Retail is dead, long live retail
Right now, we are in the middle of a retail revolution. Across Europe and the US, traditional brick-and-mortar stores are closing down at a record rate as an increasing number of retailers are choosing to focus their attention towards ecommerce. By the end of 2018, it is predicted that ecommerce will account for 8.8% of total retail sales.
The modern consumer is more informed and more discerning than ever before, with access to a wealth of information at their fingertips. Thanks in part to new technologies such as AI, AR and the IoT, the landscape of retail has changed almost beyond recognition.
Some call it the Retail Apocalypse but retail isn’t dead, it’s evolving. The distinction between online and offline is blurring and traditional retail outlets need to adapt in order to survive. As of February 2018, just half of UK retail outlets have a digital strategy in place. Brands can no longer afford to bury their heads in the sand. Now is the time to commit to understanding consumers’ changing expectations and to integrate digital technologies into your retail strategies. Now is the time for retailers to embrace reinvention, both online and offline.
In today’s consumer-centric landscape, loyalty programmes are moving beyond the basic points and rewards systems to offer consumers unique and valuable experiences.
Amazon Prime and ASOS A-List are two such loyalty programmes that have managed to exceed consumer expectations, offering a number of benefits to their customers including next-day delivery, vouchers and discounts, early access to sales, access to Prime Music, photo storage and brand experiences. In June of last year, Amazon also launched Prime Wardrobe, a try-before-you-buy service for Prime members.
However, a strong loyalty programme is about more than discounts and delivery times, it’s about anticipating the needs of the consumer and removing barriers from their purchasing journey. Ulta Beauty, for example, allows customers to scan product codes in-store with their Ulta App and read reviews before making a purchase. Similarly, the myStarbucks app allows their customers the ability to place and pay for orders in advance, making their overall experience more efficient.
There is a huge demand among consumers for smart loyalty programmes. These programmes should be easily accessible across multiple channels, personalised to the individual and focused on making the purchasing process more convenient for the user, while instilling in them a sense of loyalty.
Mobile marketing is now an essential element of digital transformation and an engaging push notification strategy can deliver incredible value to the consumer, helping brands to acquire new users and retain existing ones.
According to a recent survey conducted by Localytics, 52% of smartphone users believe that push notifications are ‘better’ now than they were just a few years ago. An Urban Airship study revealed an opt-in increase of 16% and concluded that by sending out high-value push notifications, brands could increase app retention rates by 3-10x, and rich push notifications could increase direct open rates by up to 56%.
Some brands, like American clothing manufacturer Chubbies, have strengthened their connection with consumers through humorous, tweet-like push notifications. Airlines like Delta and EasyJet are using real-time push notifications in order to provide travellers with easy access to valuable information such as live flight updates, check-in times and real-time bag tracking.
Location-based push notifications can be sent to specific users the moment they approach or leave a geofence. Costa, for example, uses geofencing to alert users when they’re approaching a store, updating them on their current points balance and encouraging them to grab a cup of coffee. In 2016, the San Francisco 49ers partnered up with Amazon Prime, sending push notifications to fans whenever the team were playing, giving fans the option to place orders for their game-day essentials via Amazon, delivered within the hour to their location.
It’s important to step carefully when experimenting with push notifications. Striking the right balance between relevance and value without overwhelming your users can be difficult but when done right, push notifications really work.
In store, but more
Only the brands who fully embrace this new digital reality we’re living in will be able to survive it. According to a recent survey conducted by Capgemini, one third of consumers would rather clean dishes than visit a retail store. This doesn’t mean abandoning physical stores altogether but it does signal a need to evolve the consumer retail experience.
Reid Greenberg, lead researcher at Kantar Retail, agrees. “It isn’t that retail is dead,” he argues, “But bad brick-and-mortar is. These mall-type department stores are faced with many challenges because they aren’t connecting with shoppers…”
Consumer expectations are changing; they want more delivery options, interactive in-store experiences, the ability to check product availability beforehand, and prices that match those advertised online. The future of brick-and-mortar lies in digitisation but the transformation process has been slow. Employing the newest technologies – augmented reality, chatbots, smart objects, virtual reality, and personalised recommendations – could drastically improve the industry’s prospects.
Many brands are already finding success with digitisation. Zara, for example, recently opened the first ever click-and-collect store in London. The store features an automated online order collection point and a product recommendation system based on information screens embedded in mirrors. Customers can scan the product they’re looking at in the mirror and they’ll then be recommended a series of relevant related items.
Another industry-defining development was the launch of Amazon Go, a checkout-less brick-and-mortar retail outlet based in Seattle. Consumers no longer had to wait in line, they could simply use their Amazon Go app to access the store, choose the products they wanted, and leave. Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology automatically detects which products have been taken from or returned to their shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. Once shoppers leave the store they’re emailed a receipt and their Amazon account is charged.
“The brands that can embrace the convergence of offline and online media,” Boll & Branch co-founder Scott Tannen explains, “and use that effectively, those are the brands that are really striving.” Traditional retail is dying, and industry leaders like Amazon and Zara are already one step ahead of the game. Those brands that don’t keep up, will be left behind.
In this new digitally integrated reality, retailers will have to utilise dark social and data analysis in order to better communicate and understand the behaviours of their customers. This evolution will transform the marketing department into something more akin to a team of data scientists. To survive the retail apocalypse, brands need to commit themselves to digital transformation and adapt quickly to changing consumer needs. This article covers just three digital transformation trends currently impacting the industry, but as new technologies emerge, more innovative tactics are being developed. At Good Rebels, we believe that the world is powered by people. Discover how you can place the consumer at the heart of your organisation and drastically evolve their experience of your brand. Welcome to the 21st century.