This article is provided by Reshift Media, a Canadian-based digital marketing and development organization specializing in retail businesses.
Changes in the retail industry are inevitable. However, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the fast-forward button, as it transformed industry practices in ways many retail experts and business owners could have never anticipated. For instance, eCommerce has experienced a major boost in usage and improvements since the start of the pandemic, with reports saying the industry advanced by around five years. As well, features such as curbside pickup, click-and-collect and other BOPIS strategies that were once a less popular option pre-pandemic (if an option at all) have now become part of many consumers’ shopping experience, with nine in ten saying these options are convenient.
With the changes that have occurred, and the changes that are likely to arise in the future, it is important for retailers to stay cognizant of how the retail industry is rapidly advancing. Creating a plan with solid strategies that put the consumers’ needs at the forefront is a great way to remain ahead of the curve and keep customer relationships long-lasting.
Although numerous advancements are appearing in various retail industries on what seems like a daily basis, there are some universal improvements that retailers can implement and shape to fit their given industry and target audience, some of which are outlined below.
Personalization is Key
A concrete consideration that will withstand any external changes or advancements in the retail industry is the addition of personalization. Ensuring your customers have a personalized experience when engaging with your company, including personalized communication (such as emails, special offers, loyalty programs, etc.), will yield the best results for everyone involved. Not only have studies found that 40% of consumers will spend more when their shopping experience is highly personalized, but 75% will purchase from a company that knows their name and history of purchases. It is this level of detail and effort that can make a world of difference for customers and businesses alike.
As the consumer journey has become more digital, adding a level of personalization can provide that human aspect that can often be lacking online. Accordingly, data plays a big role in this, as you need to know who your customers are to connect with them. Creating customer profiles with information that you can receive (such as the typical name, age, email address, birthday, etc.) and adding purchasing history data can create a personalization plan that allows for a meaningful connection with your growing customer base.
Once you have acquired that data, finding ways to communicate to your customers is an important first step. Loyalty programs, for instance, can provide customers with long-term gain, which in turn provides retailers with loyal customers, and this longevity is key in order to remain ahead of the constant changes in the industry. 66% of consumers will join a loyalty program if it means they can create an ongoing relationship with a business. That personalization aspect is important because consumers are eight times more likely to feel satisfied with a loyalty program if they feel it is personalized.
As well, email communication can be a great way to offer personalized offers and messages to customers. It is projected that by 2023, there will be 4.3B global email users, which is half of the world’s population! This illustrates just how prevalent email communication continues to be, and why putting together a CASL-compliant email marketing plan may be a great way to remain ahead of the curve. In fact, every $1 spent on email marketing can expect an average return of $42, which suggests how beneficial it can be for retailers. One of the great things about email marketing is how personalized it can be. Emails that have a personalized subject line, such as the individual’s name or other individualized copy, can generate 50% higher open rates.
Provide a Range of Shopping Options
A significant shift within the retail industry, particularly in the last year or so, has been with consumer buying behaviour. Not only have consumers turned to eCommerce more than previous years, but the ease and convenience established because of shopping online are some of the reasons why consumers, for the most part, will continue to turn online for some of their purchases.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the increase in online shopping was largely out of necessity due to the ever-changing restrictions caused by the pandemic. Now that these restrictions are being lifted, in-store shopping is resuming, but customer expectations are likely forever changed. This why is providing your customers with options, such as a BOPIS (buy online, pay in-store) strategy, can be beneficial. 70% of consumers say BOPIS features such as curbside pickup improved their experience while shopping, which is an expectation that will stick around for the near, and possibly distant, future.
BOPIS strategies are popular with customers because it offers them convenience. 83% of consumers say convenience is an important factor while they are shopping, and brick-and-mortar retailers especially must ensure that their customer experience will be equal or even better than what customers could get if they shopped online. 52% of consumers say half or more of their purchases are influenced by convenience alone.
Curbside pickup, for example, is a BOPIS strategy that grew in popularity last year, with studies finding a usage increase of 208%. Now that customers are used to this way of purchasing their items and conveniently picking them up, retailers should consider continuing to provide this service, even post-pandemic, as many retail experts believe this service is here to stay.
Remain Digitally Optimized – Especially Mobile
Even if the majority of your customers shop at one of your physical locations, it remains essential that retailers are digitally optimized for desktop and mobile devices, since 80% of shoppers use their mobile devices while shopping in-store to look at product reviews or prices. However, you will likely notice a mix of purchasing in-store and online, which is why factors like accessible navigation and quick load speed are important. How easily customers can purchase on a mobile device alters how they view your website. Since retail eCommerce grew 75% in 2020, a significant jump from previous years, it is important to ensure you are making the purchasing journey as optimized as possible for your customers.
By the end of 2021, Canada eCommerce sales are expected to reach $86.52B, which is double the amount in 2019.Purchasing on a mobile device will amount to $29.42B this year, which accounts for 34% of retail eCommerce. Remaining ahead of the curve means meeting your customers where they are, at all points of time. With the continued increase of mobile device usage, creating an app for your eCommerce website might be a valuable option, especially since the mobile app market is expected to reach $935B in revenue in 2023. Offering services and purchasing options all within an app provides that personalization and convenience factors that are important to customers, no matter the developments in the retail world.
There are many exciting changes that we can expect in retail in the coming years, especially as shopping behaviours will likely continue to change and technological advancements will increase. Meeting the ever-evolving needs of your customers will provide a solid ground for retailers in this rapidly advancing world.
About Reshift Media
Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leading-edge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit www.reshiftmedia.com to learn more.