The retail industry has some game-changing trends emerging right now–mobile, social, omni-shopper, automated upsells and pricing differentiation–to name a few. With online spending outpacing brick and mortar in Q4 2009, it’s clear that the in-store experience is not the only place to emphasize customer touchpoints. While everyone agrees these new trends are interesting, the question for retailers is how to make these concepts work with tangible metrics and expectations attached.
Here are a few takeaways from a round up the sessions and solutions presented during NRF’s BIG Show in NYC earlier this week:
- Making The Mobile Connection: As well known retail consultant and NRF speaker Jim Dion noted, consumer expectations are driving business. And with the growing adoption of smart phones, it’s clear that the mobile device should be considered an essential channel to reach customers. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to make your e-commerce site mobile-friendly. Mobile-site provider Usablenet has reported a 100% increase in retail interest in mobile Web sites in Q4 of 2009 alone, so it won’t be long before you will be left behind.
- The iPhone has driven over 3 billion application downloads in the last 18 months, according to Apple. Needless to say this is a big part of consumers’ lifestyles, and it’s definitely worth considering whether your retail organization could benefit from an application. Perhaps it’s more about engagement than driving sales, but take a moment to assess its potential for your business. On that note, it’s important to realize that although the iPhone’s appeal is all the rage right now, it’s still the number three adopted smart phone, after Nokia and Blackberry. Consider catering to these users as well.
- Shake up the Social Sphere: Nearly 80% of female shoppers “became a fan” of a retailer on Facebook last year, according the “She Speaks, 2nd Annual Social Media Study.” If only to reach consumers to share specials, promotions and company news, every retailer should have a presence on Facebook. Various modules enable retailers to customize their pages, offering room for a storefront, contests, promotions and discussion boards to encourage brand evangelism. Twitter is also a great way to monetize customer feedback and offer a more immediate form of customer service to remedy any problem. Bloomingdales, Toys ‘R’ Us and Target are just a few of the retailers leveraging Twitter efficiently and intelligently.
- Enable the “Omni-Shopper:” NCR emphasized the importance of catering to the omni-shopper, and being present in other aspects of consumer’s life — not just in the store or online. Some retailers are working to sponsor airport kiosks or implement their own brands in other retail stores. The idea is to be top of mind all the time, not just when a shopper is opting in to your brand.
- Up the Ante on Upselling: There are so many touchpoints in the retail store, and across every shopping channel. Make sure you’re plugged into each of them so you don’t miss any opportunity to jump on a sale. We’ve previously reported on the fitting room as a chance to upsell. While there are emerging technologies around this opportunity, like a dressing room application from RFID Enabled Solutions (RES), consider the minimal efforts, like having store associates bring more options than requested. Think about Amazon’s “You might also like…” approach and bring it to life in the store. It’s a simple tactic that can make a world of difference, from increased sales to ultimate customer satisfaction.
- Prioritize Pricing/Differentiation Strategies: It’s important to realize that unless you can offer a differentiated experience or added value (such as excellent customer service, a personalized approach or relevant upselling), your customers will seek the best price, no matter what. And there’s never been an easier time to do so. iPhone apps like Red Laser are empowering customers to research pricing information at any time, in any place. You have to be aware of these technologies so that you can develop a strategy that will help outpace your competitors.
Think about the best in class retailers right now, and how they are winning, as Jim Dion noted during his presentation on Monday. Amazon blows its competitors away with their upselling techniques; Apple takes the cake for its innovation in design and experience; The Container Store puts competitors in the closet by putting product knowledge first. Employees spend over 100 hours in educational sessions during the first year on the job. When you think about key attributes and trends, think about which retailers you associate with them and why, and make sure these concepts integrate into your retail strategy with good reason.