E-commerce is as established as the Internet itself. Amazon, for instance, turned 21 in 2015—time flies. Even with the relative maturity of e-commerce as a business model, however, there are still plenty of areas in which retailers can grow.
New boutique stores are entering the market and quickly becoming dominant players. Just look at ModCloth and NastyGal as examples: both women’s clothing leaders have become loved brands and have raised tens of millions of dollars in VC funding.
What companies like these teach us is that personalization, real-time marketing, and integrated brand experiences are the next big opportunity for retail brands. Here are three consumer trends that explain why.
1. The ubiquitous consumer
A recent report from PwC’s Strategy& points out that over the last 15 years, 75% of all retail sales growth has occurred through online channels. This trend, however, does not reflect the detail of the brick and mortar experience.
What’s happening, according to Strategy&, is that it’s becoming increasingly challenging to distinguish online from offline sales. Consumers are browsing products in stores and then completing transactions on their mobile devices. Busy parents are multitasking, often browsing multiple websites at once, to complete purchases faster. Shoppers are relying on services like Amazon Fresh, DoorDash, and Instacart to have items delivered to their homes in a matter of hours.
As Strategy& points out, one of the most impactful ways to guide consumers through this process is to offer individualized shopping experiences. Empower consumers with the same level of support and guidance that they receive when shopping in stores. Get to know them and their preferences on a 1:1 level.
Source: Think with Google
In addition to demanding ubiquitous shopping experiences, consumers are seeking out products and services that are custom-tailored to their unique needs. As Google points out, personalization technology will be integral to the future of retail.
When consumers share their location, preferences, and device information, brands can piece together stories and make informed choices about what content to deliver in return. Intelligent retailers are looking to do more with their customer segments—to learn and build relationships with customers over the long-term.
Over time, retailers will become a trusted, go-to resource for customers’ needs. Consumers have very little time to filter through noise and will always gravitate towards the brands that can offer the most direct and immediate value. Personalization makes this brand-to-consumer dynamic possible.
3. Digital hospitality
Source: National Retail Federation (NRF)
The lines between online and offline have become nonexistent, which is why consumers are demanding the same level of digital hospitality that they receive in stores.
At a minimum, retailer sites should convey the quality, atmosphere, and sensory experiences that consumers would expect to see in person. Companies can even collect information that they’re learning about their customers online and apply these details to in-store experiences.
The key to digital hospitality is real-time personalization technology. You can apply the learnings that you’re generating online to your customers’ in-store interests. While these types of advanced capabilities are likely years away, the key to getting started is now. The data that you collect will be a foundation that you can build upon, over time, as technology continues to evolve.
The time to pursue these opportunities is now. Personalization technology is already here, and with it, you can create the nuts and bolts of your next-generation, ubiquitous customer experiences. A human being is a human being, regardless of whether she’s sitting behind a computer screen or browsing items in your store. Connect with this person, regardless of where she is or what she’s doing. Personalization is key.