Retail

Mobile has given rise to a new type of consumer — constantly connected, expectant, and insatiably curious. They’re trackable in an unprecedented way, thanks to the steady stream of data they create and share across multiple channels. They have the ability to engage in open dialogue with brands as they do with friends and family. They want what they want, when they want it. And woe to those who don’t deliver.

Carmen is a fashion addict who uses mobile as her main means of discovery, browsing, and purchase. She lives and breathes style – following friends, celebrities, and style bloggers alike for the latest trends. A social media expert, Carmen gathers inspiration across several channels and is quick to adopt new trends. She sees little to no delineation between shopping digitally or in-store, and appreciates those brands that understand this, offering her a tailored experience that helps guide and inform her purchase decisions. She is choosy about how and where she spends her money, and feels equally at ease with flash fashion and more upscale designers. You may capture her attention once, but if you don’t impress, you’ll have difficulty capturing it again. What are the trends driving Carmen?

Go where the customer goes: Everywhere

Despite predictions, the shopocalypse hasn’t happened. eCommerce, while a huge and ever-growing industry that did $638 billion in business in 2014 (Digiday/Goldman Sachs, 2014), does not have anywhere near market-share yet, and brick and mortar is not dead. Today’s retail experience, changed so much by the Internet and multi-screen lifestyles, is so much more than just a point of purchase. Consumers perform any number of pre-, mid-, and post-shopping behaviours, each on a different platform and in different locations. With one eye on Netflix, they’re browsing and researching items on their tablet. They’re checking store locators and item availability on their smartphone on their morning commutes. Over their lunch hours, they’re dropping by the store to purchase the items they’ve researched and maybe something extra that’s caught their eye. In a nutshell, consumers are shopping more than ever in more ways than ever, which means that omnichannel is now a must.

Omnichannel requires a thoughtful, unified experience that puts the customer at its centre. The challenge becomes how to create true to brand experiences that take full advantage of context and medium.This isn’t to say it needs to be an identical experience across channels, just supportive and logically connected. It’s imperative that retailers provide a seamless customer experience, no matter where the consumer is entering the funnel.

Capturing the Mobile Animal

While consumers still shop brick and mortar, mobile has undeniably brought true disruption to the “traditional” process. Get mobile right – including how it integrates with in-store touchpoints – and consumers will not only become loyal customers, they’ll also become evangelists. Getting it right entails knowing which behaviours to optimize for. For example:

  • Shoppers use mobile tools to add items to wish lists, shopping carts, etc. In fact, 36.9% visits to online stores come from mobile (Wiser, 2014).
  • The path to purchase is an endless loop, jumping from mobile to web to in-store and back again. Enabled by mobile, consumers heavily price-compare and review hunt. 76% say they use mobile to do so (Kitewheel, 2014).
  • Consumers want easy ways to purchase the items they want. 91% say that an “in the moment” offer from a brand could influence their purchase (Kitewheel, 2014).
  • 66% of consumers want a service to learn about them as they use it (Harris Interactive, 2014).

Brands have been slow to catch up to these behaviours thus far — too slow. And fair enough, the cost involved to upgrade is not insignificant. But what is the cost not to? Increased phone screen sizes and improved experiences are driving consumers to embrace browsing and buying on mobile. 43% of consumers report having used multiple Internet devices simultaneously in the process of making a single purchase, and 67% of consumers have compared prices online while shopping in a physical store (Kitewheel, 2014).

According to Hubspot’s 2014/2015 Retail Benchmarking Report, 68% of retailers plan to invest in mobile in the upcoming months, although 57% report not having a clearly defined mobile marketing strategy in place. If this seems like a recipe for disaster, it is. Part of the problem is that organizations know they have to make a move to mobile, but don’t know what to invest in: an app? Responsive web? Mobile web? The answer is all of the above. Retailers must invest in creating and executing on holistic omnichannel digital strategies to keep consumers’ interest and loyalty. All touch points must be carefully considered and orchestrated so that the experience does not break, and it must be assumed that consumers will enter and return from any number of platforms. Say a consumer receives a marketing email to check out a retailer’s new spring collection. They open the email on their smartphone and use the link within, which then takes them to a non-mobile friendly site, effectively killing the sale not only for the moment but also quite possibly the future. And this is a fairly simple scenario, which certainly doesn’t encompass other consumer behaviours.

Know thy customer

Mobile’s always-on nature has changed the way we shop, producing near constant streams of data in the process. Unfortunately, many lack the infrastructure or tools to do anything with their data, which is a serious liability when talking about the modern consumer who has come to expect smart recommendations, 1-click checkout, and fast, free shipping.

Knowing this, the challenge remains: how can retailers harness all these data points to produce a 360 degree view of their customers? The answer thus far seems to be a resounding “I don’t know.” Kitewheel reports that 53% of marketing executives would like to implement, but currently lack, an “engagement hub” that connects an individual’s consumer data at every touch point to support a seamless consumer experience.

Smart notifications, for example, can do wonders for brand-customer engagement and driving sales when used correctly. There’s a lot that can be accomplished with location and user profiles to ensure the right messages are delivered to the right user at the right time. Obviously, there must be a solid messaging strategy in place to ensure the timing, frequency, and content of the messages are on point. This assumes of course, that the user has opted in to receiving the notifications to begin with (about 50% of users opt out of push notifications in retail apps). And really, it’s no wonder when they’ve been abused so widely: People don’t want to be spammed, they want to be engaged.

Social shopping

Superpowered by mobile, Millennials are perhaps the savviest shoppers ever. They love to price compare, read and write reviews, and discover. A key unifying element to all of this is friends. Millennials’ shopping behaviours and brand loyalties are greatly influenced by their peers’ opinions and actions. 33% report that being recognized by their peers and social groups positively impacts how satisfied they are with the brands that enable this type of recognition (Bond, 2014). Furthermore, those loyalties are subject to change – and quickly – thanks to how fast word of misdeeds spread. As Heidi Klum says: “One minute you’re in; the next, you’re out.” (This is in stark contrast to their Boomer parents, who tend to stick with their brand loyalties.)

Some social networks are experimenting with taking this a step further, by embedding purchase options directly into their experiences. The big players here: Facebook has been testing a Buy button, and Twitter and Amazon teamed up to create #AmazonCart, which allows users to add items to their carts by appending the hashtag to items. But plenty of others are using social, too. Birchbox, for example, has experimented with incorporating hashtag to buy options in their Instagram feed. Sephora has found great success with their unified social shopping experience across all major social platforms, including a user-generated Beauty Board feature. Really, it’s all about creating a seamless experience and removing any obstacles littering the path to purchase – particularly when there’s a 68% shopping cart abandonment rate (Baymard Institute, 2014). The glue that holds these efforts together? Savvy startups who offer white label functionality such as Soldsie, or standalone apps such as Pounce, Spring, and Polyvore.

The future of social shopping looks bright. In 2014, it made $20B worldwide and is on target to make $30B by the end of the year (Statista, 2014).

References

  1. “The State of Mobile in 5 Charts.” Digiday/Goldman Sachs. April 1, 2014.
  2. “Top 10 Holiday Retail Strategies for 2014.” Wiser. November 21, 2014.
  3. “The State of the Customer Journey.” Kitewheel. October 8, 2014.
  4. “At Your Service: What They Expect, When They’re Expecting.” Webb Awards/Harris Interactive. November 9, 2014.
  5. “Technology Trends in Retail: The 2014/2015 Retailer Benchmarking Report.” Hubspot. 2014.
  6. “The Loyalty Report.” Bond. June 3, 2014
  7. “29 Cart Abandonment Statistics.” Baymard Institute. December 2, 2014.
  8. “Worldwide Social Commerce Revenue from 2011 to 2015 (in billion U.S. Dollars).” Statista. 2015.