Whether you own an e-commerce website, a brick-and-mortar retail store or both, succeeding in a rapidly changing retail marketplace is a challenge. Here are five consumer shopping trends you should know about for the coming year to make sure you’re ahead of the pack:
Consumer time spent on mobile devices and the mobile Internet now surpasses that spent on desktops. Shopping on mobile devices hit record levels during the 2016 holiday season, with over $2.4 billion worth of purchases made on mobile devices on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone, CIO reports. Your customers are browsing, buying and looking for retail locations on their mobile phones—and it doesn’t stop once they get into the store, where they use their phones to look at product reviews, information and pricing.
To be successful in 2017, retailers will need to up their mobile game. Start by making sure your business website is mobile-friendly and, if you have a physical store, that your online presence is optimized for local search. That means your business’s name, address and phone number should be consistent across all listings, from your website to your social profiles and online reviews. Offer customers free Wi-Fi in your store, and incorporate mobile advertising to get them in the door. This can range from sending SMS text messages to geo-fencing or geo-conquesting technology. (The former sends messages to users within a certain radius of your business; the latter sends messages to users within a certain radius of your competitors' businesses.)
Finally, if you haven't already incorporated mobile payment into your retail store, 2017 is the year to do it. Accepting payments on mobile devices speeds up checkout and provides greater flexibility. Also look into mobile wallet solutions, which are increasingly popular with younger consumers.
Whether shopping in-store or online, consumers in 2017 are all about convenience. For e-commerce retailers, that means offering free shipping and returns and the ability to track shipments. Make shopping easier by letting customers set up accounts so they don't have to re-enter information every time they buy. Offer subscription programs for consumable products or “buy again” options for frequently ordered products.
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For brick-and-mortar retailers, convenience means a well-stocked store with well-trained staff that’s knowledgeable about your products. If you have both a physical and digital retail presence, consumers will expect to be able to order online, then pick up their products or return products in-store.
Small retailers have long relied on the personal touch to give them an edge—and it works: an Accenture Interactive study reports that “56 percent of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer in-store or online that recognizes them by name.” However, in 2017 you’ll need to go beyond just remembering faces. Smart retailers will use loyalty and membership programs to collect information about what their customers buy, how they shop and what offers they respond to. The good news: 54 percent of shoppers are willing to share personal information and shopping preferences with retailers in return for personalized offers, emails and other marketing materials.
In 2017, e-commerce retailers will use chat bots to answers customers’ questions, make suggestions and otherwise personalize the online experience. Brick-and-mortar retailers should focus on getting to know their customers and building loyalty with a “personal shopper” approach, such as having sales assistants contact customers when new shipments come in or set aside items they think regular customers might like.
The end of 2016 saw several traditional department stores, such as Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s, struggle with disappointing sales; all three plan store closures. Online retailer Amazon announced it will open physical stores, while Target and Walmart are opening small-scale versions of their huge locations. What gives?
In 2017, small, specialized and independent retailers will capture customers’ hearts. Shoppers want unique products—hence the growing popularity of shops that specialize in artisanal and local goods. Instead of wandering the aisles of giant superstores or endlessly clicking among a selection of 25,362 different blue sweaters, shoppers are looking for small, welcoming stores that offer a carefully curated selection of products.
Consumers of all ages are spending less on “things” and more on experiences. And if they do need to buy a “thing,” they can just pull out their phones. Given this shift, what will it take to lure shoppers into physical stores in 2017? People still want to gather in public places, touch and feel merchandise, and be entertained “in the real world.” The most successful retailers will tap into these desires and create a memorable experience by offering a mix of retailing and entertainment—call it “retailtainment.”
New technologies such as augmented and virtual reality are already being implemented to add a new level of interaction to shopping at large retailers; in 2017, they’ll increasingly become available to even small businesses. You can also incorporate “retailtainment” using low-tech methods such as hosting events in your store or displaying work by local artists on your walls. Try holding a live fashion show in your clothing boutique or hosting cooking classes in your home goods store. Throw a special Saturday-night sale and invite a local band to play in-store. Small retailers can also piggyback on larger entertainment concepts by locating near movie theaters, restaurants and amusement arcades where consumers go for fun.
I think 2017 is going to be an exciting year for retail. By planning how your store will incorporate these five shopper trends, you can make it one of your most profitable years ever.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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