As I speak with my clients—some of the world’s leading retailers— I am increasingly convinced that there are five retail ecommerce trends that companies will need to pay close attention to in 2015 to ensure success. Price and product quality, as well as speed and cost of delivery, promise to be the biggest drivers of customer loyalty and retention, more important than where and how something is purchased.
Beginning with the NRF Retail’s Big Show, I believe the following retail ecommerce factors will dominate the agenda this year:
- Omni-channel commerce
- Social commerce and personalized marketing
- Wearable technology
- Shipping, inventory and same-day service
- Compliance in the cart
Many e-retailers are beginning to see the benefits of physical stores, with even Amazon recently announcing a planned flagship store and holiday pop-up locations. With an increased presence of companies operating in both channels, the shopping experience will be better aligned with customers’ specific needs. Ecommerce winners will be those retailers who deliver a compelling shopping experience in all channels— and particularly for products with ‘physical connection’. Consumers don’t live in one channel and mobile and web cannot be treated as an afterthought.
Social commerce and personalized marketing
Analysts and industry influencers agree that social commerce sales are predicted to grow—most likely at rates that will challenge the majority of retailers. In addition to implementing effective mobile and omni-channel strategies, smart retailers will use social networks to customize product and service offerings. As people turn to their peers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for recommendations, social selling must be part of any retail ecommerce strategy in 2015. “As-they-happen” deals and sales— similar to Target’s Cartwheel that unites social web with in-store deals and real-time savings—will take off in 2015 and provide an opportunity for retailers to capture more social web market share.
“Passive Internet access” is the big buzz word for wearables—meaning greater access for consumers, easy like smartphones, but harder to misplace or drop in the street. Wearables will put the Internet within easy reach, making it part of the millisecond time-check. Here’s how wearables could play out for retail ecommerce in 2015:
- Consumers can access rapid updates on price changes, promotions, and marketing incentives.
- Retailers will offer location-based deals that tie marketing information to the real-time location of the consumer.
- Wearables will bridge the gap between online and brick-and-mortar enhancing overall customer experience—and pushing retailers to keep pace.
Shipping, inventory, and same day service
Until now, brick-and-mortar stores have had a strategic advantage over online stores—immediate fulfillment. However, as the window of delivery continues to shrink, companies will move to same day and even 30 minute delivery options. Amazon and Google are expanding same-day delivery services in major cities. These offerings and similar same-day delivery services from other companies could transform retailers, online and off, potentially broadening the mix of products sold online and available to shoppers. As companies outsource inventory and delivery, smaller merchants will have more opportunity to compete. Consumers will pay more for same day service, and new pricing models, such as annual membership fees, will change the competitive landscape.
Compliance in the cart
Compliance can potentially make the difference between a banner year and going out of business. The cost of lost data—as seen in recent public security breaches—to consumers and companies is in the billions. Beyond trusting their data is secure, customers expect to see a final price at checkout that includes accurate shipping rates and estimates, application of coupons, discounts or incentives, and sales tax. Accuracy throughout the checkout process is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty and growing the customer base. Winning retailers can’t afford to lose trust.
I look forward to sharing more ideas in 2015 on these major retail trends. Please let me know what you think on these and what other factors are impacting your business.