Retail trends set to shape 2017BY Katherine Mechanicos
With the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) predicting $310 billion in total retail sales in 2017, it’s the retailers who adapt and act fast that will get the biggest slice of the pie this year. Keeping up with the rapidly changing environment is difficult to say the least, but successful Australian retailers understand the importance of pivoting to suit the ever-changing needs and desires of their customers. Continuing the trend of previous years, customer experience will be the focus of innovation and implementation in 2017. We will see traditional customer experience become increasingly tangible and memorable – through personalisation, integration, innovative technologies and the rise of social shopping. Don’t get left behind - here’s the key trends for Australian retailers this year.
With consumers craving a personalised and unique shopping experience, this year we will see retailers take shoppers on a journey, providing customer-centric shopping experiences from in-store activities to virtual reality. An increasing number of retailers are already reshaping their physical stores to create immersive environments, encouraging consumers to step away from online shopping, and step into physical stores instead. This year consumers will seek entertaining and engaging shopping experiences, forcing retailers to incorporate these features into their business to build and strengthen relationships beyond a single transaction, and retain loyal customers.
As consumer values have changed overtime, retailers must keep up and look for alternative ways to engage customers. Every year, consumers are becoming increasingly more interested in how products are sourced and produced, gravitating them towards retailers that are transparent in their business operations and sustainability conscious. This year, successful retailers will strive to align their businesses with the ethical values of their customers. While new retail entrants will look to differentiate themselves through social and environmental issues to gain market share and solidify brand image.
In 2016 we saw consumers gain significant purchasing power, compelling retailers to become agile and adapt to consumers’ demands in the ever-evolving industry. In fact, many retailers have started to restructure their organisation to suit omni-channel retailing. This year we will see retailers allocate more resources to re-designing their business to integrate their physical and digital channels. Instead of marketing each shopping platform as a separate entity, retailers will begin to utilise each platform as complementary elements to the consumer’s entire shopping experience.
Understanding how consumers engage with each platform and leveraging these channels cohesively will be critical for retailers in 2017.
Convenience through frictionless shopping
Last year the retail industry saw a significant shift in consumer behaviour and buying patterns. Customers increasingly want to shop at their own convenience, requiring retailers to alter their services and re-market products in a way that is relevant to consumers’ current situation and specific needs. The evolution of payment systems including technologies such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, removes the need for the physical card to be present, adding to the seamless shopping experience customers have come to expect. Further, Click & Collect has shown considerable traction with many retailers offering pick-up services from a physical store in a nearby location. UberEats is a prime example of a retailer understanding consumers’ needs and transforming their service accordingly, creating a seamless integrated experience, where the transaction is not the main event.
Storytelling via social media
According to a 2015 Google report, mobile devices have become the number one choice for retail purchases, and 2017 will be no different. In fact, social media giants like Snapchat and Instagram have implemented a storytelling marketing approach, engaging consumers in an immersive environment. This strategy allows shoppers to explore transparency in a completely different way, offering consumers an un-edited, behind-the scenes brand experience. Both these social media platforms have dominated the retail industry by strengthening brand awareness and increasing community engagement. In fact, this year we will see Instagram launch their ‘Shop Now’ button allowing consumers to make purchases without having to leave its smartphone app. This Instagram update integrates online platforms in order to convert sales, delivering a streamlined shopping experience for customers.
This year will be full of exciting opportunities for retailers to embrace change and discover new ways to attract customers and grow market share. The retailers who will see the greatest success in 2017 will be those willing to reshape and re-imagine their retail businesses around evolving expectations of the customer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine is the Brand and Communications Manager at the Australian Retailers Association.