As a store owner, following trends is part of the package. For some, it’s even crucial. Whether you’re running a small shop in your spare time or a trendy concept store, there are certain trends you should be aware of – and look out for – in retail this year. This is the first post on the hottest trends in retail in 2017.
I know this is a topic with a lot of opinions attached. Predictions have been made, analyses performed, statistics carefully considered. There are numerous experts out there with different opinions and conclusions; yet, there are some things I’ve noticed that keep recurring.
Curious yet? Good. If there’s one thing we can conclude in this jungle of predictions and hypotheses, it’s that there's a LOT of cool stuff ahead.
Experience rather than product
Already back in 2015, it was established that most companies want to compete on experiences rather than prices and products.
The era of ’one size fits all’ is over – and as consumers, we can lean back and enjoy the outcome of a long-standing customer revolution. As shop owners, service suppliers and sales managers, however, we need to roll up our sleeves.
Consumers today want everything. Now.
In our busy lives, we expect everything to be fast, easy and convenient – without compromising the slightest on the quality of the product or service. (And of course, it needs to require a minimum of effort). We crave personalized experiences that match our individual preferences and needs. As a merchant, it’s crucial to be able to find new ways to create shopping experiences that stand out and offer something extraordinary.
Not long ago, being served a cup of tea in the cosmetics store or watching a DJ spinning records in a cool clothing store would be considered a unique and out-of-the-ordinary-experience.
Today, these types of extra service are the bare minimum of what you as a store should offer. Hence, an increasing number of brands are now working towards making shopping a special experience.
A perfect example of this, is Snapchat, and how they went about the sales of Snapchat Spectacles. (For those who missed out: In 2016, Snapchat launched a series of extremely popular sunglasses with a camera function, enabling people to record up to 10-second videos and upload them directly to Snapchat.) As sales locations, Snapchat used their own vending machines. These could be found in a few selected, somewhat odd locations. By setting this up in a somewhat untraditional way, Snapchat transformed the buying experience to a treasure hunt. This brought great joy and excitement, even for those who didn’t manage to snag a pair.
Similarly, we are starting to notice that brick and mortars are raising the bar to stay relevant. After all, why should you bother getting up and go to a physical store, when you can shop comfortably from your couch? Stores are no longer just a place for quick transactions – but a place to immerse oneself in a certain lifestyle. Whether you have an online store or brick and mortar: Through authentic experiences, you can create customer satisfaction and loyalty.
For example, some clothing stores offer their customers help from a personal shopper, while other places offer you a glass of bubbles while waiting for your better half in the dressing room. Some stores are generous with free samples, while others might offer you something a bit more unconventional – like the shop Mandala in Stockholm, where you can get a free piercing while you wait.
The opportunities are great and varied – and as long as it matches your brand, you can almost do whatever you want. (Free piercings might not hit it out of the park in a toy store, while a hip record-spinning DJ in Bertha’s knit and yarn shop probably wouldn't fit the purpose.)
Does it seem a bit complicated? Don't despair. There are in fact several simple ways to improve the shopping experiences of your customers. Start by reading our 3 shortcuts for a superior retail shopping experience here.
Okay, so we know that more and more people shop online. A survey by comScore and UPS from June 2016 found that shoppers made 51 % of their purchases online. Furthermore, the survey revealed that 44 % of smartphone users purchased through their devices.
There are many reasons customers choose to shop online; better prices, larger selections, sheer convenience and a total independence of opening hours – to mention a few. Still, there is often a gap between the conversion rates in online stores and in brick and mortars. As much as 69 % out of all visitors in online stores abandon their shopping carts without buying. For larger companies, this means lost revenue, while for small companies it’s a potential existential risk. Physical stores have, after all, an advantage that any website – despite their hardest efforts – never will be able to match: The possibility for customers to touch, feel and experience while shopping.
Imagine the benefits of being able to offer the best from both worlds!
If you can master this, I’d say you’ve found the holy grail of retail – and will probably notice a significant increase in your store’s conversion rate.
'Omnichannel' has been a popular buzzword for the past few years, and it's spread across industries like wildfire. The term omnichannel is used to describe the idea of a completely seamless shopping experience for the customer - across different channels. For instance, in some stores, you can order an item in the store and have it delivered to your door, and vice versa: Ordering online and picking it up at the store.
Judging by the great impact digital interactions have on the turnover in brick and mortars, it’s fair to conclude that cross-selling is a good way to sell more to your existing customers. In conclusion, we should expect omnichannel to continue buzzing around like an enthusiastic bumblebee, but also to transform into something more tangible and common within retail.
Let me give you a piece of advice if you are considering riding off into the magical forest that is omnichannel: Stay consistent. Remember that the whole point is to give the customer the same experience when shopping in your online store, as they get at your physical location.
#2 Sustainability and the value of transparency
I’m gonna take a wild guess and say you saw this coming.
The last few years, there's been a growing awareness about and interest in environmentally friendliness and sustainability. Various initiatives (such as the Scandinavian series Sweatshop and the Clean Clothes Campaign) have been part of a consumer enlightenment around the products and services they purchase – and how they can affect the world around them by choosing some products or services instead of others.
With close to unlimited access to information, consumers aren’t happy with less than the whole story behind the brand they’re purchasing from, and the goods they pay for. Especially younger people state that they often shop based on what they contribute to with their purchase. Therefore, the background story of your business and the products you sell is more important than ever.
I’ll admit it. As a customer, I like to feel that I’ve contributed to making the world a better place by shopping – and that I have behaved in an ethical and fair manner while still serving my own self-interest. It gives me a feeling of doing something good for the world – which is probably what you would want your customer to feel when they leave your store.
There are numerous examples of companies that have embraced this trend and established themselves as strong players in the field. Other companies owe their entire success to people's desire to act sustainably and eco-friendly. A great example is one of our customers - Too Good To Go - a company that built their entire concept with the purpose of reducing food waste and, thereby, CO2 emissions.
Our own Sustainability Manager at Bambora, Linda Lindberg, has 4 tips to kick-start your company's sustainability ambitions:
- Define in detail what sustainability means to your company, and make your statements visible to your customers.
- Cooperate with suppliers and partners that share a sustainable mindset – this is a platform for great networking.
- Tie sustainability to profit. There is a link between, for example, consuming less water and electricity, or producing less waste, and improving profits.
- Try to find out how your specific products and knowledge can contribute to society in new and engaging ways.
Within retail, you can easily make small changes to become more environmentally friendly – such as replacing your plastic bags with paper, or by establishing a recycling system in your store. However, the most important thing is that you communicate to your customer the thoughts behind the items they purchase, and in what way they are contributing to a better world by shopping at your store.
Greenbiz has made a list of great tips on how you as a merchant can promote sustainability. It’s a few years old, but still just as relevant: https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/10/24/6-ways-retailers-can-jump-sustainability
#3 Mobile first (and only)
Well, there’s a shocker. Maybe I’m even pushing it a bit by using 'mobile only' already. Still though; we’re not that far away.
Mobile technology is playing an increasing role for brick and mortars as well as online merchants. Cell phones are now a natural – if not essential – part of customers' buying journey.
Studies show that 77 % of Americans own a smartphone. In the Nordics, the numbers are even higher. In 2016, 37 % of the population in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland have shopped online using either a phone or tablet - and in the past years online mobile shopping has seen rapid growth in Scandinavia.
Now, you don’t have to be an analyst to assume that mobile shopping will keep increasing in 2017.
Most of us use our cell phones to localize nearby stores, compare prices and gather product information. In fact, studies show that 95 % of mobile internet users look up local information on their phones with the purpose of calling or visiting a business. Therefore, we can safely assume that more stores will pay more attention to mobile phones, tablets, and other devices to increase brand awareness and loyalty. And of course – to improve the customer experience. I firmly believe we will see an increase in, for instance, mobile POS systems and mobile coupons this year.
Therefore, I think it's safe to assume that shop owners in the Nordics will (or should) pay more attention to mobile phones, tablets, and other devices to increase brand awareness and loyalty. And of course – to improve the customer experience.
I, for one, firmly believe we will see an increase in, for instance, mobile POS systems and mobile coupons this year.
This was the first part of our two articles on retail trends. Ready for more? Head back to the blog next week when we'll publish the second part.