Christmas may seem a long way off to consumers, but for retailers, the busiest shopping period of the year is very much a current concern.
There is a good chance you have already started making arrangements to take advantage of the huge swell in demand that typically begins around the time of Black Friday in late November, and continues all the way into the new year. From planning marketing campaigns to acquiring the necessary stock to satisfy customer needs, there are many tasks and priorities that will be occupying your time over the coming months.
Amid all this preparation, it’s important to keep your eye on what’s happening across the industry as a whole, to help your business stay up-to-date and relevant in a fast-moving space.
With that in mind, here are four trends that retailers hoping to succeed in the coming Christmas season should be aware of.
Social media has been an important part of the retail industry for a long time now, growing in influence and potential with each passing year. In 2019, it’s safe to say a strong social media marketing and engagement strategy is an absolute must for retailers that want to succeed.
As Deloitte put it, social is “the new shop window: the place that consumers browse to find ideas and inspiration”.
Social media is the primary platform for influencers to shape industry trends and audience opinions, but it’s also taking on more commercial significance for retailers as a sales channel. As Satish Kanwar, vice president of product and channels at Canadian ecommerce group Shopify, pointed out in an article for Digital Commerce 360, consumers can now “discover, research and complete a purchase without ever leaving their social feed”.
Retailers that have moved early to leverage the evolving potential of social media to grow their business will be well-placed to get good results from their chosen channels moving forward.
Maintaining an omnichannel presence and giving customers the flexibility to research and complete purchases in various environments – from in-store to online – has been described as “the new normal” in the retail industry.
One of the biggest benefits of using various channels is the increased potential it gives you to make contact with customers at different stages on their buyer journey.
It’s crucial to deliver a consistent experience across all channels, which means your business needs to have a strong brand with a well-defined tone of voice and a sharp focus on customer service, among other qualities.
One of the most interesting nuances of the retail industry in 2019 is how, in this omnichannel environment, newer concepts like ecommerce and social shopping can co-exist with traditional, in-store purchasing.
The Evolution of Physical Stores
However, there is a strong argument to be made that shopping in person, rather than purely online, still has an important part to play in the retail industry as a whole. Physical stores are no longer on the frontline of progress in the sector, but those that change with the times can still make a big contribution to the customer experience and business success.
According to Jia Wertz, CEO of socially responsible fashion brand Studio 15, bricks-and-mortar outlets “still play a key role in the sales process” and have “transitioned from the primary point of sales to being part of a broader retail strategy”.
One of the potential drivers behind this trend is a preference among young people for browsing products in person before making a purchase. Recent research by the International Council of Shopping Centres found that three-quarters of Gen Z consumers (those born since the mid-1990s) believe physical stores provide a better experience than shopping online.
The survey also found that more than six out of ten respondents took advantage of all online and in-store shopping options provided by retailers. Finding ways to connect the in-person shopping experience with the benefits of ecommerce looks set to prove highly beneficial for forward-thinking businesses.
Various statistics have highlighted the growth of voice search and predicted its potential future, one of which indicates that, by 2020, 30 per cent of all web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.
Regardless of the accuracy of these forecasts, it’s clear that this technology is having a big impact in areas that are hugely important for the ecommerce sector. Perhaps most crucially of all, it is influencing SEO.
Since one of the key characteristics of voice search is that it tends to be more conversational, it’s vital that you’re able to communicate in a natural, informal way to rank for search terms that have been spoken aloud.
As 2019 rolls on and the challenges and opportunities of the Christmas season take centre stage, staying in tune with these trends and what they mean for your business could put you in a stronger position to get the best results.
To find out more about how Locaria’s services can help you navigate the challenges of the global retail industry, call us on +44 (0)20 3948 6800.