5 key customer trends affecting retail in 2017

Trends in retail

5 key customer trends affecting retail in 2017

The retail experience has changed. Thanks to technology, and improved access to information, your customers expect seamless and immediate service – around the clock. They want to be able to communicate with you, easily and readily, via multiple channels. They also expect familiarity and a timely understanding of their needs.

In meeting these demands and driving a better customer experience, following are five key trends that we perceive in the retail sector this year:

1. Greater ability/means to research products in detail
Today, your customers have the ability to do far more research regarding a product or service before they buy.

Already, 81% of customers research a product online before they buy, 61% read product reviews before making a purchase, and on average, consumers visit at least three online stores before making a purchase. (Source: MineWhat Blog: 27 ways to motivate shoppers who research online to buy).

As such, the “pre-sales” part of the sales cycle is becoming increasingly vital – both in securing and retaining customers once a sale is made.

As a retailer, this means there’s increasing pressure to provide detailed, easily accessible and relevant content regarding your products and services. If your customer can’t find the information they’re looking for, it’s very easy for him or her turn elsewhere. Educating your employees regarding product specifications and details is also becoming more and more important. If a customer can find out more about a product by visiting your website than by speaking to one of your sales staff, they’re not receiving a particularly ideal customer experience.

2. Anytime, anywhere shopping
In a 2015 survey of Australian internet users aged 16 – 64, 62% said they purchased a product or service online in the past 30 days, and 70% searched online for a product or service to buy in the past 30 days. (Source: WeAreSocial, Global Web Index, Q4 2015)

In 2016, online sales exceeded $20 billion for the first time in 2016, with strong growth in fashion and takeaway food. Online spending is now growing five times faster than traditional retail spending and now accounts for 6.8 per cent of total bricks and mortar sales of $296.9 billion. (Source: Australian Financial Review: Online retail sales top $20 billion, 2016).
In keeping with this growth, customers increasingly expect to be able to purchase from you anywhere, at any time, and from any device. For you, this means providing a seamless omni-channel experience.

While more customers still prefer to shop via their desktop, shopping via mobile devices and tables is increasing in popularity – especially as devices become faster and more sophisticated. As well as providing customers with the ability to make secure purchases via any device, however, you also need to provide them with a logical and easy to follow sales channel – and in-depth, up-to-date information about what they are interested in buying, regardless of which channel they happen to be using.

3. Showrooming and webrooming
Today, showrooming is becoming more and more common – where customers visit physical stores to view or try on merchandise, before making their actual purchase online – typically from a cheaper provider (most commonly an overseas one). Conversely, webrooming is where a customer researches a product online extensively but then goes into a store to make a final evaluation and purchase.

According to a Harris Poll in the U.S., 46% of customers say they showroom, and 69% say they webroom. (Source: Shopify: Consumers Are Showrooming and Webrooming Your Business, Here’s What That Means and What You Can Do About It, 2016).

For local retailers, these trends represent a potential opportunity to secure more sales by predicting customer behaviour and more effectively tapping into customers’ needs. To combat showrooming, for instance, retailers need to actively communicate the specific benefits of buying direct: a simpler customer experience, peace of mind that an item is exactly how it appears, no delivery fees, the ability to (in most cases) walk out of the store with the goods, etc. Alternatively, retailers can even offer customers a discount or other rewards if they purchase the item online – but from you, not a competitor.

4. Greater expectations regarding “value add”
With the advent of a range of smart, retail-focused technology solutions, it’s now possible for retailers to understand customers – and what they’re looking for – in far greater detail than ever before. Data now plays a key role in guiding customers along their sales path, and ensuring they remain loyal to your brand long-term.

With the right technology in place, you can customise the information you show your customers – meaning they only see products or services that are relevant to them. You can also provide them with far more relevant and timely after-sales promotions (based on what they have purchased or searched for previously), and truly address their unique needs and pain-points.

Today, the customer needs to be at the centre of any retail experience and in charge of the service they receive. According to McKinsey & Company, “customer-experience leaders start with a differentiating purpose and focus on improving the most important customer journey first—whether it be opening a bank account, returning a pair of shoes, installing cable television, or even updating address and account information. Then they improve the steps that make up that journey.” (Source: McKinsey Quarterly, The CEO guide to customer experience, 2016).

5. Online support
With 2.5 billion people around the world now using messaging apps, there is also great potential for retailers to provide effective mobile messaging to support the purchasing process. (Source: Customer Think: 4 Technology Trends Improving Customer Experience in 2016).

While mobile support hasn’t been optimised to date, this is an early trend that innovative retailers can use to their advantage, and mobile messaging represents a huge opportunity.

Find out more
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