With the holiday season in full swing, retailers are once more trying to think up new and cheap ways to entice customers into their stores. For most of them, it’s the biggest opportunity of the year, and the profits they make will be enough to see them through both January and February until consumer spending picks up again.

A lot of analysts think that the only innovation we’re likely to see in the retail sector going forward is in the online shopping experience. But Josh Marti, writing in the Huffington Post, thinks otherwise. He sees many up-and-coming changes that will alter the face of retail yet again as it tries to adapt to the disruption caused by the internet.

Big Box Retails Goes “Local”

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How can brick and mortar stores differentiate themselves from their online competitors? By going local, of course. Now we see more and more national retail outlets adjust their offering to better reflect the surrounding areas. This new localized approach means that retailers are including bigger displays dedicated to local brands as well as having things like digital discovery alongside the in-store experience. Stores are also taking advantage of digital technologies themselves, leveraging big data to find out what their customers are actually interested in and what products different shoppers from different locations want to see on display.

Stores Start Using Beacons

A beacon is a digital device that uses Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them deals and coupons, based on their location. Beacons can be placed behind a slatwall display or at the point of sale and are designed to make the in-store shopping experience more engaging and more digital. Companies know that more than half of their customers use both their online and in-store services, and so they’re now keen to join them up, wherever possible. Beacons are a way to market products in-store, creating a new and interesting environment where customers get deals like on the internet, but also have that all-important in-store experience. Target is already testing beacons in 50 of its stores across the US. And it’s expecting to roll out the technology across its entire fleet of stores in the new year.

Retail Will Soon Be Getting Even More Personal, And Not Just For Customers

There’s a worry that privacy will be invaded if retailers try to make their services too personal. But many technologists believe that a personalized shopping experience can be delivered without the need for personally identifiable information. Many retailers will be able to generate all the information they need about a particular customer through things like spending habits and search terms, meaning there’s no need to collect vast name-tagged information databases that could be hacked.

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But what about employees? There’s now a move among many retailers to use mobile apps to give customers service reps more detailed information on things like product location and returns policy so that they have more confidence when dealing with clients. And, as the Harvard Business Review suggested, companies will also be able to use mobile apps to judge the quality of employee-customer interactions.