The retail industry is constantly changing. From new technologies to major consumer shifts — B2C businesses must respond to these forces to stay ahead.
But for any business to succeed, retailers must stay aware of these trends — and incorporate them into their own business models.
Below are the current retail trends that are currently taking place.
The Rise of Experiential Retail
Experiential retail has become a major trend in the B2C industry as brands are beginning to realize they need to do more than sell their products. Instead, they should be selling an experience.
The best way to create an experience that customers will never forget is to tie your brand’s values into the purchasing process. This means incorporating what makes you unique into every interaction — from product presentation and marketing material to packaging and shipping.
The process isn’t easy because it requires companies to think beyond their traditional business models. However, considering how memorable this approach can make your brand for consumers, it’s well worth it.
Social selling is an emerging trend that helps businesses build customer relationships and promote their brands. It’s all about engaging people on social media, developing a community around the product or service — and using data to understand how customers interact with you online.
Through social selling, businesses can link their products on social media platforms and sell more. They attain this by personalizing the buying experience for each person who engages with their brand on platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
They also use strategy to engage potential customers in a way that feels natural — rather than interrupting with sales pitches.
Social selling can work for you if you identify how people engage with you online. Then, you can find ways to increase those interactions, turning them into sales opportunities.
This could mean live streaming about something relating to what your business sells. Live-stream events have quickly become one of the top strategies to increase sales. In fact, those who hosted a live video attracted 16% of customers overall.
Other tactics could also include hosting contests where winners get free prizes — or hosting live Q&As where fans can ask questions.
Overall, the goal is to gain more exposure through what’s already working well.
Omni-channel retail has now become an integral part of every retail strategy. It allows retailers to combine their online and offline operations to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience.
While many customers still enjoy the convenience of online shopping, they still want to have the choice of picking up their orders in-store.
Omni-channel retailing requires retailers to track inventory across both channels and deliver tailored offerings based on customer preferences. However, the result of this strategy is highly beneficial for B2C businesses.
Retailers can reach more customers by connecting the dots between their physical stores and e-commerce sites. In turn, they capture the data that tells them how those customers interact with each channel.
New Technologies and Automation
The importance of technologies and automation comes as no surprise.
Automation is a way to reduce costs and improve efficiency. It can also make processes more consistent, which is especially important in the manufacturing industry.
For example, suppose you’re making a large number of identical products. Automation would allow you to track how long each product takes from start to finish.
You can use this information to calculate your customers’ lead time. This will help you save money on production costs and allow for better forecasting.
Automation is also useful in customer service. Many businesses now offer self-checkout machines or kiosks, so customers don’t have to wait in line. This allows staff members to focus on more critical tasks, such as assisting customers when they need help finding products.
Big Data and Customer Segmentation
Customers are more demanding and have more choices than ever before. Therefore, data is key to understanding customers, which you can also use to segment them by demographics and behavior.
For example, suppose you sell clothing online but have a brick-and-mortar store as well. You’d consider segmenting those customers by whether they have previously shopped in one of your stores.
Doing so helps you understand what messaging might appeal more strongly to your customers who haven’t visited one of your locations.
It’s important to note that Google is on the verge of eliminating third-party cookies in Chrome. Therefore, marketers are preparing for a cookieless world — and are turning to social media and email to learn more about their customers.
Simplified Buying Process
Knowing the customer is not enough — you have to make the buying process easy. This means using technology and data to personalize your approach and optimize the buying experience.
For example, you can use machine learning algorithms that analyze customer data to create personalized recommendations in real-time. You could also use AI (Artificial Intelligence) chatbots — computer programs designed to stimulate conversations with humans — to answer questions and offer price comparisons.
On top of that, there are several ways to make it easier for customers to make purchases on mobile devices:
Offer one-click ordering so customers can skip multiple screens or steps.
Place all the information front and center, so there’s no digging required.
Providing multiple payment options, such as Buy Now Pay Later services, so that customers can avoid credit card debt and interest fees.
Retailers Must Stay On Top of Trends to Succeed
A successful retailer will be aware of trends. However, this doesn’t mean they should keep up with everyone. Instead, focusing on the most relevant trends in their industry or region is important.
They should also monitor how the competition is doing regarding these trends. Remember, customers are always changing, too — so retailers should keep track of their customer’s behaviors. That way, they can adapt accordingly.
Eleanor Hecks is the founder and managing editor of Designerly Magazine. She’s also a web design consultant with a focus on customer experience and user interface. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dogs, Bear and Lucy. Connect with her about marketing, design and/or tea on LinkedIn.