Where global commerce is concerned, the last few years have been tumultuous times that have seen shifting trends in consumer behavior. And every step of the way technology has informed these new habits, leading to greater returns. Retailers who underestimate this stark reality should keep these facts in mind:
- Global retail sales have grown an average of 3% since 2008
- Mobile Internet searches have, for the first time, surpassed desktop searches
- Global e-commerce sales reached $1.3 trillion in 2013
Nowadays consumers want a “full service” shopping experience. That begs the question: how can businesses best deliver a personalized message across multiple channels to increase conversions? The answers can be found in these e-commerce and retail trends that are expected to crystalize in the coming year.
1. Big data facilitates retail
Today’s consumers don’t merely make purchases—they interact with retailers. This interaction involves dollars, certainly, but it also involves the personal data the shopper brings to the table in the form of habits, preferences, likes and tweets. Every click of a mouse wheel or tap of a touchscreen generates data that can now be harvested at geometric rates and utilized by marketers for targeted advertising campaigns.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, retailers who incorporate a big-data strategy can increase operating margins by up to 60%. But where to focus this newly gleaned info? The e-commerce trend below might just be the answer.
2. Mobile dominates all other mediums
It’s hardly new news to state that mobile is an ascendant retail trend. But there are some figures that are noteworthy. For example, in 2010, smartphone commerce resulted in $3 billion in revenue. Not bad for a technology which, at that point, was still relatively new. Now contrast that with the projected $31 billion in smartphone purchases in 2017 and you’ll understand the awesome potential these small handheld devices possess.
Retailers who can harness the power of social media to pinpoint mobile purchasing behavior via the utilization of big data will be the ones who thrive. Everyone else will be left out in the cold. Those marketers who are wondering just how social media fits in need to bear in mind one fundamental truth of modern retail:
3. Social and shopping become one
As you read this, legions of influence marketers are disseminating product information across a wide variety of social media platforms. And millions of consumers are taking notice. That’s because, according to statistics, 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations over traditional advertising campaigns. Even those consumers who don’t follow influencers are still sharing their recent purchases on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, thus creating a cycle where social media forms purchasing decisions. And the consumer is an engaged and active participant in this cycle. For example, 70% of all consumers now research a product online before they make a final purchasing decision.
This means that retailers can no longer sit back and hope that a particular marketing strategy takes root and creates positive word of mouth. They must be engaged, driving the conversation and delivering product info straight to the consumer.
To this end, expect influencer marketing to continue its upward trend in 2016. Also, engaging targeted audiences via customer reviews and ratings, all disseminated via social media, will be a solid strategy in the coming year. But those who truly want to drive the conversation need to target the one audience that sets the overall tone with their robust spending power.
4. Millennials take the reigns
It’s a story as old as marketing itself—as one generation ages, the new one coming up supplants them as the dominant consumer power of the time. 2016 (as well as 2017) will see Millennials (folks born, generally, between 1978 and 1995) enjoy more spending power than any generation previous. Consider it: this is a group that’s dependent on smartphones and connected to social media almost 24/7. That means businesses have a direct, open-ended conduit to their target audience available at any time of the day or night.
But keep something else in mind: Millennials don’t respond to the marketing of years past. This new generation is more discerning and less trustful of traditional advertising campaigns (Those 30-second TV spots will no longer do the trick). They trust peers over brands, influencers over celebrities. They want a personalized shopping experience reflective of positive word-of-mouth retail trends. Plus, they want retailers to be conscious of the social and geo-political issues of the day.
Tall order, but if businesses wish to reach this demographic they need to offer a targeted message based on past purchasing behavior, engage on social media, and promote products and services that are socially conscious. And speaking of personalized shopping experiences…
5. “Personalization” is the common denominator
In this day and age of the Internet of things, where everything from cars to homes to toilets has become “smart,” it only makes sense that this fact of modern life would permeate the retail realm. Businesses trying to figure out how to deliver the “smart” and personalized shopping experience that Millennials crave will find it in technologies that offer personalization based on actual customer needs.
Guided Selling, is such a technology, which is why it will be so vital to e-commerce in 2016. The best Guided Selling solutions use the concept of need-based personalization to make picking the most suitable product hassle-free for different types of shoppers – regardless of their prior knowledge of a certain domain, their current location, or the device they use in the process.
These customer-centric solutions are able to maximize sales effectiveness and guarantee an increase in conversion rates most effectively. They showcase products and/or services, educate shoppers, incorporate a comprehensive data catalog, are user friendly, easy to navigate, are placed prominently on a website, integrate offline data—such as in-store experiences—to boost customer profiles, and “smartly” recommend products and/or services that shoppers would really need and care for.
In the end, all the e-commerce and retail trends listed above underscore how crucial it is to raise marketing from single channel to omnichannel. Indeed, the line between in-store and mobile shopping is becoming increasingly blurred, and this is only expected to continue in the coming year. Therefore, the goal for retailers in 2016 is to provide consumers with a seamless and need-based shopping experience across multiple channels.