Our industry is at a crossroads. E-commence innovations are launching faster than consumers can keep up with them. Amazon and Walmart are battling to get ahead and either acquiring or launching any retail offering you could dream up. Friction is being removed everywhere across the path to purchase. I can now order my groceries and either have them delivered to me in two hours or drive by and have them loaded into my car. Personalized and curated, subscription-based services continue to launch and grow for everything from clothes and cosmetics to complete meals, craft hot sauces and single-origin coffee beans.
All that being said, according to a TimeTrade 2017 study, 71% of U.S. consumers say they still prefer to buy from physical stores, even if the product is available online. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that while e-commerce spending was up 15.6% over 2015, that still only accounts for 11.7% of the $4.8 trillion spent in retail in 2016.
In order to keep up with changing consumer demand, here are four trends that brands and retailers should look to stay ahead of.
Focus on your current and future customers
A lot has been said, and will continue to be said, about focusing on the millennial generation. In 2016, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation. Their spending power will only continue to grow and if you have been holding out on focusing your efforts around this audience, you can no longer wait. Even if millennials aren’t your primary target now, educate yourself on their consuming behaviors and begin to adapt your technology and practices to reach them as they age. Below are three examples of areas you develop to keep up with this audience.
Technology driven personalization
Do you remember that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise walks through the mall and has customized holograms and promotions talking to him? We are just about at that point. With the access to consumer data and technology that brands and retailers have, every possible consumer interaction your brand has should be deeply customized and tailored. If you don’t currently own your customers’ first-party data, bring that function of marketing in-house and begin owning and leveraging it. Set specific goals and analyze the data for ways to achieve them.
Prepare for mobile payment
It is estimated that by 2020 90% of smartphone users will have made a payment with a mobile device and nearly 1.6 billion coupons will be served to mobile consumers via Beacon. Just last week, Google rolled out a new “Pay With Google” functionality allowing seamless integration with mobile and desktop browsers as well as any Android app. Select locations of the booming fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen no longer accept cash. Whether through your own app or a mobile wallet system, offering mobile payments and mobile offers will become imperative so as not to alienate consumers who increasingly rely on their smartphones for everything.
Offer hybrid commerce where possible
As humans, we crave one-on-one interactions, which can’t truly be replicated digitally at this time. Even in a fully e-commerce model, it’s proving smart to create the opportunity for live interactions. Look at Warby Parker, which built brick-and-mortar stores where you cannot purchase a pair of glasses; they simply act as a physical place to touch and feel the product and talk with specialists. Explore ways to offer your customers the chance to interact with your products and experts while also providing a simple way for them to make an online or mobile purchase.
In an industry moving faster than the speed of a credit card swipe, focusing on these trends will help your brand stay ahead of the competition and in front of your consumers.