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According to Bruce Dybvad, CEO of Interbrand Design Forum, “The best brands didn’t stand idly by, waiting for further signs of recovery. They contributed to it by anticipating their customer’s desire to return–not to shopping as usual–but to something better.” In its 2012 Best Retail Brands Report (an annual report that tracks latest retail trends), Interbrand once again stated that it’s a highly competitive marketplace out there in the retail industry.

A company may see it’s losing market share, but may not see where it’s going. Consumer spending is scattered, thanks to new ways of making purchases. Manufacturers are becoming retailers. New rivals, often in the form of companies too small to hit the radar, continue to enter and fragment the market. In such a climate, every customer interaction becomes crucial. In light of that, the most prominent global retail trends in the retail sector in 2012 are:

Top Retail Trends in 2012: 1.The Need to be Agile

Now that consumers decide how, when and where to interact, the only location for retail is where the customers are. Responsiveness trumps efficiency and adds value for customers. Brands like Uniqlo and Tesco are experimenting with new ways to better engage with customers. Uniqlo built a summertime roller-rink and pop-up store in Manhattan while Tesco created a virtual grocery store at a Seoul subway stop. Such activities started to shape the retail industry trends.

2 . Focus on the Path to Purchase

Top brands are returning their attention to the way consumers make purchase decisions. They hope to find opportunities to innovate around pain points and build relationships. Today’s pathway is more complex. Digital tools are enabling customers to conduct more robust research to identify the best value.

3 . Every Brand is a Story

While retail has historically been extremely operationally focused, more retailers are looking to brand to build value. A brand must develop a theme beyond a shopper’s need for function and identity by adding even more emotion and dimension. The trick is to find the value beyond the transaction. The world’s best brands know what the customer values, and work relentlessly to provide it for them, while keeping up with the latest retail marketing trends.

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4 . Leverage Design to Build Brand Value

Experience is the defining element of any brand. It provides the memory that prompts repeat use, or doesn’t. Shoppers expect their favorite brands to speak in a consistent voice, in-store, online and in traditional and digital channels. In retail it is extremely difficult to get all the customer-facing components to talk the same talk to convey consistency and relevancy. Design is the ticket to breaking out of an old brand identity to re-inspire your customers. It can help add excitement and drama to routine transactions and its storytelling ability can energize brand culture.

5. The Promise of Omni-channel Retail

A successful omnichannel strategy has the potential to revolutionize retail, but the typical state of cross channel commerce remains poor, plagued as it is by information silos, organization issues, and non-interoperable programs that frustrate customers. Brands like Walmart, Macy’s and Boots are aggressively taking steps to master the new omnichannel world. The challenge it represents is great, but so are the rewards.

Read also: Top 50 brands

In its 2012 Retail Trends report, those were the top 50 brands, by Interbrand

In its 2012 Retail Trends report, those were the top 50 brands, by Interbrand

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