Walker Sands’ 2017 Future of Retail Report – The Rise of the Connected Consumer

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Over the past several years, Walker Sands’ VP Dave Parro and I have taken a closer look at how commerce is changing through our annual Future of Retail report.

While last year’s version was focused on the backend changes happening to support innovations on the retail front, this year’s report takes a closer look at the dramatic shifts happening in consumers themselves, leading to a future of connected consumers, connected commerce and changing connected experiences.

In this three-part blog series, I’ll take you through some of the key findings from the study, starting with the connected consumer.

A lot has happened since the Future of Retail report first launched in January 2014.

Online ordering has become the norm, fast and free shipping is expected and storefronts have started to disappear. Still, what’s driving this evolution in commerce seems to have hit warp speed with the introduction of AI, machine learning and voice-ordering technologies over the past year or so.

Today’s consumer is vastly different from the consumer of just a couple of years ago. What used to be a distant idea of a ‘smart home’ is now seemingly here to stay, and integrations of data to the supply chain have made sure no consumer is without the goods they need in a fast-paced world.

Three big takeaways from this year’s report on the connected consumer include:

  1. More than a quarter of consumers (27 percent) now own some kind of in-home smart device, including smart appliances (16 percent), thermostats (14 percent) and lights (13 percent). And as retailers are paying closer attention to consumer data for personalized experiences, consumers are more focused on their own data, too – 18 percent now own wearable fitness devices and 13 percent own smartwatches.
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  2. Today’s connected consumer is used to getting their information on demand. Consumers today are cord cutters, with more consumers now reporting they own a digital tv subscription (64 percent) than a traditional cable subscription (52 percent). Nearly a third (32 percent) own a streaming device like Apple TV or Roku.
  3. The connected consumer is getting used to voice-based technology. Perhaps the biggest innovation in the connected consumer lifestyle has happened in just the past year with mainstream adoption of voice-controlled devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Nearly a fourth of consumers (24 percent) now own in-home voice-controlled device and another 20 percent plan to purchase one in the next year.

The same innovations that are changing retail are also changing the way consumers think and interact in their everyday — completely disrupting the landscape retailers have gotten comfortable with. 30492017770_58450b5f69_b

As new innovations in IoT, machine learning and voice technology arrive on the scene, the way consumers expect to be engaged will also continue to change. Younger consumers are already more open to these kinds of devices, opening new opportunities for retailers and brands in the future of commerce.

To learn more about the connected consumer and how they’re impacting the future of commerce, download the full Walker Sands 2017 Future of Retail Study here. Also stay tuned for additional blog posts and analysis as a part of our three-part series.

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Retail’s BIG Show presents BIG trends for 2017


Usually when I think of retail trends, they involve fabrics, color schemes, and shoes (always shoes!). But this month I had the chance to attend Retail’s BIG Show and take a closer look at the other side of retail – the one that works relentlessly to provide shoppers with the best overall experience possible from product quality to seamless checkouts, and makes it look easy in the process.

unnamedRetail’s BIG Show is an annual conference held by the National Retail Federation to provide education, networking and exhibition opportunities to the biggest names in retail. More than 33,000 industry leaders from around the world attended this year’s show in New York City to learn what’s trending, what’s next in retail technology and what each company needs to do to remain competitive.

Here are a few trends I noticed while at this year’s event:

Retail as an experience

E-commerce and m-commerce rule today’s retail landscape, leaving brick-and-mortar stores struggling to compete for consumer attention. Experts anticipate that physical stores will continue to shrink in 2017 and even disappear if they can’t meet the evolving demands of today’s tech savvy consumers. To pull them away from their screens and into stores, retailers are revamping business models to offer entertaining experiences to shoppers. For example, Nike recently opened the Nike & Jordan Basketball Experience, a 6,550-square-foot basketball focused store in Beijing. Not only can shoppers purchase clothing and sneakers at the location, they can also immerse themselves in a true basketball experience on the store’s half-court Nike+ Basketball Trial Zone or create customized apparel in the store’s NIKEiD studio.

NFRRetail meets robotics

“Big data” is a buzz term that’s been floating around for a few years, but hasn’t fully materialized until recently. The retail industry is one of the first to introduce the implications of big data data with robotic and artificial intelligence solutions dedicated to creating more efficient inventory management, price optimization, pattern recognition and more for merchants. For example, Righthand Robotics, Inc., exhibited and demoed its auto-pick robotic system RightKit at the show. RightKit uses 3D vision to sort and pick up thousands of small grocery, beauty and electronic items for e-commerce order fulfillment without reconfiguration.

Retail prioritizes security

Cybersecurity is a 24/7 job for every company, and retail is no exception. With the popularity of e-commerce and m-commerce comes an increase in cyber-attacks. For example, Eithen Steiger, VP of information security at Domino’s, estimated that the company would experience between 100 and 500 cyber-attacks during his 30-minute presentation at the show alone. Small and medium size businesses are just as visible and vulnerable to cyberattacks as retail giants like Target or The Home Depot. Retailers of all sizes should take a number of steps toward cybersecurity in 2017, including:

  • Find the gaps that expose your business to risk.
  • Identify what information your business stores and uses.
  • Leverage available industry frameworks.
  • Invest in cyber insurance to absorb the financial impacts of crimes.

For more updates on retail trends you can follow the National Retail Federation’s Twitter. For more updates on shoes, click here.

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Team Spotlight: Erin Jordan

I sat down with Erin Jordan, an account director at Walker Sands and lead of the retail and e-commerce technology team.

Erin has been with the company for almost five years! While she’s busy looking for ways to grow her team’s practice areas, Erin took the time to give me a glimpse into what life is like at Walker Sands for her.

Here’s what she had to say!

1. What is your role at Walker Sands? What does your day-to-day look like?

As the account director for the retail technology team, I ensure my team has everything they need to service our clients and get great results. I also help keep the team constantly up-to-date on trends in our space. Other activities I work on include survey research to demonstrate our expertise and expand knowledge within the retail space, working on new business and coaching my team to help them grow in their own careers.

Erin-Jordan

2. How has Walker Sands changed since you first started at the company?

The company was much smaller when I started. We only had 15-20 people. One of the best things about Walker Sands is that while the size has grown, we’ve maintained the scrappiness and ‘no idea is too small’ mentality that comes with having small teams.

We’ve come a long way in our expertise and great work. We now have the infrastructure and experience to handle bigger team projects. Growth of our practice areas is one things that has led to our success, and it has helped evolve our knowledge across different client industries. It’s also interesting to see how much our digital team and ecosystem of services have grown alongside PR.

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