It was inevitable that the rapid pace of technological advancement would finally fuse the boundaries between the bricks and mortar, and online retail worlds, giving an ever-demanding consumer the most amazing shopper experience.
We’ve been observing and evaluating some of the most interesting developments, and are now working with them in our own campaigns for retailers. Here are our predictions for the trends to watch in the physical and experiential retail environment in 2013.
Show your workings
When Krispy Kreme cut a hole in their wall to sell direct it had unintended consequences on how consumers interacted with the brand. By showing a direct view of production, customers felt that they were getting a privileged behind-the-scenes experience. It attracted attention, demonstrated quality and introduced an element of tourism, all resulting in increased engagement.
That was back in the 1930s and the spirit remains true today. This trend is about adding value to a brand by demonstrating authenticity and provenance. It incites an element of trust and transparency, and marketers should consider what stories they can leverage. For some brands, such as Adidas and Havaianas, it is linked to personalisation, enabling shoppers to customise to their own style and taste and take a shared pride in the product being created before their very eyes.
From starting in the US grocery category in the 1950s and more recently fuelled by the rise in smartphones and touch screens, the self-service revolution has now hit most retail environments. Whether faced with automated tills, boarding-pass scanners or self service coffee bars, shoppers are taking control and being offered even greater choice as part of their in-store experience.
With consumers continually seeking more variety in what, when and how they buy, brands and retailers deploying self-service are initiating further empowerment and bringing more opportunities for marketers to engage. Self service is not for every retail environment, but the principle of improving, simplifying or offering more service platforms is.
Anytime, anywhere shopping
Mobile technology has changed retail forever as shoppers seek convenience and flexibility. According to research by the IAB, 65% of tablet owners use them to browse online stores and 72% for purchasing. The IMRG Capgemini Index showed that mobile commerce accounted for 11.6% of UK online sales in Q2 this year with mobile accounting for 21.1% of total e-retail visits. Mobile is expected to account for one in five online sales by Christmas.
Given that not every retailer has a dedicated mobile presence, these figures are staggering, offering an incentive to companies with a mobile strategy to get ahead. Creating digital content for smart phone and tablet users is something that we’ve been working on throughout the year and will soon become the norm. Given screen sizes, the challenge for many of our large ticket visual-based clients is creating content that is visually appealing and inspiring.
Augmented reality (AR) technology generally overlays a computer generated view over the real-world environment, making it particularly useful for large purchases and fashion – where consumers desire to see if an item suits them or their environment before purchasing. Tissot is a great example of AR success - using its pioneering touch screen, shoppers have been able to virtually try on a 3D watch.
Many retailers are starting to think seriously about AR as they look to make a shopper’s experience of a product more real. IBM is one company working with retailers on AR by testing its mobile application that can be used by shoppers to gather more information about products, something they would normally look for on the internet.
Remember, AR is not limited to the retail space but also extends to retail platforms – Tesco recently launched the world’s first cover-to-cover augmented reality food magazine after teaming up with AR specialist Aurasma.
Social shopping, where shoppers’ involve others in their experience, is one of the major themes being trialled and embraced by multichannel retailers. This is no surprise, as the wider public continues to engage with social media and say what they ‘like’. Facebook alone generates around three billion ‘likes’ each day. E-consultancy has also reported that 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know.
Retailers and brands who develop a strategy to not only generate positive social shopping but also connect and reward their most active and influential users are those most likely to benefit. The key is to equip shoppers with the tools to feedback and encourage, but not interfere, with conversations. Forums and rich POS in-store can help facilitate the process where ‘likes’, recommendations and positive reviews all further engage customers and help turn social shoppers into social purchasers.
Fusing online and offline worlds remains one of the biggest challenges for retail, particularly when ROI remains a key consideration. We recently launched a campaign which addressed the issue for Sharps’ Bedrooms walk-in wardrobes, combining a number of the trends discussed. Digital marketing enhanced the in-store experience and, for the first time, Sharps used video to engage customers. QR Codes in-store led to information rich videos, guiding shoppers through their purchasing journey and genuinely enhancing their experience. The campaign was supported by a social shopping strategy.
As technological advancement and consumer behaviour continues to drive retail developments we shouldn’t forget that it all boils down to improving shopper experiences that create deeper engagement and turn shoppers into purchasers. The really successful strategies are those that are rooted in insight and a brand’s DNA with measurement set against key business metrics.
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