With over half of 2023 in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look at what’s trending in the retail world. I spoke to four retail thought leaders to get their take on what the future of retail holds as we head into 2024. Let’s start with where I see the retail industry taking a turn next year.
New Use Cases for QR Codes
QR code payments remain popular, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. No longer seen as “old school” tech, QR codes are having a renaissance, with their ability to transform how customers shop, pay bills, wire money and drive engagement in general.
For millennials (and other generations) who avoid carrying cash and have become familiar with using their smartphone wallets to pay, these payment systems are a boon. And it’s easy for businesses, too. After generating a unique QR code, they simply post it at the point of sale, attach it to packages or deliveries, or in their windows.
For example, airport kiosks selling snacks and reading materials have QR codes posted near each item grouping making it easier for travelers to quickly grab, scan and go. Restaurants include QR scans on patrons’ bills, allowing multiple people dining together to scan and pay for their own portion of the charge. The uses are limitless — and growing.
In 2022, U.S. consumers scanned QR codes nearly 40 million times — more than 75% higher than all other QR code scans from the world’s top 50 countries. Their versatility and convenience position QR codes to dominate, with its market size anticipated to reach $33.13 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of almost 17% from 2023 to 2030.
Omnichannel and Personalization Still a Top Priority
Steve Sivitter, CEO, 1WorldSync: As we wend our way through 2023 and into 2024, we’re seeing that brands and retailers continue to prioritize omnichannel consumer experiences whether they’re shopping online, in brick-and-mortar stores, via social media or over the phone.
Brands will increasingly leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to serve customers in more personalized, impactful ways. But some of the world’s largest brands continue struggling to align teams around centralized data and content. They must find a way to create and deliver an omnichannel experience seamlessly integrating all touchpoints — with the same messaging, branding and service levels.
Our Consumer Product Content Benchmark report found that 81% of consumers expect a brand’s product content experience to be similar wherever they interact with that brand. Organizations failing to offer a seamless omnichannel experience risk losing their customers to brands that can deliver personalized and consistent experiences wherever customers are. For companies determined to thrive in 2024 and beyond, an omnichannel experience isn’t a luxury anymore — it’s a necessity.
Listen Up! Audio Advertising and Digital Signage are Here to Stay.
Paul Brenner, SVP, Retail Media & Partnerships, Vibenomics, a Mood Media Company: Retail media has transcended its status as an emerging channel, particularly with the inclusion of digital in-store advertising in the updated “Retail Media Buyer’s Guide” by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Moving forward into 2024, brands will demand comprehensive in-store, on-site and offsite digital capabilities.
I anticipate a surge in audio and digital signage spending — with audio leading the charge in consumer engagement. Dentsu’s recent study reveals that audio advertising produces an average of 10,126 attentive seconds per thousand impressions — more than 50% higher than the established norm of 6,051. This shift underlines the imminent progression toward a new era of retail media in-store.
Experience Retail and Conversational Commerce? Tell Me More.
Christina Augustine, COO, Bloomreach: In 2023 we began to see the rise of experience retail. The widespread excitement around events like the Barbie movie or the Taylor Swift Eras Tour immersed consumers wholly in the experience — driving related purchases for themed outfits, accessories, costumes, and so on. In 2024 we’ll see that trend continue, with an even greater impact on e-commerce sales.
Using AI, e-commerce can adapt far more quickly to shifts in consumer demand than physical retail. This adaptation means businesses will be able to see these waves coming before they’re in full swing, shifting merchandising strategies or marketing tactics to further capitalize on timely events.
Conversational commerce will begin to take root in 2024. It’s a trend that’s been talked about for many years, but it’s really not until now — with generative AI and the latest advancements in large language models (LLMs) — that a genuine conversational experience could be achieved digitally. The ability to search using natural language, AI shopping assistants with which you can have ongoing exchanges… we’ll begin to see countless changes in the online shopping journey in 2024 — with many more to come in the years ahead.
Supply Chains Remain an Important Driver of Growth
Yifat Baror, Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer, Osa Commerce: The retail challenges and opportunities ahead have one common factor: A robust supply chain isn’t just about moving products efficiently — it’s about enabling growth. Every link in the chain, from sourcing to distribution, plays a role in shaping a retailer’s ability to meet demand, optimize resources and ultimately expand its reach.
Notably, warehouse costs are escalating, making efficient operations crucial. Visibility into processes enhances efficiency, while the right third-party logistics (3PL) choice optimizes customer service.
Elevated real estate costs are poised to significantly impact 3PLs, potentially dampening their ability to expand their operational presence. In this scenario, the emergence of an adaptable ecosystem and fourth-party logistics (4PL) prospects becomes paramount for growth. Such developments would enable these providers to support brands and retailers, especially those seeking viable alternatives or aiming to construct a direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategy.
From personalization and QR codes to audio advertising and conversational commerce, 2024 will see many enduring retail trends — and a few new ones as well. Retailers have many opportunities to attract new customers, convert occasional consumers into loyal, long-term customers, deliver an enhanced CX, drive higher profits and much more.