Every brand wants to meet the needs, desires and expectations of today’s consumers. With the explosion of new technologies in the retail space, shoppers have instant access to vast amounts of information dictating every purchasing decision. For retailers to adapt, it’s important for them to first identify the behavioral trends that are gaining momentum in the industry.
Consumer expectations are never-ending
It’s time for brands to understand that consumers are more demanding than ever. Because of this, today’s shoppers long for an elevated experience that warrants and rewards their engagement. There are many effective ways to accommodate these heightened demands, but the try-before-you-buy method is one that’s making waves. Successful companies like Netflix and Warby Parker were some of the first to offer true test runs of their products and services. Google also took a stab at this approach by launching its at-home try-one kits for Google Glass. This allowed tech enthusiasts to take the product for a spin before committing to the steep price tag. This methodology is gaining popularity and becoming the expected new norm. Now it’s up to traditional and new-age retailers alike to find ways to implement feasible, try-before-you-buy elements that generate trust and portray transparency.
The rise of omnichannel and mobile purchasing
How one shops today is incomparable to the relevant engagements that took place even a few years ago. In fact, comScore Inc. recently reported that American online shoppers are making more purchases on tablets than any other market. Today, mobile devices account for 30 percent of global retail e-commerce. This is why industry leaders must learn to perfect their omni-channel experience to ensure it’s both consistent and channel agnostic. A retail landscape that offers uniform engagements and service across all channels will be the answer to customer loyalty. With that said, retailers must also make mobile-optimized sites a priority. Many are still lagging in the realization that mobile design is vital to the customer experience. Only 40 percent of surveyed retailers in the aforementioned SDL study described their relevant systems as unified and cross-functional, revealing a significant gap between where the industry is today and where it needs to be.
Personalization is key to a consumer’s wallet
Consumers understand that activity and purchases equate to a collection of information and preferences by the retailer. That means it’s no longer acceptable to be a general product marketer. To find success, retail marketers will need to engage on a more personal level and market to the specific individual needs and interests. Many early adopters are already experimenting with the latest innovations capable of personalizing the in-store and online shopping experiences. One innovation includes the implementation of cloud-based, point-of-sale systems that replaces outdated in-store checkout processes and brings forth a more personal transaction. Switching over to the digital side, it’s all about discovering the personalization tools that align with your business’ product offering and customer lifecycle. Whether it’s showcasing tailored home pages, recommending related products or providing the means for consumers to request desired content, personalization will be the driving force impacting ROI.
Real-time customer service is pivotal
The process of connecting and interacting with retailers is altering, as consumers demand more responsive and authentic customer service tools. Not only do these tools solve customer issues in real-time, but they allow retailers to efficiently allocate their internal customer specialists. It’s vital to offer self-service platforms filled with relevant, easy-to-navigate links for customers. This allows them to connect with a representative at all times, request when and how they want to be contacted, or watch relevant tutorials tailored to common issues. Now is also the time to look into visualization components that help potential customers conceptualize how products will look in the home and on the body. The eruption of social media has forever altered the way retailers interact with new and potential customers. Today, social networks must be viewed as the ideal forum to engage with those who are familiar with your brand and seeking assistance. The immediate and personal touch social media provides is unrivaled to other customer service platforms. When done right, it broadcasts a brand’s customer-focused demeanor and quick ability to resolve customer issues.
Curt Hilliard is the Chief Marketing Officer at DirectBuy, the membership-based buying club that enables consumers to purchase from manufacturers and suppliers without hidden retail markup. Known as a progressive marketing and sales leader, his background includes brand management, lead development, web-based marketing as well as extensive experience in all aspects of the sales process and engagement.