30 November 2011 - 9:39am | posted by

What's in store for retail in 2012?

The Drum, along with Carat and Synovate, has named 2012 the Year of Retail. Here we catch up with experts in the fields of social media and mobile to find out more about the opportunities which lie ahead for retailers.

The Drum has joined forces with Carat, the world’s largest independent media specialist, and Synovate Retail Performance, the global research consultancy, to name 2012 the Year of Retail. Helen Adcock, marketing director for Carat, explained: “Quite apart from the time of year and the rapid advance and influence of social media, the retail sector has been through a tumultuous year – it’s been harder for longer for many – and there’s no sign that this state of flux will disappear any time soon. We wanted to harness the expertise in the agency and also access some of the best minds in the business in a bid to try and understand a little better what has gone before, what is happening currently so we can be better informed about what might come in the future and how we might help clients plan for those challenges.” Here we speak to WH Smith communications planner Mark Hughes, Aegis evolve’s Mark Greenshot, and Carat’s Francesca Bateman who heads up the agency’s mobile department about the opportunities that lie ahead for retail companies. Francesca Bateman, head of mobile, Carat What are the key trends in mobile? Local – and the value exchange around it for retailers. It is clear that this needs to be consumer led so Check in works, but retailer can develop interesting Wi-Fi led experiences and build engagement and value here. Multichannel – The critical thought is that whilst mobile offers the promise for the smartest retailers who offer great multichannel tools to augment the purchasing experience, they also risk their consumer being poached by advertising, price comparison, recommendations that can be accessed live in the physical or online store. Mobile ready – Media might start a dialogue with a retailer/product but all need to have a mobile friendly site, so that consumers who are happy to transact or research on mobile can discover what they need, or risk that savvy consumer going to another brand that will. Connectivity – the multichannel shopping experience requires that brands are available on demand and accessible. Retailers can have an exciting part to play here to give Wi-Fi access, and can extract useful data by return. To what extent is mobile a game changer? More than 1 in 4 of us will use mobile as part of our Christmas shopping this year. The smartphones that are driving the biggest shifts in behaviour have now exceeded 50% penetration (75% of upgrades are to smartphone). People are playing games, taking pictures, using applications and accessing the internet from their mobile phone to search for products. Some of these new behaviours will most likely create some real success stories for retail and some disasters for the retailers who do not get it. This new smart consumer is putting these retail brands “on demand”, they are high value customers who have high expectations of a multichannel shopping experience. Any good mobile retailer will drive interaction into the experience, engaging the consumer to gather the data to build the biggest influence on this shopping behaviour – cross, and upsetting consumers and offering customer cervice. Mark Greenstreet, joint managing director, Aegis evolve Will social media and e-commerce make or break the retail market? Social media is having a major impact on the way that people interact with each other, share information and organise their lives so it is likely that this will also impact on how people shop in a major way. However it is unlikely that it will ‘break’ the retail market. Group buying may have a growing impact. What new digital innovations look like they have the most potential?
  1. The penetration of smartphones have now reached critical mass – anything that can be done on the Internet can be done whilst out and about with the added functionality of being (micro) location specific. many surveys show how important to people their mobile device is and how ‘naked’ they feel if they don’t have it with them. For many this becomes the primary method of accessing online services – with the added functionality of Apps – designed to make a seamless user experience, including payment schemes.
  2. Most new TVs will soon be internet enabled. This will give rise to new potential for apps and interactivity on the ‘main screen’. Major opportunities presented here include:
  • Addressable TV – using Internet style behavioural targeting to improve the targeting of TV advertising to relevant households and people.
  • On Demand scheduling viewers changing the way that they schedule their viewing – This could include enhanced ‘browsing’ of retail sites/channels in a more relaxed and entertaining way.
Mark Hughes, communications planner, Arcadia/WH Smith How has online changed the fashion sector? As online capability has caught up through broadband penetration and speed, so the shopping experience has improved. The massive investment behind boo.com didn’t matter because the proposition just couldn’t be supported by the internet of the time. This is so far removed from the now – the power of video content and 3D models has allowed consumers experience of clothing in many more ways than just trying on in store. Simpler distribution and return models have improved the consumer experience and confidence in terms of buying and sending back unwanted items. Increasingly, all the major high street fashion retailers have woken up to the fact that they need to be purveyors of content as well as clothes. For instance, Topman has invested significantly in its association with and support of grass roots music, which lives online across sites other than its own and in the social space. As with all major sectors, online has changed fashion from an audience perspective as well as from a messaging angle. ASOS was a pioneer in this field from a retailer perspective and has driven the category for a while. Debenhams, Next etc have followed suit. From a content perspective, up to the minute fashion is available through sites/blogs and video and social media channels and people can access the latest trends 24/7. With that comes the ability to react/ comment and buy at any stage throughout the day and thus making trends a much quicker business than ever before. The consumer has never been as close to the designer/retailer than now and so the sector will only ever get more and more reactive and proactive in the digital space. What do fashion retailer need to do in order to future proof their businesses? In short – be more open, more collaborative and more mobile. Retailers need to be ever more adept at delivering content to consumers both on and (more importantly) off their sites/stores. They must be active in all the major channels (Social, Mobile, PPC, SEO) and be prepared to offer the consumer a value tradeoff and rich experience in order to standout and make them see that they are more of an advisor than just a retailer. Be prepared to grab a sale at any location (Facebook, mobile, pop up store, eBay etc) but don’t be scared of increased consumer feedback. Don’t hide away from it! Is the menswear market evolving in a different way to the women’s market? Menswear online isn’t delivering quite the volume that women’s is – but this is more reflective of shopper habits of either sex offline. It’s also safe to say that there is a less voracious appetite amongst men overall for up to date and frequent speedy fashion content online. It’s worth remembering that different male shopper segments shop differently on and offline and there will always be male heavy shoppers as well as those disinterested in the fashion shop apart from at certain times of the year. The key is thinking about how each male segment shops and considering their level of engagement with fashion and attitude towards it. There are definite opportunities for brands that form a relationship in the online space with men via other types of content and then dial up their fashion creds at the right point in each consumer segments customer journey.

Featured by The Drum