Today’s shoppers are mobile. They are deeply involved on social networks. They are constantly connected on and distracted by multiple screens, while their daily lives at home, at work and at school are constantly on-the-go.
This is a radically-different consumer environment than a decade ago, before Facebook, Twitter, iPhones and Androids flooded the landscape. These days, you won’t find customers of all ages easy to reach through network television advertising. Shoppers are no longer tied to their desktops or tethered to their local brick-and-mortar store. Consumers want what they want, when they want it — and typically they want it now.
These changes are rocking retail to the core. So, it’s no surprise that forward-thinking retailers are now working overtime to keep up with their rapidly-changing customers. Those that do this well will be the ones that succeed and grow with exciting and expanded opportunities.
Those that don’t? Well, they may be left in the dust. Here are five top trends that are shape-shifting retail right now:
1. Retail customers want it their way — personalized and customized.
No longer are shoppers willing to settle for what everyone else has and what everyone else gets. Instead, customers expect increasingly personalized communications — through ads, online recommendations and email marketing — as well as customized purchase options. For example, online retailer Stitch Fix is a service that offers personal styling for affordable prices. Sportswear retailer PUMA provides a wealth of customized jersey options. And retailers such as Pepe Jeans are offering customized options and virtual shopping services.
2. A seamless customer experience is becoming retail table-stakes.
Shoppers no longer distinguish between channels when it comes to their purchase process. Whether it is on mobile, in-store or online, they want their experience to be equally quick, easy and integrated. This is a tough challenge for retailers, however, who have to overcome big supply chain and technological obstacles to make this expectation a reality. In fact, according to Accenture, there are clearly gaps between consumer expectations and the ability of retailers to deliver what customers want — such as anytime, anywhere fulfillment and a consistent cross-device experience.
3. Social is becoming about shopping — not just sharing.
Retailers have long used social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to share information about new products, sales and to improve communication with customers. Now, however, social is becoming about actual purchases, not just sharing. EMarketer recently found that “Buy” buttons are becoming more commonplace, with all the major social networks implementing them in some way. While so far fewer than half of retailers are using the “Buy” buttons, it’s clear that they are intrigued — and experimenting with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, among others.
4. Shoppers crave instant gratification.
Companies such as Uber, GrubHub and Amazon have entirely changed the shopping game by offering customers new ways to get what they want, faster. Want a car at the corner in a couple of minutes, rather than hailing a taxi? No problem. Want to order your meal online and have it delivered pronto? Sure. How about delivery of anything, anywhere, at your fingertips? Of course. As consumer thinking about service changes, retailers of all stripes are feeling the pressure to step up and are working to embrace strategies and technologies that help them, literally, deliver the goods.
5. Consumers want to shop easily on mobile.
Mobile commerce is gaining serious momentum: According to Internet Retailer’s 2016 Mobile 500 study, in 2015 US mobile commerce sales grew to 30% of total e-commerce sales, or a whopping $104 billion. Consumers want their mobile shopping journey to be as straightforward as it is on the desktop or in the brick-and-mortar store — with responsive sites, speedy page-loading and easy product discoverability. However, so far retailers have not been able to rise to that challenge when it comes to actually getting to the path-to-purchase finish line on mobile. In fact, only 42 percent of shoppers found it easy to complete a purchase using a mobile device, according to Accenture.