Online Retail: Paving A Path To The Future

Stuart Elmes

 

Bold proclamations are being made every day about the future of retail. It generates headlines and clicks to boldly proclaim the death of an industry or a trend. On one end of the spectrum, there are the disruption-touting, future-worshiping, rimless spectacle-wearing technocrats who expect that every purchase will be made through Google glasses. On the other side are the old-school skeptics who are itching to pop bubbles and declare new trends and innovations useless. But in 2019 we’re seeing these absolutes and false dichotomies fall by the wayside, as brands, marketers, and retailers are all waking up to the fact that integrating technology with the aspects of traditional shopping experiences that consumers love is the way to move forward into a prosperous future.


Bricks And Mortar Are Sturdier Than Many Thought

Online retail: paving a path to the future

As some hidebound retail giants declare bankruptcy, micro-brands flourish, and eCommerce grows more quickly than other segments of the market, it is tempting to predict doom and gloom for brick and mortar retailers. But, as a Shopify report notes, after over two decades of online sales growth, traditional retailers still control 82.5% of the American marketplace, and the growth of eCommerce has in fact slowed down in recent years.

The retailers and brands that are thriving are the ones finding ways to integrate the benefits of eCommerce with the aspects of traditional retail that customers love. A growing number of successful online direct to consumer (DTC) retailers have opened brick and mortar stores to capture the imagination of consumers who might not want to buy housewares, beauty products, clothing, or other items online without seeing and interacting with them first. Successful eCommerce brands like Boll & Branch, Glossier, Allbirds, and Madison Reed now operate physical stores. Even if all of the objects on display need to be purchased online and delivered to the customer’s home, they’ve found that shoppers aren’t willing to abandon traditional shopping experiences. Scott Tannen, CEO of Boll & Branch notes that “The main reason a customer wouldn’t buy our product online was that they wanted to be able to feel it themselves.” 

As with supermarkets launching apps, smart-screens, click and collect groceries and other innovations, forward-thinking retailers are finding ways to leverage the power of the internet to improve customer experiences rather than completely re-inventing the wheel. A Capgemini survey found that the three most common frustrations shoppers had with in-store experiences were difficulty comparing products and prices, long checkout queues, and difficulty finding the products they wanted. Emerging technologies are allowing retailers to remove these roadblocks from the path to purchase, and provide frictionless shopping experiences. As we move forward, we expect to see more integration of eCommerce with traditional shopping experiences. It’s time to start using innovation to give consumers what they want, rather than trying to force new ways of doing business down their throats.  


Data-Driven Marketing

Online retail: paving a path to the future

A study from Beckon Marketing found that 5% of branded content earns 90% of content engagement. In spite of this, it is estimated that 57% of brands aren’t measuring the ROI of their content marketing. As new streams of data and ways of monitoring consumer reactions to content become available, the brands that get ahead will be the ones that constantly track and respond to consumer engagement. As the amount of marketing content expands across all media platforms, consumer engagement remains essentially flat. If 1 out of every 20 pieces of content is drawing a huge amount of attention, and 19 are essentially falling flat, brands should be focusing on finding strategies for ensuring that their content draws eyeballs, likes, and shares, rather than simply flooding the market with content. Marketing strategies need to be driven by data analysis. You can now find out where your clicks, sales, and conversions are coming from and use that information to find out where your current marketing strategy is working, and where improvements need to be made. 


Making Everything Shoppable

online retail: paving a path to the future

Shoppability continues on its journey into the mainstream. Hootsuite’s recent report on social media trends found that 28% of brands were either adopting or planning to adopt social commerce shortly. Shoppable Instagram posts, Facebook Marketplace, and Pinterest have been early drivers of this trend, and while it’s been slow to catch on thus far in the west, 70% of the Gen Z cohort in China are now shopping on social media. While social commerce is drawing a great deal of attention, other forms of shoppable content continue to show promise, and shoppable packaging for items suited to replenishment via eCommerce is still a goal worth pursuing.


Trends Instantly Impacting The Marketplace

Online retail: paving a path to the future

Social media allows songs, jokes, memes, and products to spread through society like wildfire. Brands which can become nimble enough to quickly respond to them, and create or promote products to meet the whims and desires of fickle consumers will be well positioned for success. In the food and beverage industry brands need to respond to changing attitudes towards health and nutrition, and quickly launch products that suit the latest wellness trends, like Pepsi’s pro-biotic KeVita drink, or Heinz’s no added sugar baked beans. In pet care, this could mean customizable pet food recipes. In fashion, it could mean allowing consumers to purchase whatever Billie Ellish is wearing in today’s Instagram post, or offering bespoke outfits at affordable prices, like Indochino. Personalized, customized products are already shaking up the beauty industry. The endless shelf-space available to online retailers allows them to be far more adaptive to trends than brick and mortar stores. They need to leverage this advantage and use data and advanced analytics to find out who customers are, and instantly offer them exactly what they want.


The Future

Online retail: paving a path to the future

In the years to come, we’ll likely see brands become more adaptive and responsive to consumer desires. Products will be personalized, experiences will be seamlessly integrated through multiple channels, and successful companies will use data to study, anticipate, and capitalize on the desires of consumers. At Adimo, we are committed to tracking and sharing all of the sales data we accrue through multiple platforms. We’ll let you know what messages are driving sales and conversions, and we’ll work with you to build campaigns and sales platforms that keep you competitive in the years to come.