2014 is all but over, so marketers are now turning their attentions to 2015. What challenges does the New Year hold and how will your business face them? Here we look at four trends that we think will continue to be big news in the coming year.
Showrooming continues to increase in importance for the retail industry, but not in the way many businesses initially feared. Although 46% of shoppers admit to visiting stores before buying products online, 69% of shoppers first research goods online before visiting a bricks-and-mortar store to make a purchase, a practice now called "reverse showrooming" or "webrooming."
The customer's purchasing journey is much longer and contains more decision stages than many retailers originally thought. The journey continues to change subtly as new technologies become available. The one constant is that customers demand a transparent service across all channels.
High street retailers need to integrate web technologies into their stores to accelerate and ease the reverse showrooming trend. Gucci, the luxury fashion retailer, is currently retrofitting stores to make use of digital technologies to provide a better experience for their high street customers. 2015 will see more bricks-and-mortar stores adopting similar tactics in a bid to capture the attention of shoppers.
Mobile devices continue to grow in importance for retailers and shoppers, but not as a price comparison device. 2015 is expected to be the year in which mobile payments finally take off. Portio Research suggests that mobile payments will surpass $1 trillion by the end of the year.
Although Apple Pay is gaining a lot of attention, for many businesses mobile payment implementation could be quicker and easier using existing payment gateways. High street restaurants like Prezzo and Pizza Express have recently updated their smartphone apps to allow diners to pay their bills using PayPal for instance.
Mobile payments make the customer experience more streamlined and enjoyable, also freeing your employees to focus on delivering the other factors essential to an outstanding customer experience.
PWC research suggests that customers "no longer want (or need) a better product - they want a better shopping or product experience".
Instead retailers need to focus on creating an exceptional experience at every stage of the customer's journey:
- Pre-shop - how effectively the customer is engaged.
- Shop - ease, enjoyment and relevancy of the retail offer and environment.
- Purchase - ease of transaction.
- Post-purchase - ease and enjoyment of use, satisfaction of expectations.
Even in the digital age, word of mouth remains one of the most powerful tools for driving new business. The best way to increase word of mouth referrals is through the delivery of a customer experience that beats expectations. Traditional advertising is rapidly losing its power to convince as referrals and testimonials gain in importance. 2015 will almost certainly be the year in which the tipping point is finally reached, with more of the marketing budget channelled towards customer service - away from broadcast-style advertising.
Now that social media has gained significant traction with customers, retailers are also looking at ways to use those channels more effectively themselves. Social media posts by satisfied customers provide the social proof retailers need to encourage customer purchases - particularly as 74% of social media users rely on networks for pre-purchase research. This further underlines the importance of providing mechanisms by which to collect social feedback from your customers.
Target has begun collecting Pinterest data for instance, ordering products on their website based on pin popularity. Customers can see at a glance which products are most popular in the store. Nordstrom have taken similar information a step further, tagging physical items in the bricks-and-mortar stores to show popularity with their 4.5 million social media-using customers.
iBeacon, NFC and low energy Bluetooth technology are also set to improve in-store experiences, allowing retailers to send targeted offers and deals directly to customers' smartphone handsets as they pass by. Pilot projects during 2014 have been relatively successful, such as the use of Bluetooth beacons to deliver value-added multimedia content and food discount offers by the Major League Baseball in the US. Alternative implementations could allow retailers to send discounts automatically to customers who spend significant time browsing products in-store.
Bluetooth technology continues to fall in price - 2015 will be the year that the correct balance of technical maturity and costs is achieved.
So as much as things change, they also stay the same. 2015's trends are built on what we have already seen working effectively this year.
- Businesses will need to embrace showrooming, and convert their customers to webrooming.
- More customers will demand the ease and efficiency of mobile payments.
- Customer experience will trump product features and prices every time - retailers will need to shift their focus accordingly.
- Social media and Bluetooth will combine to provide new ways to improve the customer's in-store experience.