We’re not living in an age where facial recognition software greets you as you pick up your fruit & veg from a checkout free store.

Not yet. But, we might not be that far off.

As the rate of change accelerates, 2018 promises to deliver some dramatic shifts in the industry.

Are businesses preparing for what faces them or are they risking their business transformation sliding into a business crisis?

GDPR At The Ready

Perhaps the biggest legislative change to hit the retail industry in recent years and carrying the potential to completely overhaul how businesses collect and recycle consumer data for marketing purposes.

The need to exclusively and openly opt-in to having your data shared could pose an enormous roadblock to retailers that are using data to profile, store, share, and market to customers.

Many retailers will take this opportunity to modernise their legacy IT infrastructures and improve their processes.

There remains a lot of uncertainty around the regulation itself, with 77% of retailers saying they have no provisions actually in place for the changes.

As with a lot of new regulation, its impact could likely be shaped by landmark cases that provide an example to others.

A Fight For Footfall

The virtual store is thriving but is it at the cost of its physical counterpart?

Last year the rate of high-street closures accelerated with PwC suggesting 15 stores a day were lowering their shutters permanently in Britain. Brick and mortar retailers will need to adapt in order to survive in 2018.

Earlier this year Goldman Sachs suggested that the physical store is not dead, it’s just changing in an e-commerce and data-rich age.

Those quicker to partner with technology will equip themselves with a better chance of thriving. The quicker businesses know who’s in their shop, and what they want, the faster they can personalise their experience.

Exclusivity, a personalised experience, optimised showrooms and ease of shopping will all play a part in reversing declining footfall in retail stores.

Artificial Intelligence

According to Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, we’ve stepped beyond a mobile-first business age into an artificially intelligent world.

2018 will be the year in which AI moves into the heart of retail strategy and becomes widely accessible as SaaS platforms and data specialists grow in demand.

Proximity marketing, checkout free stores, chatbots that will tackle 85% of customer interactions by 2020, and personalised shopping experiences are all the progeny of AI.

Smart machine learning will also play a huge role in retail logistics, from stock buying and operations to identifying shopping trends.

Take Amazon, the biggest purveyor of AI in retail. They are able to utilise the vast levels of data, app tracking, cookies and cloud services at their disposal to measure how long a customer journey takes and pinpoint exactly where the sales are made.

GDPR may have a decisive impact on how AI is used as its roots sit firmly in data collection and sharing.

Brexit’s Midway Point

Most of us have already reached Brexit fatigue, especially as May and Juncker appear to be in the same deadlock they started at.

Next year will signal the halfway mark to March 2019 and might provide a clearer inclination on how, and to what level, Brexit could affect the UK retail industry.

Then again, perhaps not.

Omni-channel Experience

The way we shop is changing.

We can see this from the declining footfall in physical stores and the rise of e-commerce and m-commerce shopping.

But, the reality is that while retailers may cater to multiple channels of consumer purchasing, they’re failing to connect them all together.

How many shopping experiences start on the shop floor and finish on a mobile device or desktop? Or, start on a website, are reminded on Instagram and then finish in the store.

Omni-channel marketing is about connecting a disjointed consumer journey and will play a major role in 2018.

Behind all this change will be the specialists needed to facilitate it.

Data security experts, business analysts, developers, testers, and those able to tie it all together will be in seriously high demand as blue collar roles are shelved and the industry upskills.

Our aim is to unite people, process and technology.

As we establish ourselves as the go-to figures in the industry for connecting talent within the Retail Change & Transformation market, we may be able to help you.