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Wrapping Up Retail’s Latest Trends

Here's the latest buzz in the U.S. retail industry.

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holidays quickly approaching, retail and shopping is top-of-mind for many consumers. At Sociomantic, we’ve been gearing up for the season for months now and recently attended two events in the U.S. — Shop.org Summit in Seattle and Fashion Digital New York — to meet and learn from the industry’s best. If you weren’t able to attend, here’s a wrap up of the major topics and trends discussed.

Data, Data Everywhere

For most retailers, there is no shortage of data. They have enormous amounts of it at their fingertips throughout their enterprise systems: CRM, merchandising, loyalty, inventory and logistics to name a few. The challenges they face are not in the collection of data, but in pulling all of that data together to derive meaningful insights. Finding ways to combine all of that “little data” stored in organizational silos for an accurate, real-time view of the customer and recruiting the talent to analyze that data are just a couple of the hurdles they need to overcome.

While the time and resources needed to achieve this goal is costly, there is a rich reward for retailers that can get it right. The hard questions marketers have been asking for decades, such as “How do I deliver a more enhanced brand experience?” and “What are the actual steps in my customer’s path to purchase?” can be better answered through the use of Smart Data. Ultimately, these insights will help brands increase revenues and build long-term loyalty.

While there are numerous types of data out there available to retailers, many are starting to understand the value of their own first-party data. Marketing strategies and campaigns based on first-party data are driving the most meaningful results. Consequently, brands are committed to owning that data and keeping all of those benefits in-house.

Investing in New Foundations

Retailers and consumers alike are excited by the rapid advancements in technology, and brands want to be at the forefront in adopting the latest capabilities. Often times, however, they don’t have the internal infrastructure to support these new initiatives. Legacy systems that have been in place for decades simply aren’t able to provide the flexibility needed.

Subsequently, retailers are taking action now and investing in the restructuring of the foundation of their companies to make sure they have the building blocks in place to be more flexible, adaptable and agile when it comes to technology.

Attribution is the Name of the Mobile Game

Industry pundits have been calling each year since 2012 the “Year of Mobile,” but it seems this technology only continues to grow and disrupt the retail world. Speaking at Shop.org, Sucharita Mulpuru of Forrester highlighted there has been tremendous growth in mobile traffic and engagement, but that mobile conversion rates remain much lower than desktop. Many people start the customer journey on mobile but end it on desktop, tablet or in-store channels. Considering 61% of retailers rely on last-touch attribution models, this means many retailers are significantly underestimating the impact of mobile. Developing more sophisticated attribution models is critical to understanding just how important mobile is and how marketers should allocate budgets to this channel for maximum impact and ROI.

Connecting the Customer Experience

It’s no secret e-commerce is gaining market share from physical retail stores. But for some retailers, the world is not so black and white as online versus digital. Brad Brown and Jerry Stritzke of REI spoke at Shop.org about the connected customer experience across all channels, and how the digital and physical worlds are complimentary. REI is focused on creating authentic outdoor experiences – regardless of whether their customer is on the web, mobile or in-store. Here are a few impressive statistics to support their beliefs:

  • The #1 site visited by customers when they’re in store is REI.com
  • Over 75% of the people who buy in-store preceded that visit with activity on digital properties in the last 7 days – and actually browsed in the category they ended up purchasing.

Creating seamless and complimentary brand experiences regardless of channel or device is a top priority among retailers.

Ready and Waiting… for Customer Adoption

Some retailers have opened their arms to the latest and greatest technologies. From in-store beacons to social platform widgets and more, giant retailers like Walmart, Gap and Zappos have dedicated innovation labs that are hard at work to build experiences that delight customers.

During a panel discussion at Fashion Digital, Tricia Nichols of Gap spoke about the many experiences and products they were developing. The reality is, there’s no shortage of cool stuff going on behind Gap’s corporate doors, but they’ve found consumers aren’t as open to these new experiences as some might expect. Retailers are keeping a pulse on changing consumer behaviors so they’re able to introduce new offerings when consumers are ready to participate.

Personalization

Most retailers that are using technology to personalize the customer experience have come to the same conclusion: it works. Whether it’s through digital channels such as email and display or physical, in-store tactics, retailers are driving incremental revenues by communicating on an individual level. Marketers understand customers don’t see the world in the same channels they build into their marketing plans. Figuring out how to personalize the experience across those channels remains a challenge, and one that is closely related to the centralization of data sources mentioned above. Once retailers are able to build an actionable, 360-degree view of their customers, they will be able to deliver new levels of personalization and customer service not possible before.

This area may be one of the most exciting to consider for the future. While the (in)famous retail scene in Minority Report — complete with eye retina scans and a 3D hologram store associate — may not be in our near future, it’s thrilling to think about what kinds of experiences brands will craft for their customers in the future.

Did you attend Shop.org or Fashion Digital NY? If we didn’t get a chance to meet, get in touch!