Retail marketing trends are moving brands towards a future where consumers expect better experiences both online and in the store. These consumers don’t want to be limited to making purchases exclusively via one channel; they want a shopping experience that can translate across digital mediums. They want to leverage their smart speakers and other voice-enabled devices to find products. Above all, they want a high-tech experience with a low learning curve.
About 66% of online shoppers rely on more than one channel for purchases. Brands must be prepared to cater to multichannel shoppers by having representation on platforms consumers will use to guide their purchase decisions. Rather than focusing on a single segment, the future of retail will involve the components of a digital and traditional marketing campaign and how they’re combined to drive a single purchase.
#1: Social Commerce Has a Strong Impact on Retail Marketing Trends
Social commerce is a popular emerging option for sales as consumers view it as a more genuine experience than other shopping sites. By purchasing items via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social platforms, they can see how other consumers view the product, check out reviews and reach customer service as needed. Due to these genuine interactions, this is a very effective method of advertising. On Instagram alone, 75% of users report that at least one of their purchases was influenced by content they saw on the site. Here are a few platforms brands should consider, as well as their pros and cons.
|Facebook: Facebook is the most obvious option for brands gaining a foothold in social commerce. The site provides online stores, having rolled out the service in 2015, and has an extensive ad targeting campaign to support sales both on the site and off.||
|Snapchat: Snapchat has slowly been expanding its options by both allowing consumers to use image search to make Amazon purchases and, in some cases, buy directly.||
|Instagram: Instagram began offering brands the ability to create shoppable posts in 2018 and recently added on-platform checkout options for select markets and brands.||
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these three social media sites are among the most popular for social commerce. Brands should consider how purchases on social media apps and platforms will change distribution models in the years to come, as such behaviors are likely to make direct sales more prevalent.
#2: Voice Search Creates Visibility Challenges for Brands
Voice shopping is expected to exceed $40 billion in value by 2022. This is a valuable marketing area to target, but brands will be challenged by segmentation. Currently, consumers typically voice search in two ways: via mobile device or through smart speakers. However, each mobile platform and smart speaker model has different options for voice-enabled shopping apps. Rising to the top of all of them will be near impossible, so brands must target a few high performing platforms, like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, to ensure they reach the largest number of consumers. Brands will need to reconsider their organic marketing strategies in these areas to gain the most visibility. Essentially, they should:
Focus on distinctive titles:
Distinctive titles will help brands reach the top of the listing when consumers’ searches get specific, as they are likely to do when seeking out grocery products. For example, instead of “toothpaste,” a brand would want to narrow the focus and list it as “whitening toothpaste” or something equally descriptive.
Target programs like Amazon Choice:
Most platforms will likely create programs similar to Amazon’s Choice platform, which prioritizes voice search items based on overall reviews, delivery times, ratings, and product popularity. Working to gain inclusion on such lists will exponentially increase brand visibility.
Grow brand awareness now:
It's expected that consumers who use voice shopping to buy CPG products will already have a specific item in mind. Establishing proper brand recognition is crucial to reaching these consumers. Strategies to create spontaneous brand recognition should start now—before smart speaker ownership reaches full saturation.
For the time being, there is no way to “pay to play” in voice search. Those who provide such platforms appear primarily focused on the reputation and the ratings when it comes to making product recommendations. Brands should prepare for this by cultivating strong consumer relationships and focusing on online reputation management.
#3: Mobile Takes a Larger Role in Online and In-Store Commerce
Consumers research heavily before indulging in offline purchasing in almost all categories. In 2018, mobile-influenced offline spending was more than $1 trillion. Modern smartphones play a much more prevalent role in the purchase of products both online and in the shopping aisle than ever before. In fact, nearly half of consumers with smartphones report using them to research products in the store.
Shopkick focuses on the in-store mobile experience when driving sales for clients. This was the goal of a leading supplement brand that wanted to increase both awareness and sales of its B-12 vitamins. After they chose to contact Shopkick, we established a marketing campaign that included multiple touchpoints to drive interest and increase incremental sales. A pre-shop in-app campaign familiarized consumers with the products themselves and encouraged them to learn more. When consumers arrived at the store, they were incentivized to locate products and scan UPCs to receive kicks (aka rewards points).
Overall, the program garnered 36 million impressions and 46% of those who purchased the product reported they had not planned to do so prior to the campaign. Mobile allows brands to travel with consumers in the shopping aisle and increase their purchase intent with timely notifications. This is a proven sales driver that brands should consider leveraging either through third-party partnerships or by developing their own proprietary shopping apps.
#4: More Consumers Demand AR/VR to Aid in Purchase Decisions
Almost 50% of consumers report they are more likely to shop with retailers who offer virtual or augmented reality experiences. AR is likely the most attainable option for brands, as it works with most smartphones without the need for specialized equipment. However, as VR technology becomes more affordable, it’s likely this area will open up for marketers and retailers as well. There are many different ways that brands use AR and VR to streamline their work and improve the customer experience. Some examples of such use include:
Shopping in the store for someone with limited mobility is often a challenge, as they have difficulty seeing products outside of their direct eye line. Programs that allow these consumers to scan the store through their phone’s camera and see things like the price, product description, and other pertinent details are invaluable for making shopping accessible for everyone.
Recreating the in-store experience:
Virtual reality has the potential to bring the in-store experience to the comfort of the consumer’s home, allowing them to browse items and shop without leaving the house. Already, major retailers like Walmart are exploring the potential of VR shopping experiences for consumers. These types of programs would be ideal for supporting popular shopping options like in-store pickup and grocery delivery.
One of the original purposes of AR was for employee training, and that remains a primary use today. With it, retailers and brands can teach employees how to do their jobs with enhanced 3D tools which help them learn faster while minimizing the risk of errors and injuries.
Try on or try out options:
Some brands face barriers in online shopping as consumers need to see products in person before they buy. This is especially true for items like cosmetics and furniture, which can be difficult to return. Allowing consumers to use an AR overlay to see how a certain eyeshadow will look on them, or how a couch will fit in their living room, provides brands with an opportunity to minimize a common barrier to purchase.
While location-based marketing isn’t a type of AR use, it can significantly enhance the AR experience. Brands can understand this simply by looking at the popularity of AR games that tie the consumer’s location to their experience. These apps engage the user by only unlocking certain features when a consumer enters a specific area, which makes them great for guiding consumers to products in the store.
The primary focus of AR and VR for marketers is how it helps encourage consumers to purchase products. For now, brands that wish to leverage it should consider how AR will make the consumer purchase journey easier. This is a constantly growing category and most of its possibilities have yet to be discovered.
Retail marketing trends indicate a cross-channel future. Consumers won’t choose brick-and-mortar over online or vice versa. Instead, they will expect ways to heighten the in-store experience with mobile apps and other dynamic technology. Brands that wish to prepare for the future of retail should consider ways to cater to these demands.