Today, the retail industry is in the process of acclimating to a new multichannel environment. For today's marketers, this means a new kind of shopper is emerging -- one that engages with a wide variety of channels when deciding what to buy and where to buy it. A recent study by Shop.org, comScore, and Social Shopping Labs highlighted this trend by demonstrating that 47 percent of consumers have looked to their mobile devices for product reviews while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. The offline and online worlds are blurring, and consumers are turning to an ever-widening variety of social and commercial information sources before making a purchase.
All these disparate strands, both offline and online, need to be pulled together into a coherent retail strategy by merchants. The process can be daunting for marketing departments worldwide, but there are many growing retail trends to capitalize on.
More mobile shopping
Smartphones and tablet devices have certainly played a part in this sea change. Forrester's prediction that m-commerce will be worth $31 billion by 2016 seems to be on track, but what's more telling, perhaps, is that the analyst firm also predicts that by 2015, 82.1 million adults will own a tablet.
Indeed, tablets will provide an increasingly potent sales channel for retailers by strengthening and innovating the mobile shopping trend as we know it. A tablet interface not only supports content consumption, but also greatly enhances it. Therefore marketers should make plans to optimize their web content for all platforms (iPad, Android, Windows 8, and others) and make it accessible to all markets. They must also ensure that their mobile web offerings provide media-rich experiences that establish significant brand awareness with a new set of mobile consumers.
Global shopping communities
Online marketplaces, at their best, are global communities -- and they provide a key opportunity for marketers to reach or expand their global shopping audiences and drive growth in new markets. In 2012, international marketplace models will provide sellers of all sizes around the world with the opportunity to expand their operations internationally. Sellers will be able to dabble in international shopping communities and dedicate resources based on real-world demand. This will open up opportunities with burgeoning markets.
A recent survey by Rakuten revealed an international interest in purchasing from global merchants and marketplaces online. Results showed Brazil was leading the global e-shopping charge, with 81 percent of consumers keen to shop in different markets online, followed by Indonesia (77 percent), Thailand (74 percent), China (69 percent), and Spain (66 percent).
Social media meets e-commerce
Consumers have always looked to their friends for advice on what goods to buy, but now more than ever marketers need to make the most of social shopping. After all, online social networking has replaced merely calling a friend for advice. In fact, data released in July 2011 by Hitwise indicated that one Facebook fan was equal to 20 additional visits to a retail website in the course of a year.
Retailers are becoming increasingly aware of the power of "the fan," and social will form an integral part of the e-shopping evolution this year. Retailers need to use social tools not just for brand awareness, but also for product development and customer service too.
A tailored shop
It's no secret that online consumer data needs to be both leveraged and protected. Online search sites continue to build in security measures to protect their consumers' privacy, and Yahoo is the latest to support a "Do Not Track" policy. Marketers can be sensitive to these policies while also continuing to engage in meaningful and timely ways with their customers by learning how to harness user-specific data from consumers who opt-in to share their information to provide personalized and relevant communications. This data exchange between brands and social networks will begin to provide solid business models for social platforms, as well as offer new, relevant insights into the psyche of the shopper.
Although each trend caters to different types of shopping experiences, it's the combined offerings -- off- and online -- that result in an innovative retail marketing strategy that will generate the largest sales leads and maximize the company bottom line.
Neel Grover is CEO of Buy.com, a Rakuten company.
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"Close up of a buy button" image via Shutterstock.