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Retail TouchPoints Trend Round-Up: F-Commerce, Mobile, Social And Customer Engagement

Retail trends are constantly changing to match consumer lifestyles and preferences, and for this reason it can be difficult for retailers to keep up. During 2011, retailers were introduced to the mobile wallet, learned how consumers are engaging with brands through their mobile devices, embraced the social channel, and found new ways to engage shoppers in-store.

The following is a compilation of articles covering the latest trends, found on the Retail TouchPoints web site since the beginning of 2011.

Commerce: “E” Before “M” and Sometimes “F”

As retailers work toward developing more meaningful and long-term relationships with consumers, they must address the question of how to create a consistent experience across all available channels. Online commerce may have been discovered before mobile commerce and Facebook commerce, however in the retail industry it is now being overshadowed by mobile devices and social networks.

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In June 2011, IBM Coremetrics released Fourth Annual Online Retail Holiday Report, discussing key trends in online shopping and usage. E-Commerce retailers were noted to be more optimistic about the upcoming holiday season based on the successes of the year prior. Nonetheless, most retailers are planning to incorporate an omnipresent approach, uniting their online with a mobile and a social presence to target the “omni-channel consumer.” Examples of such include Moosejaw Mountaineer’s E-Commerce video implementation on the mobile site.

Jeff Nicholson, VP of Product Marketing for Loyalty 360, offered insights during a webinar titled “Customer-Centric Marketing: Making the Move from Campaigns to Cross-Channel Dialogue.” The webinar covered the importance of maintaining a presence among omni-channel consumers. Nicholson provided his own explanation of “customer-centric” marketing.

Mobile Takes The Lead Role

As consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices as shopping tools, it is no surprise that retailers are working feverishly to improve the mobile shopping experience

In May 2011, Forrester Research published “Mobile Commerce Forecast, 2011 To 2016,” a report which predicted the industry will reach $31 billion by 2016, growing at a 39% compound rate. Forrester also expects mobile commerce to top $6 billion by the end of 2011. Despite the estimated growth, the research firm stated that mobile sales will account for only 7% of all web sales. Additionally, Forrester Analyst Peter Sheldon discussed how although M-Commerce is considered the fastest-growing mobile channel, 43% of e-tailers are not yet on board.

Mobile also plays a key role in the emerging technology of Near Field Communication (NFC). Juniper Research conducted a study which predicted that NFC will be a $50 billion market by 2014. The study, titled “NFC Retail Marketing & Mobile Payments Report,” noted that approximately 20 countries will utilize NFC by 2011 and 2012 projecting North America and Europe as the most avid users.

Whether researching a product online, locating a retailer or tracking inventory, mobile devices are proving to be a must-have for convenience and information on both sides of the cash register, according to Motorola in its annual holiday study.

Engaging With Consumers Made Easy

While mobile devices may be the key focus for many merchants, others are looking to kiosks as a way to enhance in-store engagement. In a recent report by IHL Group, retailers noted customer kiosk usage ranges from 20% to 70%. Additionally, two statistics from the report suggest a promising future for kiosks:

  • Retailers see a 6% to 8% jump in incremental sales when kiosks are installed in a store.
  • Customers currently spend two or more days per year waiting in line and will likely welcome the addition of self-checkout via kiosks.

In another recent consumer survey, Sterling Commerce found that consumers desire a simplified shopping experience and retailers are unprepared to meet their growing expectations. Jim Bengier, Global Retail Executive for Sterling, shared his insights around the study results that found, for example, that 87% of consumers expect to be able to track an order from any channel.

When working to improve customer relationships, the in-store customer experience is a primary step. But, in general, building trust into the retailer-consumer relationship will go a long way to long-term loyalty. A study conducted by ECSP Europe Business School noted customer communication drives more than 20% of a customer’s trust in a company based on the company’s policies, practices and the customer’s prior experience. The emotional and rational connection between consumer and company influences up to 44% of brand loyalty. For tips on how to achieve customer trust, please read the June 2011 article covering the consumer trust study released by Pitney Bowes.

Getting Social On Your Own Terms

While big on customer engagement,  social networks still show limited direct return on investment, but retailers acknowledge the potential of the channel as it matures beyond its infancy. Results from a recent social media survey conducted by Retail TouchPoints found that most retailers (73%) were active on social networks or had recently launched a social media strategy. Approximately 25% of respondents said they were exploring its potential.

According to Sucharita Mulpuru Vice President of Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, retail executives currently have modest expectations for the benefits of social commerce. However, a number of retailers benefitted from social media communication when addressing consumer complaints during the holidays. Retailers were able to respond to more than half (68%) of the complaints received through social media during the 2010-2011 holiday season, according to the Retail Consumer Report commissioned by RightNow and conducted by Harris Interactive.

The holiday season aside, Facebook “Likes” have been considered a factor in judging shopper purchasing patterns. By “liking” brands via Facebook, shoppers have the option to offer their feedback on news, photos, inventory and state updates. Additionally, in a recent webinar titled, “Facebook Marketing: Strategies for Turning ‘Likes’  Into Loyalty,” analysts predicted that 80% of U.S. companies will continue to use social media tools for marketing purposes. Most fans choose social networks as a way to interact with brands and receive exclusive deals and offers. For retailers struggling with the appropriate content to post on the well-known social network, analysts suggested asking questions, developing different discounts based on campaign goals, responding to consumers’ questions/concerns in a timely manner, and rewarding customers to increase page activity.. 

In total, retailers rank the success of social media by the number of fans not by ROI. Click-throughs from social media to retail sites showed more than 50% while sales from social networks ranked 47% in the “10th Annual Merchants Survey.”

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