Five years is a long time in retail. Remember when the biggest challenge to the high street was our towns being in danger of becoming identical and soulless with the same stores frequenting every high street. There is now an increase in empty shops as household names prepare to leave the communities they served for generations.
High rent and rates are often accused of being the biggest threat to local businesses. But, a combination of increasing customer expectation levels is also making it very difficult for traditional retailers to compete with their online rivals. Digital shoppers are increasingly going online for a cheap deal.
However, what is bad news for the high street also represents a massive opportunity for those in the e-commerce space. As both purchasing behavior and technology evolve, the retail landscape is changing. With news that e-commerce is expecting to increase 23% year-over-year, and grow to $4 Trillion by 2020, we decided to look into the trends that are shaping the future of retail.
1. Faster Shipping
Any song that pops into your head on a rainy commute to the office or the movie you fell asleep watching the night before can be played instantly on your smartphone. Restaurant tables, flights, hotel rooms, taxis and even a date are just a few swipes away. Welcome to the age of instant gratification where we have access to whatever we want and whenever we want it.
Amazon now makes it incredibly easy to have an item delivered on a Sunday afternoon or within an hour of using a one-click basket. These are our expectation levels, and anything that falls short of them will be cast aside and replaced by a company that can.
Although in most cases, it is unrealistic to compete with Amazon by offering the same kind of delivery, this is not an excuse to give up. Ask yourself, how can you improve your shipping service and exceed your customer’s expectations and transform their experience and go beyond satisfaction.
Amazon might be able to get it a package delivered quicker, but you have the upper hand when it comes to adding the personal touch.
2. Augmented Reality
Augmented reality (AR) is still very much in its infancy, but it’s a trend to monitor carefully. Early adopters who can wow their customers with new digital experiences will be seen as innovative and leading the way through technology, rather than fearing it.
Early examples of AR and the art of the possible can be found in IKEA’s Place app. The technology enables customers to view how the products would look in their home before committing to a purchase. Virtual dressing rooms that use AR to enable shoppers to see how clothes will look on them via their smartphone is already possible.
With tech giants such as Apple rumoured to be working on an AR headset, we can expect this technology to explode over the next few years. Small to medium-sized businesses need to start monitoring this technology now if they truly want to be seen as leaders rather than followers.
3. A Mobile-First World
In November 2016, mobile web browsing famously overtook desktop for the first time. There is little doubt that we are now firmly living in a mobile-first world where we use our smartphones to manage every aspect of our lives.
Mobile sales are expected to account for 50% of e-commerce revenue in 2018. Businesses need to start investigating what mobile checkout and payment systems they offer to make it easier to purchase items from a smaller screen. It’s also time to revisit how you are marketing to mobile shoppers that may have a unique set of needs to be met before they purchase from you.
We are also beginning to see the rise in a new breed of digital currencies too which might be deemed too risky to accept at the moment, but it’s something that we can expect to continue to evolve over the next few years.
4. Say Hello to Voice Shopping
Our homes are beginning to fill with digital assistants such as Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. As we get more comfortable talking to our devices, we will increasingly find it easier to ask a question rather than type on a keyboard. But, is your site optimized for voice search? And do you need to create an Amazon skill? As a result of this change in customer behavior, we can expect a significant upheaval in how companies manage their search engine optimization (SEO). Understanding the nuances of voice search and the fundamental questions that your customers ask will become a crucial part of them finding you and your business.
5. The Personalization of Everything
Tech-savvy consumers reach for their phone in the morning and the first task of the day is how many emails can they delete. A generic marketing message with our name at the top in a different font to the rest of the email will not survive an early morning cull of messages. Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify are great examples of knowing precisely what we like and what we don’t want or like. Once again, this is our expectation level. The creation of unique customer experiences made possible through their purchase history is rapidly becoming table stakes in e-commerce.
There is also a dramatic rise in subscription boxes such as Loot Crate and Birchbox that provide personalized services to its niche and loyal customer base. Digital first consumers will no longer tolerate poor customer journey because they don’t have to. How you leverage the technology your customers use to meet their evolving needs will ultimately determine your future and relevance of your brand. So, what are you doing to prepare?