This past decade brought us the iPhone, the maturation of the Internet of Things and the ability to pay with a dip, a tap, a text and a blink. We saw social platforms launch, unify the globe and then surpass 1.5 billion users, more than the population of the biggest country on earth.
These innovations and many others have transformed how we live, how we interact and, of course, how we shop.
On the heels of such change and technological disruption, we note six important trends that retailers, large and small, should embrace to find new customers, drive more sales and win the hearts of their most loyal customers.
Customizing for the Consumer. People are hungry for a personalized shopping experience; roughly half of shoppers we recently surveyed say their top frustration is retailers not knowing what they want. Retailers who can articulate to their customers that they have the right product, at the right time, for their needs will win. Enriched customer data provides retailers with the insights to enter a new era – The Personalization of Retail. Retailers who focus on the “micro-moments” of the buying decision-making, leveraging insights from loyalty programs, marketing engagement and enhanced analytics, will stay relevant and ultimately drive sales. Up next is a more curated digital experience with highly relevant, personalized product recommendations and promotions.
Digitizing the In-Store Experience. With 62% of shoppers saying they do more research online than in the past and the average grocery store carrying upwards of 42,000 products, it’s likely that customers know more than sales people about any one item. Enter the new technology-enabled retail environment that frees sales personnel to be concierges instead of hard-push spend drivers. Think of it as The Apple Store approach at scale. The growth of beacon technology, for example, lets retailers engage with consumers in a real time, relevant way that enhances their overall experience. Equally important is focusing on fewer, key efforts and creating a top-notch overall omni-shopping experience.
The Socialization of Shopping. Nearly 80% of consumer purchases are now informed by a device, giving the shopper near ubiquitous access to information, reviews, prices and offers. While friend and family recommendations are the most important to consumers – so say 83% of respondents to a recent Nielsen survey – two-thirds of consumers say they also trust third-party reviews posted online. We anticipate savvy retailers will expand their digital presence via direct sales with buy buttons; savvy P2P product education; and “real life” product descriptions, driving genuine reviews and incenting sharing.
The Internet of Things Continues to Rev Up.Appliances, wearables, cars, light bulbs and gadgets of all types are becoming connected. Up to 10 billion devices today, and 50 billion by 2020. In a world where connectivity is a given, convenience will be table stakes. The connected consumer, challenged with shrinking personal time and increasing demands on it, is looking for technologies that are convenient, accessible and secure. We anticipate more launches like shopping apps that let consumers order groceries from the refrigerator with a few simple taps. For the smart retailer, the true differentiators will be interconnectivity and seamlessness in the shopping experience as consumers seek out a family of products and services that work together to simplify and improve their lifestyle.
Digging Deeper with the Chip. Look for more features and functionality out of chip cards. While the U.S. is migrating to the technology, Europeans and others around the world already enjoy smart, interactive cards offering a variety of services, from multi-account access to multiple payment options to multi-currency cards.
Checking In with the Travel Economy.According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, 2015 saw record spending on airlines and lodging. Consumers are taking advantage of their vacation time to shop, looking to find their trusted and preferred brands and discovering new ones. This is happening within countries but also amplified across borders, particularly for categories like luxury. The threaded development of cities, travel and commerce can be a guiding force for new partnerships—and open new opportunities for retailers.
For discerning customers with nearly endless choice, the experience is a deciding factor. Retailers who understand that and take advantage of the latest trends will be poised to deliver the best possible experience—and gain the sale.
Max Chion is executive vice president of global acceptance products and Michael Cyr is executive vice president of U.S. market development for MasterCard.