Hundreds of industry leaders gathered in the Emerald City of Seattle for Future Stores 2018. And in line with the event’s theme, “Retail. Reimagined.” – a topic where JDA has plenty of expertise – the attendees we heard from are eager to create engaging customer experiences that are differentiated from the competition.

The challenge, as always, is moving from idea to execution – and those are the areas where we heard retailers’ voices the loudest.

Make Retail More Experiential

Retailers have realized the need to differentiate their brand experiences to resonate with the customers they want to reach. One interesting example we saw at Future Stores 2018 came from Sugarfina. Describing themselves as “The ultimate candy store for grown-ups,” Sugarfina’s goal is to make their stores not only as bright and inviting as possible, but to actively encourage sharing those in-store experiences on social media.

Other stores are also working to make their stores “Instagram-friendly” and “Pintrest-worthy,” but this goes beyond just creating in-store backdrops for selfies. Are you encouraging your shoppers to share their online purchases with friends and family? Or, can you incentivize customers to write a review of your store so newcomers have reasons to seek you out?

Personalization also extends to the technology retailers use in-store to offer unique promotions, or to help guests visualize how the products they’re browsing might look in real life once purchased.

Focus on Shifting KPIs

Some very interesting conversations at Future Stores focused on the shifting measures of performance that are being used to define retail success in today’s market. With margins remaining tight and competition fierce, changes in how today’s customers shop and buy also mean changes in how retailers find gains in efficiency.

Among other things, retailers want to understand how technologies such as heat mapping and dwell time can let them get a clearer picture of shopping behavior. And internet-of-things sensors and devices can help track the ways customers interact with products while they’re inside the store.

We also heard a lot of conversations on task management, especially around opportunities for efficiency gains. These new technologies, and the ability to leverage mobile devices in the workplace, help reduce the number of out-of-stocks: Retailers can now group replenishment tasks based on store and stock room layouts. This can cut down the time associates spend on common replenishment tasks, freeing up more time for sales and making sure that the items customers want (especially seasonal or promotional goods) are on the shelves when people want them.

Upping Your Retail Technology Game

JDA team members and customers also hosted a roundtable discussion for retail professionals at Future Stores. This interactive session focused on the rising complexity of store management and the need for tools that promote employee engagement while promoting autonomy.

Those conversations underscore what we already know about the retail business: As RSR Research found earlier this year in a JDA-sponsored survey, over half (54 percent) of retailers whose revenues are outperforming the market average say they need to focus more IT spending on operational efficiencies to offset increased customer-facing spending.

As you plan those investments, you’ll need a retail technology partner focused on helping you navigate these changes and challenges. To learn more about how JDA Software is doing so, visit our Knowledge Center for the latest retail industry research and insights – including how our innovative Luminate platform enables the insights that retailers know they need for future success.