The rise of smartphones and the tech-savvy consumer means we’re increasingly seeing a world where people are more connected than ever before.
Globally, 51.4% of people using the internet are doing so via mobile according to the web statistics site StatCounter and in a growing and competitive retail market, brands are now feeling the pressure not only to turn a higher profit each year but also expand and increase brand awareness.
With more consumers engaged in the digital landscape and new technologies making their lives easier, retailers are seeing a shift in power back to the customer as they now have more variety in the products they choose to purchase.
In an era of mobile-first, millennials are now the driving force for mobile commerce. They’re easily persuaded by their peers, stay loyal to companies that keep up-to-date with technology and also use tech to discover new brands. Ecommerce sites like Etsy and Swedish-based Tictail are now sophisticated online marketplaces where users can buy and sell products from apparel to unique handmade products.
These marketplaces also create a community where small business can nurture and develop a customer base in a unique way.
We’re also seeing an increase in online fashion stores like Lyst, who specialise in partnerships with major brands from around the world so its users can shop from over 10,000 designers and stores in one place. With clever marketing tools at their fingertips, Lyst is also able to create targeted marketing emails to each individual user.
What’s more important is that these sites have developed slick and easy-to-use apps, meaning they can engage with customers on a personal level without having to solely navigate through a web browser.
Developments like this are key in a world where the intimate relationship we have with smartphones and tablets now outweigh any interaction we have with other devices in the home – including the desktop computer.
Mobile and the omnichannel experience
It’s no surprise that there’s now a major shift in the way consumers shop online and Asia seems to be leading the way with mobile commerce. According to a press release by MasterCard “Nearly half of consumers have made a purchase using their smartphone, led by those in China (70.1%), India (62.9%) and Taiwan (62.6%).”
In light of this trend, companies have realised the importance of mobile optimisation of their websites and with today’s generation of prudent and smart shoppers, retailers are increasingly developing their own smartphone apps.
A key feature of Topshop’s app is the ability for the customer to scan a barcode on the ticket of any item in their stores. The product then appears on their smartphone to be added the customer’s wish list to purchase online at a later date. Coupled with updates on new product launches and promotions through push notifications, their app is proving to be very popular not only in Europe but in Japan, South Korea and China.
Customers who experience a more branded and streamline shopping journey from a retailer’s app are also expecting that same experience when they enter the retailer’s physical store.
Apple and Oasis have their sales staff armed with iPads that not only have easy access to customer account information but also act as mobile EPOS systems where you can easily purchase products without the hassle of queuing and have your receipt emailed to you.
Social Media is a key player in the retail market and retailers are now increasingly using social platforms to engage with their customer base and develop brand awareness to increase sales.
With social ads being commonplace and Instagram investing in ways to make shopping easier on their platform, retailers are already collaborating with third-party apps in order to drive more revenue from social media.
Verticly, a platform that exchanges data between brands and audiences by delivering content, take a creative approach to marketing. Users who interact with a brand’s social posts which is integrated with Verticly’s platform, seamlessly engage with rich relevant content in exchange for promotions, offers and exclusive product updates.
Optimisation and personalisation
Customers are increasingly aware they’re being marketed to when they shop, even after their first purchase. We’ve all made that investment purchase on a new sofa or winter coat, only to see carefully placed marketing ads on your Instagram or Facebook feeds the next day.
In a saturated market where retailers have to battle with brands that sell the same or similar product in other stores and online, it’s vital that consumer data is used more intelligently to maintain and increase customer retention.
Ometria, a customer insight and cross-channel marketing platform, helps eCommerce retailers gain actionable insights into their data by analysing customer behaviours in order to create automated and personalised messaging.
This comes in the form of product recommendations and dynamic content through targeted emails, social media retargeting and content strategy. This enables the retailer to target the right customer with the right product at the right time.
“Consumers today have more power than ever.” Joshua Pierson, Business Development Director for Ometria told TraslateMedia. “Just one communication that isn’t personalised can turn them off of your brand. Our most successful clients will collate the offline, online and interaction data of each customer to deliver the right message at the right time across multiple channels providing a seamless and bespoke experience at every stage of their journey.”
While online purchasing increases, consistency and familiarity seem to be key in developing and maintaining the customer relationship.
A recent Salesforce report stated that “75% of consumers strongly agree or agree they expect companies to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage with them”, this includes a company’s social media, website and in person at a physical store.
Companies developing digital and in-store customer service teams are now having to invest in technology that not only holds transactional data but also personal information, touchpoint history, targeted marketing records and previous customer service data in order to maintain a human connection between a brand and their individual customer.
Retailers that have a global presence will have to recognise if customers have purchased from multiple localised websites within their brand or if they’ve purchased from a bricks and mortar store that’s not in their country of residence.
Improving the customer journey online with light pre-and-post purchase engagement will also help brands improve customer loyalty.
Chatbots offering help and call outs to a customer service phone number at key touchpoints of the customer journey are commonplace and post transactional emails prompting reviews of recently purchased products and personalised recommendations are now best practices.
Although consumer buying power is bigger than ever, this shouldn’t mean retailers have to struggle at the same time. Retailers are now in the perfect position to move alongside their customers in the digital landscape and embrace new innovative technologies to improve their local and global marketing strategies and customer service techniques.
With retail hardware becoming smaller and mobile, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are set to become key features in the future of retail in order to provide a refined customer experience.