Five disruptive retail trends to watch for
It's been less than a decade since game-changing retail strategies like "buy online/pick up in store," targeted mobile messages, and mobile payments were introduced to consumers, but thanks in large part to the foothold such features have secured, the "new normal" that dictates competitive advantage in the retail world appears to be nearing another time of evolution. Here's a look at some of the disruptive retail tactics that will emerge in the future of retail, and how to ensure you're prepared to compete.
Catering to the mobile majority.Though the exact year smartphone ownership will reach a point of saturation isn't conclusive, a target date of sometime within the next years appears feasible: eMarketer estimates that 4.55 billion people now have a smartphone. While retailers could once consider mobile a small part of a larger marketing strategy, the rapid uptick in mobile open rates (which Exact Target estimates increased 300 percent, from October 2010 to 2012) points to the future reality. Mobile will be soon be the most important means of communication with customers — particularly as smartphones, tablets and even smart wearables are used to make purchase decisions and actual purchases. Retailers who learn to market based on consumers' ever-changing "mobile moments" — which will demand knowledge of the customer's physical location, mood and need, at any given time through so-called predictive retailing — will win favor. Those who passively wait to be found will subsequently lose mind space among even loyal customers.
Integrating with the critical "we."Social media marketing will become an even more complex tactic as retailers must understand how to identify the difference between consumers' online/social media image and their "real identity" to create messaging for that dual persona in a way that translates into continued interaction. Further, retailers build networks of small user communities so engaged with a retailer that they provide an "insider" look of the next best strategy (before the consumer feels the need). As these relationships are nurtured, the activity within these small but mighty communities will be a critical "make or break" opportunity for retailers.
Serving the "me." Levi's could be credited with laying the initial groundwork for introducing the idea of customized products to the masses a few years ago, but retailers of all shapes and sizes should expect to amp up their level of customer personalization in the future, whether by way of personal shopping services, an individualized experience or custom-made products. Thanks to the popularity of "people-powered" online commerce sites like Etsy, customers now expect a highly personal retail experience, whether it's delivered by product choice or service offering.
Small and stealthy will win the race. Though customer expectations will likely become more demanding, a retailer's ability to swiftly adapt to consumer needs through innovation stands to win market share. Brands like Warby Parker, for example, have begun to transform the customer expectation of industries that have been operating with a "business as usual" mentality for decades, simply by changing price, transparency and service levels to be more customer-friendly. As a result, the future of retail could very well level the playing field between established brands, small business, and new entrants: The ability to make waves by improving the customer experience will dictate the winner more than financial resources.
Brick and mortar vs. digital will no longer be a divide. The great debate in the retail industry used to be about whether storefront or e-commerce models would fare better, but as a result of disruptive retail trends, that conversation will be irrelevant in the future. For example, expect innovations like Amazon Dash, which uses voice command to develop shopping lists for Amazon Fresh (which then handles fulfillment), will likely become the new normal. With such tools as shopper insight, brands can become more proactive giving customers exactly what they need, solving the great divide that previously distinguished the physical retail world from the digital.
As the future of retail appears to be poised for another round of disruption, retailers should develop new ways to be as user-friendly as possible in marketing, products and service offering. By using the information and connection they have with consumers by way of mobile devices and social media technology, retailers who approach their marketing and product offerings to act more like a partner than a promoter will likely emerge the victors in the future of retail.
(Photo by Doug Wheller.)
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, providing retail payment processing solutions for merchants of all sizes. She brings more than 15 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing to the company and also serves on its Board of Directors.www