Future trends in e-commerce with Reilly Stephens of Retail Prophet

2 minute read

We sat down with Reilly Stephens, Director of Insights at Retail Prophet, a consultancy that helps brands and retailers identify trends and devise game-changing strategies. We asked Reilly to help us understand how small and medium-sized businesses can hold their own against big business.

“Authentic” is a word we hear a lot in business and marketing. What does it mean?

Authenticity is being real. It matters to customers. Lots of organizations try to manufacture it through mass-marketing, or by launching products that aren’t genuinely connected to the values of their brand. Consumers have little tolerance for things they deem inauthentic or fake, so trying to manufacture authenticity is problematic. Authenticity should not be a marketing strategy, but a corporate responsibility.

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Entrepreneurs sometimes feel they have to invest heavily in the latest, greatest technology. Do they?

Technology is impactful when it’s used to solve real-life problems. It’s important that retailers understand not just what technology they are using but why they are using it.

What problem is it truly solving?

Technology without function might appear cool at first, but once the cool factor wears off, you’re left with a failed investment and are back to chasing the next big thing.

What are some advantages of being a small company when it comes to retail competition?

Decision making is faster for SMBs than for the big guys. SMBs can comment quickly on social, political and cultural topics; prototype and launch new products; and pivot their strategies based on new insights. These are the areas in which behemoths and legacy brands struggle.

What trends do you see becoming common in e-commerce?

The devices in our homes, offices and cars are becoming a connected network that can automatically replenish products without us ever having to press “Order Now.”

Routine purchases, like household supplies and groceries, will increasingly happen in the background.

This will pose a unique challenge to retailers who historically relied on promotional pricing and packaging to catch the eye of buyers through interactions on the shelf. Brands will have to find new ways into their customers’ hearts and homes.

And here’s another: virtual and augmented reality. What online shopping currently lacks is the ability to transcend the screen and become a more visceral, tactical, fun experience. Virtual and augmented reality will change that.

Companies like Microsoft and Magic Leap are racing to develop glasses that will enable us to try things on, quickly compare products, and purchase – all from home. Products like Obsess, a virtual and augmented reality shopping experience, will enable shoppers to virtually walk up to your storefront, stroll the aisles, pick up products, and truly mimic the real-life experience.

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