Nowadays, consumers expect to access and buy products and services at anytime and anywhere. They switch easily from smartphone to tablet to desktop multiple times in a day, engaging with brands through emails, social media, online chat and customer service.
Staying up on consumer behaviors and current trends is a must for today’s marketer. Here are six trends you should know about to help you develop and evolve a winning strategy:
A 2016 Hitwise Retail 500 study reported that visits to subscription websites grew almost 3,000% from 2013 to 2016. In contrast to traditional e-commerce, in which consumers make one-time purchases, the subscription business model allows customers to sign up to receive regular deliveries of products. This model offers both savings and convenience for customers, and predictable revenue for retailers.
A report from McKinsey & Company indicates that about 15% of online shoppers have signed up for at least one subscription to receive products on a recurring basis. Notably, sales in this segment have grown from just $57 million in 2011 to over $2.6B in 2016. Top subscription websites include companies spanning everything from cosmetics and personal care to prepared foods and apparel: Ipsy, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Stitch Fix and Dollar Shave Club.
According to the latest data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), 63% of consumers surveyed say they would like to be able to use curbside pickup for their merchandise (even though only 27% of them have tried it). Curbside pickup builds on the convenience already offered by in-store pickup, but takes it a step further: allowing customers the convenience of picking up their merchandise without having to leave their car.
In January, Walmart unleashed its “biggest and first-ever cross-platform national marketing campaign for Walmart Grocery Pickup.” For 2020, the retailer is targeting 3,100 curbside pickup and 1,600 delivery locations. Target, Kroger and other retailers are also rolling out or testing curbside pickup. While it remains to be seen how well curbside pickup will compete with same-day delivery, stores show no sign of slowing down their efforts to implement the service. Marketers need to keep this in mind as they plan campaigns.
Showrooms With No Inventory
Stores are evolving to become destinations for their communities, a place where people can go and have deeper experiences with brands.
When Nordstrom Local first opened several small showroom locations in 2018, many seemed skeptical of the strategy of a store with no inventory for sale on the premises. But with the decline of the traditional mass merchandising department store model, the move to an experiential showroom model has proven to be a success by brands like Bonobos and Warby Parker.
One survey found that 45% of consumers polled reacted positively to showroom stores. And when conducted specifically on millennials, the number jumped to 55%. Retailers are learning that if they focus on providing exceptional in-store experiences and a personal touch, shoppers don’t actually mind waiting a few days for their products.
Niche and Ultra-Local Pop-up Stores
Other than inventory, the other major expense for retailers has always been real estate. Renting or buying space is a major cost for retail companies, and pop-ups — or temporary stores — are an ideal way to reach new customers. Having evolved over the years, pop-ups now occupy a specialty niche for retailers to experiment with new products, new ways of selling, and new ways of getting to know their customers’ choices and preferences.
According to PopUp Republic, the pop-up industry has grown to approximately $10 billion in sales. Pop-up stores come in all shapes and sizes, from kiosks within established store space to mobile units in neighborhoods that cater to target demographics. Hyper-local and niche focuses seem to do well, such as Amazon’s Four Star Stores, which have opened in New York, Denver and Berkeley — with more planned for 2019.
With the checkout line as a top complaint of shoppers, mobile POS systems are being touted as the next big thing in retail, notably the food and beverage industry. The mobile POS market for 2019 is valued at $91M, and its benefits are clear: POS systems can be deployed on a tablet or mobile device, or on a terminal or kiosk; they just need an Internet connection. An additional advantage to mobile POS is its positive effect on the overall customer experience. With so much information at their fingertips, employees are better equipped to field customer questions at checkout.
Apple is the most well-known company to offer mobile checkout to its customers. Store employees walk around with the latest iPads and help customers with their questions, service issues and purchases. Already many more national retailers, including Kroger, Sam’s Club and Walmart, have introduced mobile in-aisle checkout, allowing shoppers to ‘scan and go’ without visiting a traditional checkout lane.
Smart Shelf Technology
Smart shelves are wireless inventory control systems fitted with weight sensors that use RFID tags and readers to scan the products on both display and stock shelves. Smart shelf technology helps with:
- Inventory management in real time
- Remote monitoring
- Stock availability assessment
- Store security
- Cross-selling and upselling
The primary benefit of smart shelves is the ability to inform employees when items are running low or when they are placed in the wrong locations throughout the store. This allows items to be restocked in a timely fashion or moved back to its appropriate location in the store. Since each RFID tag is connected to a reader, smart shelves are even able to detect in-store theft and notify the appropriate people. And when specific items are out of stock, smart shelves can cross-sell or upsell appropriate substitutes
How about IoT?
Retail marketers are increasingly utilizing IoT sensors to gather data about how shoppers are engaging with merchandise and brands. Marketers are discovering that combining their IoT data with other inputs to Customer Data Platforms (CDP) makes it possible for retailers to tie together physical in-store data and digital customer data.
By connecting customer data collected from in-store activity with customer activity outside the store, such as web browsing habits, mobile apps and customer call centers, marketers can gain an unprecedented view of customer experiences and preferences.
A pleasant surprise about tapping into the potential of IoT is that marketers don’t necessarily need to budget for major new investments. In fact, the smartest strategy is to utilize the devices already in stores. Many of the devices that are commonplace in today’s retail environments have the ability to dramatically increase customer engagement. For example, things such as digital signage, infrared foot traffic monitors, RFID inventory tracking chips, beacons and interactive kiosks are already in use today. Same goes for the smartphones and tablets used by store staff and customers.
Increasingly we are seeing innovative marketers make investments in the trends listed above. Not everyone can afford to experiment with all the latest new technologies, but that shouldn’t hold you back. Utilizing as many data points as possible with the resources at hand, marketers can design compelling campaigns that take advantage of these exciting trends in retail activity. The results will be more personalized customer experiences, lower costs and increased sales.