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How Retailers Must Adapt to Changing Shopping Patterns

In the next 12 months, global ecommerce sales are expected to hit $1.4 trillion as more and more consumers increasingly use mobile and tablet devices to shop. But this is not the time for retailers to sit back and just count the cash as shoppers continue to look for and demand richer, smoother, more personal shopping experiences. For this to happen, retailers must redouble their efforts to make the online shopping experience smooth, quick, and efficient.

There are three key trends we see as important to retailers as they work toward meeting the ever-increasing demands of online shopping; content marketing, omni-channel, and social media. Let's look at each individually.

Content Marketing. Content marketing, loosely defined as using well-crafted content to inform, educate, entertain, and build trust, is not new. However, for retailers, it's becoming increasingly important as shoppers seek a richer, more informative experience when they're shopping. From the use of video to 360 virtual product experiences to virtual try-on to applications that allow shoppers to truly experience how fashionable they will look when wearing a particular retailer's fashions, online retailers will want to ensure the most robust shopper experience. But this should not be limited simply to online. The in-store experience — fueled by close-knit online tools — is of equal importance and must make the entire shopping experience a seamless one. Which brings us to omni-channel.

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Omni-Channel. So what's omni-channel? Generally speaking, it's an evolution of multi-channel retailing that provides the consumer a seamless approach to the shopping experience through all available shopping channels, online or off. And it's a lot more than just making your mobile website look like your regular website with responsive design. It's about removing every last vestige of friction in the shopping process. Explained further, retail tech provider CloudTags offers, "As much as the social media revolution has meant the two-way exchange in dialogue and interaction, omnichannel is the realization of social business. If the first phase in the evolution of the customer relationship was messaging and media, the future is product research, selection and payment. With personal preference data that can be used universally on devices, brands can either jump at the opportunities made real by omnichannel or wait until their brand is the only one not integrated and playing nicely to allow consumers to be continuous." What does this mean for online shoppers? It means a smoother shopping experience. It means every bit of information they need to make a purchase is at their fingertips in real time at the exact moment they need it. It's a tall order, but retailers who win here will win with shoppers.

Social Media. We all know social media has had a vast and deep effect on, well, everything. There isn't a single thing a retailer can do without getting noticed and either lauded or chastised for it. It's an extremely powerful medium, and it can have a great influence on how a retailer is perceived and how it can learn and succeed. By closely monitoring trends in social media, retailers can paint a very clear picture about shoppers' needs, wants, and desires. The growth of Pinterest has given people a place to create their own fashion collections. They mix. They match. They share. Their posts get pinned by others and spread further. Taking a close look at what's being shared, how often it's being pinned, and what people are saying can give a retailer deep insight on which it can act to better offer consumers the products they truly want.

For retailers aiming to succeed in the fast-changing world of online retail, concentrating on these three key areas of focus will greatly increase the chances of running a winning retail business.

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