What’s the digital outlook for retail in 2015? From delivery to personalisation, there are several essential trends that will shape the industry in the year to come.
Empowered by the supercomputer in their pocket, consumers are in control. With nearly every 18- to 54-year-old in the UK now using a smartphone, it comes as no surprise that the value of the mobile commerce market is expected to nearly triple to £17.2 billion in the next three years.
In 2015, consumer expectations will reach new heights when it comes to shopping across channels and devices. To help retailers meet these demands, we’ve highlighted seven trends that will define the year ahead.
Three accelerating trends
The UK is already a country of multiscreeners with the average Briton using an average of 3.1 connected devices. Many consumers now typically consult several of these before completing a single purchase – for example a shopper might research offers on her phone on-the-go and complete the transaction on her laptop when she gets home.
So retailers that allow consumers to move seamlessly between devices will come out on top this year. Even more, as consumer behaviour and mobile technology evolve faster and faster, retailers need to monitor these changes and remember that a mobile first strategy is becoming a prerequisite for their digital presence.
Retail is now borderless
Many UK businesses have found success overseas thanks to the international love for British brands. For example, luxury retailer MatchesFashion.com expanded from a handful of London stores to 190 international markets by following a digital-first strategy.
We can expect to see more retailers take a test-and-learn approach in new markets, looking to capture the 2.5 billion users who are set to come online in the next five years. But as borders disappear, foreign companies, like Alibaba, will also start pushing into the UK.
So, understanding the new competitive set both at home and abroad will becoming more crucial in 2015.
Delivery and the new WWW
WWW now stands for “What I want, when I want, where I want it.” To succeed, companies must have a complete view of stock at all times and offer services like click and collect, specified delivery times and delivery lockers.
House of Fraser provides an example of tailoring fulfilment to the current climate; the retailer recognised that nominating a home delivery time isn’t helpful for a consumer who is at work all day, so now shoppers can opt for delivery before 9am on orders placed until 8pm the night before.
Four emerging trends
Retailers must learn to harness signals from consumers and make this information relevant, useful and “human”. When consumers share their location, preferences and device info, a brand can deliver personalised experiences – on smartphones, tablets, desktops or wearables – to benefit both the user and the business.
In 2014, Localz won the John Lewis JLab competition with a plan to leverage iBeacons in stores to deliver ultra-personalised experiences, like notifying the user where to pick up an order. While this kind of consumer-centric approach will proliferate, it’s important to bear in mind that mobiles are uniquely personal, so retailers must use them to deliver messages in a tailored, non-intrusive and incredibly relevant way.
The new extras – service and experience
Intelligent retailers are seeing the value in extending their services far beyond the basics. For a fashion retailer this could mean one-to-one advice delivered digitally. Tech retailers might follow the examples of Zappos, which now offers style advice via Instagram, or Darty, the electronics firm that connects customers to its helpdesk within 60 seconds and provides help even on items bought from other retailers.
Businesses can take advantage of the chance to become the go-to solution for customers’ needs, by going above and beyond what’s offered by the competition.
The store revolution
Retail spaces are being transformed from places of transactions to experiential theatres to showcase products and engage consumers. Take Burberry – in the last year the brand has transformed its Regent Street flagship into an extension of the runway and a concert venue.
As retailers redefine the function of bricks and mortar, digital technology will facilitate everything from checking stock to locating products to completing online purchases using mobiles and wearables while in store.
In 2014, we saw vloggers like Zoella reach celebrity status. While social sites are still pushing to make social commerce work, retailers are taking note. Asda for example is leveraging the influence of vloggers to engage young parents through the brand’s Mum’s Eye View YouTube channel. After all, 59% of people use YouTube as source of product information, and products featured and endorsed by the stars of social media often become best sellers. With the popularity of online video and social commerce set to surge in 2015, companies will seek to find ways to make sure marketing investments in these platforms pay off.
- Peter Fitzgerald is country sales director at Google