The world of retail has undergone huge changes in the relatively recent past; the surge in online shopping, along with advances in data capture and related tech, enables brands to engage more with actual and potential customers.
It’s very important to be aware of new developments and trends and embrace them to stay competitive in hotly contested retail environments. For example, advanced tech – such as POS (Point of Sale) systems that can instantly track inventory and capture valuable customer data as sales transactions are processed – open up many options to serve customers better and increase sales.
Here are five trends you must take notice of:
1. Developing loyalty programs
Customer loyalty programs are developing from being ‘just’ simple models where customers gain reward points when they buy. Now loyalty programs are geared to rewarding customers, not only when they buy, but how often and for the length of time they’ve been a customer.
Along with simply awarding points for purchases, brands use loyalty programs to help build a relationship with the customer, have them recommend the brand to others, and capture valuable data regarding buying habits, demographic information and more.
This approach works very well where word of mouth and brand advocacy is a powerful marking method, such as in beauty where customers recommend and even ‘demonstrate’ to others the value of the products they use often on social media.
2. More personalized buying experience
The huge amounts of data being gathered and the way it’s used enables brands to know their customers better than ever and offer products and services tailored to their requirements. This coincides with a desire among customers for increasingly personalized shopping experiences, so highly developed methods of providing these is a definite trend that retailers need to embrace.
This can include the obvious targeting of marketing messages based on clearly defined interests rather than a scattergun approach, and the use of ‘personal’ lines of communication, such as social media, and marketing direct to mobile devices.
As major players such as Amazon are showing through opening physical stores, retailing is not as simple as a company being either an online or offline presence – the developing trend is to be both and maybe combine them.
For example, Walmart offer ways in which customers can interact with and order from their website whilst in a physical store, and being multi-channel reflects the way customers often move through the buying process.
They may start by gathering information online, check prices using the website, and then travel to a store to view the item or take it home ‘immediately’ as opposed to waiting for delivery.
4. Faster delivery
Retailers offering ecommerce facilities are on the quest to offer the fastest possible delivery times.
Customers demand fast delivery and, again, major online retailers including Amazon are raising the stakes with speedier delivery. A 2017 survey found that free delivery times had reduced by a whole day compared to five years earlier among online retailers.
It’s not enough to just offer a premium faster delivery service; the standard free option needs to speed up too.
5. The rise of subscription retailing
Subscription retailing is a major trend that has shown growth of 100 per cent over the past five years.
Subscription selling offers personalization and convenience in that regularly used – often consumable – items are provided automatically at regular intervals direct to the customer. This could be everyday items such as pet food, razorblades, certain foods or cooking ingredients, stationery supplies and more.
The customer doesn’t have to concern themselves about stocking up or running out of certain items; an efficient subscription service will know the exact frequency and quantities of goods required and adjust accordingly as demands change.
Subscription selling is an excellent way of offering a useful service while benefitting from the relative security of repeating business over a period.