Digital is the rocket fuel for retail’s growth. But that growth requires retailers and brands to keep up — and step up — how quickly they evolve in terms of people, processes, products, and more. On top of all that, in 2019 we’ll see factors such as global economies, trade barriers, rising wages, and marketplaces pack a punch for retail.

Retail will continue to grow — but the good economic times won’t last forever. Retailers generally focus on growing sales from quarter to quarter — less so on how to develop long-term customer loyalty. Consumers are spending more of their income on must-haves such as healthcare and retirement, so it’s crucial that retailers actively develop emotional loyalty with customers that will withstand economic changes over time.

PS — A minority of retailers is planning ahead for the next downturn — but these are also the brands that have already put digital at the heart of their strategy, their organization, and their culture.

Trade barriers will reshape global supply chains. Tariffs and trade barriers are quickly becoming a fact of life for consumers and brands in many markets — both of which are used to the global free flow of goods and services. To meet ever-rising customer expectations, brands will need to craft sophisticated post-global supply chains, mixing onshore, offshore, nearshore, and multi-speed supply chains.

PS — If you’re a digital supply chain expert, start polishing that resume now — you’re in high demand.

Harness automation now to free up associates to do the most important job: taking care of customers. In a time of record-low unemployment, Amazon this year raised its minimum wage for US workers to $15. In a tight labor market, it’s imperative that retailers pay competitively to retain employees in whom they’ve invested training — but also to recruit the best so that those employees can spend more quality time helping customers. If you haven’t already done so, start learning now about automation and emerging “flavors” of AI that will help you eliminate rote processes from your employees’ to-do lists, develop more insightful analytics, and improve your marketing — among other areas.

PS — To start on the automation path for your retail organization, read “AI in Retail? Let’s Start With Automation In Retail,” then set yourself up for robotic process automation (RPA) success with the “Rule of Five.”

Learn more about our 2019 predictions for retail and numerous other areas. We’d like to hear from you: What do you foresee for retail in the coming year?

Download Forrester’s Predictions 2019 guide to understand why 2019 will be the year that transformation goes pragmatic.