Recent retail results have seen many consumers reluctant to spend. For an industry that continues to go through immense change, new figures have shown signs of consumers’ purse strings tightening in the face of uncertainty.
The evidence that shoppers are being more frugal is perhaps unsurprising, given the current challenging political and economic environment. While consumers are holding on to their cash more than before, given the right opportunity, results show that retailers can encourage spending, particularly online.
Across the peak trading seasons in 2018, online sales increased by 7.6% and when we consider that 15.2% of total global retail sales last year occurred online, that represents a huge opportunity. Brands and retailers now have a massive chance to stand-out, to engage and relate to their shoppers.
But how can retailers take advantage of these opportunities?
Brands Need to Connect Emotionally
A strong strategy around customer empathy is crucial to impress consumers. As noted by Omnicom, creating engagement by tapping into consumers’ emotions is directly linked to the company’s growth. Retailers need to be meaningful and empathetic beyond reason and convenience, treating shoppers as subjects rather than objects.
Creating an emotional connection with a shopper also helps to drive brand loyalty; 50% of consumers (a huge number in the grander scheme of things) say they will shop regularly with a brand that they have an emotional connection with.
By tailoring the online journey to meet, and go beyond, customers’ needs, brands can also create more meaningful relations that delight users while facilitating and encouraging sales; and as our research found, 51% now prefer to shop online rather than in the store.
The Retail World Is Now Relationship-Led
Relationships, experience and the human touch, whether offline or online, can generate joy, emotion, and happiness in the consumer all year round. What’s more, given that the world is increasingly full of choice, retailers can no longer rely on having the best products to guarantee sales.
Brands need to make their customers feel special and deliver the right product to them at the right moment. And, that is not just about helping users to find what they are looking for, it is also about understanding their customers, their intent and inspiring them with meaningful, individual and tailored suggestions.
At the same time, consumers have become savvier and more demanding; they don’t want to be treated the same as all or as numbers on a spreadsheet, they want, and expect, to be treated as individuals, as humans. And, they don’t expect to be stalked online or given suggestions based on what they liked a year ago. They want privacy, transparency and personal options.
Retailers, therefore, need to get savvier too and provide a truly anonymized and yet contextual experience. Using features that can understand the context, whether that is the query that was typed, the user or the category, is the only way to offer highly relevant, unique and personalized results. And, whether that is shopping for a pair of jeans or a gas service provider, getting it wrong with one bad experience can mean that customers will go and shop elsewhere.
What is more, simple product deals will not suffice. Any retailer and e-commerce provider can offer deals, but the smart ones will develop and build a productive relationship with their customers. Think of Amazon’s Prime service; it enables the e-commerce giant to build a devoted fan base where they can then sell in more services and products like Amazon Fresh, Echo, etc. Amazon would not be the company it is today without that service.
Save the Date
As we approach peak trading times, such as summer sales, it is important that brands and retailers keep innovating and delivering tailored experiences. Customers demonstrate different purchasing characteristics and consequently different shopping patterns around special dates. By understanding these behaviors, retailers can anticipate and predict what different customers require and capitalize on these opportunities.
Embedding an understanding of special dates within the retail strategy means that retailers can also take into account the context to personalize and tailor these shopping experiences. Take Alibaba’s rebrand of Singles’ day to the Global Shopping Festival, a move that makes the shopping event sound more appealing and exciting. With sales figures of $25.3billion in the day, it is quickly becoming one of the most important peak days in the retail calendar.
Consumers may have been reluctant to splash the cash for the early part of 2019 but great opportunities lie ahead – and retailers should be excited. Those that master their online offering on the dates for that matter will be able to provide every visitor with a joyful experience, making the customer journey enjoyable, meaningful and human.