2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in retail. The IMF forecasts slowing global economic growth with modest deceleration through the year, crimping consumers’ spending power worldwide.
Closer to home, the U.S. economy has held up better than many developed markets’, but that’s poised to change as excess savings dwindle and higher interest rates finally begin to bite. It could be a lean year for retailers across geographies and industries.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Beneath the surface, the retail landscape harbors durable pockets of strength — and hidden opportunities for creative operators to take advantage of. Here are five hidden trends to watch in retail as we move into 2024.
1. Pop-Up Storefronts Will Continue to Grab Market Share
One of the most exciting under-the-radar retail trends of late is the explosive growth of pop-up storefronts and retail pods.
This channel has always been more accessible to micro-retailers than traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts. Now, thanks to scalable platforms like Lorenzo Bonfiglio’s employer xNomad, pop-up costs and barriers to entry are well and truly cratering.
The beauty of pop-up retail is that it doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. If you have an existing storefront, your pop-up presence can complement the concept, not take it in an entirely different direction (with all the extra work that involves). It’s a high-ROI, value-add play.
2. Experiences Will Take Center Stage
This trend is closely related to the pop-up boom. In fact, you might say pop-up growth is a particularly visible sub-trend within the broader “experience boom.”
The experience boom has been a thing for a while now, but it’s really taking center stage as in-person retailers reinvent themselves amid escalating e-commerce competition. Tentpole sales and clearance “events” (which often ooze desperation) are no longer enough to draw shoppers. These days, it’s all about adding value not just to the shopping experience itself but to the shopper’s experience — that is, solving for their toughest pain points, ideally before they become truly painful.
3. Supply Chains Will Normalize (With Some Exceptions)
The supply chain crisis peaked in late 2021 or early 2022, depending on who you ask and what retail subsector you’re talking about. It’s mostly out of the news now. But it hasn’t completely normalized yet.
We can look forward to said normalization in 2024, with some important exceptions in high-growth product categories. From here on out, predicts supply chain consultancy GEP, the “winners” of the retail supply chain game will optimize their own specific logistical needs rather than work to nudge out competitors in a universally tight environment.
4. Geotargeting and In-Store Marketing Will Finally Make Their Mark
After years of bold talk about the disruptive potential of geotargeting solutions and in-store, app-based marketing, 2024 could finally be a year of action.
AppsFlyer notes eight apps backed by retail and foodservice giants like Burger King, The Gap, and Pilot Flying J, all with a common purpose: drive opportunistic sales from captive (in-store) users and boost revenue per customer. With app development costs falling by the month, now is the time for smaller retailers to invest in this potentially game-changing solution.
5. E-Commerce Barriers to Entry Will Fall (Even More)
It’s not just app development costs poised to crash through the floor in 2024. E-commerce barriers to entry have never been lower, and they’re likely to fall further as AI-enhanced low- and no-code e-store tools come into their own. This is a rare opportunity for retailers to shore up lagging e-commerce sites or deploy entirely new environments.
Get Ready for What’s Next in Retail
2023 has been a challenging year for retail incumbents. Giants like Target and Walmart reported uneven sales performance and profitability — at best — and expressed concern about the near-term outlook for 2024.
Some smaller retailers and consumer-facing brands find themselves in even more dire straits. Many observers predict a washout similar in scale to the Great Recession.
Maybe that comes to pass; maybe it doesn’t. But one thing is for sure: The retail industry is in for a bumpy ride in 2024 and possibly beyond. Prepare now — while the going is still relatively smooth.