the consumer demands us to. The changing needs of the shopper are what influence us the most, because in this business the customer is always right, and so long as that is true, our industry will never stand still.

It is this customer-led change that makes retail such an exciting and interesting industry to be a part of. And it is that approach that has resulted in the great innovations such as the online shopping revolution. This has resulted in new challenges such as logistics and fulfilment as shoppers want their goods delivered before you can even say “click and collect” but it’s just another example of consumer appetite driving change.

Take the in-store brand experience – it’s not about how we want to connect with customers but recognising that it is how consumers want to connect with us and the brands they love. Every evolution in retail comes from the consumer first; they define the shopping experience today, tomorrow and always.

Embracing evolution

In this industry, we’re used to adapting, and when we embrace change we can reap the benefits. Retailers who have evolved their strategies to embody an omni-channel model can vouch for this. At intu we also embrace doing things differently and in 2013 took the bold step to create a consumer facing brand that customers could really connect with. Together with our online shopping platform, intu.co.uk, which helps retailers access customers across all channels, our commercialisation arm dedicated to creating compelling and dynamic shopping experiences and our retail services team delivering world-class service day-in, day-out, we pivoted our strategy to put customers at the heart of everything we do.    

Retail doesn’t stand still so neither can shopping centres. To deliver the very best retail and leisure destinations you have to understand that the customer is always right because happy customer’s equal happy retailers. Whatever the year ahead looks like, whatever the next big retail trend for 2018 is, you can bet its aim is to make customers smile – sound familiar?