News from Digital Main Street

Retail Trends: 10 Experts Share Their Predictions for 2017

Alexandra Sheehan / Shopify Blog | January 19, 2017

With a new year comes change. New retail trends. New consumer behavior and demands. New tools and technologies to incorporate. New opportunities.

And with all that is new, retailers are forced to adapt to meet demand and stay ahead of the competition.

To help retailers learn what to expect and how it may affect their business, we reached out to 10 retail experts and asked them:

“What is your prediction for what will change in retail in 2017?”

Our experts talked about data, convenience, personalization, mobile, and digital. While the answers varied, there was one major recurring theme: Retailers and consumers are getting smarter. 

Without further ado, here are the retail trends our list of experts expect to see throughout 2017.

1. Treat Media as the Store, and the Store as Media

“Media is becoming the store. Retailers will use technology to make every single piece of media — be it social, online, mobile, or conventional — a direct path to purchase. This means providing exceptional content, decision-making tools and commerce software, so that anyone exposed to that media could confidently buy from you on the spot.

Conversely, the physical store is becoming a powerful form of experiential media. Your store should convey a powerful brand story through every touchpoint, provide lots of opportunities for immersive product experiences, and expose shoppers to your entire ecosystem of product experts, purchase channels, added-value services and loyalty tools. If you design your customer experience well, your store is the most powerful form of media at your disposal.”

—Doug Stephens, Founder of Retail Prophet, and Author of The Retail Revival

2. Customers Will Want to Feel at Home

“Customers are going to continue their search for unique retail experiences and reward retailers who provide them. Smart retailers will begin to understand that they need to treat their stores as their homes. This means welcoming customers into a warm and inviting — even edgy, if that is how you roll — place in which products aren’t pushed on you.

Undoubtedly, simple product acquisition is best and most efficiently done on the web. Product interaction, product romancing, product becoming a living and breathing thing can only occur in a physical environment where a real human story and dialogue can occur. Almost all online players today are discovering that they also need a physical space to truly touch the customer. As tech makes so much of our lives less human, consumers will crave more personal interactions. For retailers, this will mean a significant upgrade in staff — both in quality and quantity — if it is really going to work. You cannot fake real.”

—James Dion, President and Owner of Dionco Inc.

3. Convenience Will Be Key

“My prediction for 2017 is the rise of ‘push-button’ products and services. We’ve seen elements of this already: Amazon Dash Buttons or talking to Siri or Alexa to reorder specific products at home; Instacart to easily order grocery services for home/office delivery; UberEats, Postmates, and others to order lunch or dinner with the touch of a button. This is rapidly impacting consumers’ expectations about shopping, payment, and delivery.

Some retailers have even moved past the button and are building sales through subscription services. Trendsend by Evereve, MM.LaFleur, and Stitch Fix are all good examples of these. To prepare, retailers in all segments need to think differently about how they’re enabling shoppers to experience the merchandise and pay.”

—Mara Devitt, Partner at McMillan Doolittle

4. More and More Mobile

“The gorgeous promise of mobile retail will evolve and strengthen and become much more relevant to both consumers and retailers as the hiccups and glitches happening now will quickly become memories. Retailer strategies incorporating the mobile device will become much more sophisticated and honed for smooth integration into the overall customer experience.

I think we’ll also see a return to the basics when it comes to providing a rewarding and fulfilling customer experience with the frontline — retail associates in the brick and mortar and customer service online — playing the lead role in crafting that experience.”

—Judy Mottl, Editor at Retail Customer Experience

5. Investing in the Organization and Employees

“What happens inside retail organizations may be the most significant. Companies will start adopting different organizational structures that break down silos and integrate information and systems to facilitate those customer experience improvements.

Companies will also invest more in the frontline employee experience, as they realize paying higher wages and better equipped and engaged employees not only helps them fight the battle for talent, but also improves the customer experience.”

Denise Lee Yohn, Author of What Great Brands Do

6. Brick-and-Mortar Stores Will Get Smarter

“The physical store retail format will continue to evolve into smarter environments. Brands will continue to learn how to truly incorporate technology to create a connected store — not just for the ‘concept of it,’ but with the benefit of the consumer at the heart of design.

Store associates will be even more empowered with data and a more personalized understanding of customers (what they like, what they have bought, what they have browsed, etc.), and warehouse logistics teams will be more in sync will real-time, in-store demands.”

—Melissa Gonzalez, Founder, The Lion’esque Group, and Author of The Pop-Up Paradigm

7. The Rise of Cognitive Commerce

“While data has become more accessible for smaller merchants to utilize and apply to their business strategies over the past few years, thanks to various CRM and POS systems, 2017 will introduce businesses of all sizes to even more accessibility to data that will help them strengthen their business success.

Specifically, I believe that cognitive commerce will become more prominent among businesses to incorporate into their business strategies. This will help them in shaping future consumer conversations, enhancing existing product sell-through, understanding customer personalization better and more. Cognitive conversations lead to cognitive commerce — and that's something any merchant can appreciate.”

—Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder and Publisher of Retail Minded

8. Look Out for Niche Retailers

“2017 will bring the rise of niche retailers, for both new brands and existing brands. This will lead to smaller store footprints and personalized service with knowledgeable sales associates. This will satisfy the demands from consumers who want a unique and customized service.

Brick-and-mortar stores will remain important and drive that customer experience. Larger, established stores will create more shop-within-a-shop opportunities to leverage niche markets and strategies. This trend also relates to emerging and improved technologies: fitting rooms, product details and sizing, social media, and mobile channels.”

—Courtney Albert, Manager at The Parker Avery Group

9. Retailers Will Enhance Personalization

“In 2017, retail marketers are going to become more skilled at finding the balance between personalization and optimization, better coordinating the relationships among the retailer, customer and supplier. Retailers will become more focused on how to leverage the various delivery channels to give customers the right messages at the right times to generate the best results.”

—Chen Katz, VP of Sales at Sagarmatha

10. Expect a Digital Shift, Not Transformation

“Most retailers will have already established a digital presence, but there will be an accelerated shift to mobile and cross-platform interactions. Mobile share of global ecommerce is expected to grow from 40% in 2015 to 70% by 2017, as we see the vast majority of online shoppers start transactions on one device and end on another. Ecommerce will be leading this paradigm shift since it drives change and folds in new technologies that come from the consumer.”

—Arish Ali, CEO at Skava

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West Queen West Launches Toronto’s First Neighbourhood e-Gift Card

West Queen West BIA | November 8, 2016

Toronto, ON — One of Toronto’s trendiest shopping destinations, West Queen West (WQW) between Bathurst and Gladstone, is set to launch Toronto’s first Neighbourhood e-Gift Card program on November 2nd. The WQW e-Gift Card provides shoppers with a more local alternative rather than a mall gift card or big box chains. 

How it works: shoppers can purchase an e-gift card from the WQW website and send it by email, text, or Facebook Message. The gift card is redeemable at a variety of local WQW restaurants, cafes, spas, salons, retailers, and specialty shops. 

Some of the places you can use The WQW e-Gift Card include Downward Dog Yoga Centre, Gladstone Hotel, Jacob and Sebastian, Mini Mioche, Morba, Smoque N' Bones and many other local favorites. A full list of participating businesses can be found on the WQW website and can also be spotted with a WQW e-Gift Card sticker in their window.

The WQW Gift Card program was created in partnership between Toronto startup AnyCard, the WQW BIA, and local businesses. When asked about this exciting initiative, Chad Molleken, Co-Founder and CEO of AnyCard, stated, “We want to be a champion for local businesses by providing them with innovative ways to compete with the big guys. A neighbourhood gift card is one of the ways we do that.”

Rob Sysak, Executive Director of the WQW BIA, noted, "We are really excited to be the first neighbourhood in Toronto to have our own e-Gift Card. WQW knows that for us to continue to be successful, WQW needs to act like big business, and digital technologies like the e-Gift Card will make that happen. Big thank you to AnyCard!"

To help kick off the program, the WQW BIA will be giving away a $100 WQW Gift Card every Friday until mid-December and one grand prize of a $1000 shopping spree before Christmas. To learn more about the WQW contests and to enter for your chance to win please visit


Contact Us


Rob Sysak

Executive Director, WQW BIA

(416) 820-2727


Emily Mitchell

Marketing Manager, AnyCard

1 (888) 367-8448


Here is a preview of the first 60 WQW e-Gift Card participating businesses with many more to come.

Bang Fitness

Ben Sherman

BLVD Interiors

Brass Vixens


Cadillac Jenkins

Canon Blanc


Chippy's Fish and Chips

Collab Collections

Cutler+ Gross

Cycle Motive

Dat Salon

Deluxe Boutique

Downward Dog Yoga Centre

Dufflet Pastries


Fashionably Yours

Fidel Gastro

Fresh Collective

Giant Toronto

Gladstone Cafe

Gladstone Hotel

Good Hearts

Greek & Co

H Bar

Hayley Elsaesser

Iceman Video Games

Jacob and Sebastian

Kol Kid


La Hacienda Restaurant

Layover Boutique

Lisa Marie

MagPie Design


Mini Mioche


Niche Coffee + Tea Company

Old Penguin

Park And Province

Parlour Salon

Pink Optical

Platinum Health

Pure Barre

R Squared Cafe


Rickshaw Bar

Smile White

Smoque N' Bones

Street Shak Caribbean Kitchen

Stuart Jackson Gallery

The County General

The Cure Apothecary

The Spice Trader & Olive Pit

TOMA Burger Addiction


Visual Eyes Optical



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City of Toronto Launches Digital Main Street Lab

Digital Main Street | September 22, 2016

On Wednesday, September 21, the DMZ at Ryerson University and the City of Toronto/TABIA teamed up to highlight the future of retail tech at the DMZ Industry Night event. Bridging with the successful Digital Main Street (DMS) initiative, this themed Industry Night brought together leading minds in the retail and e-commerce space, top Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) across Toronto and a curated group of startups for a panel discussion, presentations and demos to launch the DMS Lab.

The DMS Lab is a virtual program that builds a partnership between a startup and a BIA to pilot a technology with main street businesses. The DMZ Industry Night event was the first in-take of startups to present their solutions to BIAs and included demonstrations from:  

  • Shoelace helps businesses re-capture visitors who have abandoned their website (a.k.a. retargeting on autopilot).

  • AppMixture is a mobile app builder for ecommerce websites that turns an online shop into a native mobile app with a single click. 

  • Airi is a smart digital marketer in your pocket.  Airi understands exactly what you need to do to be successful in your business.  Airi provides education on how to do it yourself or will do the work for you at a low cost. 

  • ERPlain is an inventory management platform that lets small distributors and wholesalers operate in a more agile and efficient manner, freed from the tedious spreadsheets that once held them captive. 

  • ReUp helps retailers build their very own mobile payment, marketing, and loyalty apps for iOS and Android using unique colours, images, and branding.

  • truRating is the first service to collect accurate customer feedback from the majority of your consumers when they pay, affordably and simply, all while using your existing payment terminals. 

Retail in Toronto is rapidly changing and the DMS Lab aims to make Toronto a leader in retail innovation. The DMS Lab will achieve this by supporting Toronto-based startups to demonstrate and scale their technologies by creating an access point to main street businesses. The DMS Lab also empowers BIAs to leverage tech solutions as a pilot to meet their goals (e.g.: generate more customer traffic and spending in their district).

Digital Main Street will be announcing partnerships formed between startups and BIAs in the coming weeks.

Retailers and small businesses interested in adopting the right digital tools can join Digital Main Street today.

*Photo Credit: Satish Kanwar

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