The so-called Retail Apocalypse might go down in history as one of the greatest misnomers of all time. Have certain retailers struggled (and even crumbled) under the pressure to reinvent themselves for a new age of consumer behaviors and expectations? Absolutely. But such challenges and subsequent shutterings represent what some consider an overdue culling within an otherwise vibrant and fast-evolving space.
Overall, retail is thriving—both online and in brick-and-mortar locations. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, for every company that is currently closing stores, 5.2 are opening new locations. In 2019, NRF expects U.S. retail sales to increase between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent, to more than $3.8 trillion. While major digital retail platforms like Amazon are certainly taking hefty slices of that pie, there’s lots of opportunity for the more than 1 million retail locations spanning the country.
The retailers that thrive into 2020 and beyond will be the ones that continue to reshape their businesses and strategies around the ever-evolving consumer. Over the next 12 months, those adaptations are going to manifest around the following four key customer experiences.
Increasing the Emphasis on Apps
According to an eMarketer report, more than seven in 10 U.S. mobile app users are activating retail apps while shopping in-store, with more than a third of them doing so on a weekly basis. With m-commerce sales expected to top $262 billion this year—up nearly 29 percent year over year and on track to account for nearly half of ecommerce sales next year—it’s no wonder that all eyes are on mobile.
While retailers have understood the importance of apps for years, we’re going to see this channel garner more attention than ever, and for a very simple reason: It’s becoming infinitely more trackable within the broader marketing mix.
For years, thanks to the limited applicability of cookies within the mobile sphere, many marketers have accepted as fact the fiction that mobile marketing activity cannot be connected to events in other channels. But that’s changing in a big way. For example, in the partnerships industry in which I work, leading measurement providers are making it possible to track partner impact across customer journeys that include apps. That’s very important as m-commerce growth continues to outpace PC-based commerce.
As the ability for marketers to understand the relative value of customers engaged via apps grows, these brand leaders are going to gain a greater appreciation for the unique relationships that these environments can foster. The key will be to not only factor a retailer’s own app usage into attribution modeling but to also ensure all partner marketing activity through apps is captured and digested as well.
Refining Post-Conversion Logistics
In the age of Amazon, many retailers are struggling to compete when it comes to fast, reliable delivery. (Let’s face it: that two-day Prime experience is addictive.) But this is a challenge that every retailer needs to tackle head-on.
In many cases, offering fulfillment and delivery at Amazon speed and prices might not be feasible. But retailers needn’t necessarily despair. In many cases, retailers are waking up to the potential of BOPIS: Buy online, pickup in-store. Customers are proving willing to go the literal extra mile for such instant gratification. There’s still great power in brick-and-mortar.
Elevating Experiences Above Products
Speaking of the power of in-store, let’s talk experiences. The brick-and-mortar retailers that are winning are those that understand the importance of creating unique, entertaining in-store experiences. Whether it’s in-store pop-up shops, partnerships with local food vendors or cool tech integrations into the physical shopping experience, a growing number of retailers know that it takes more than a roomful of products to draw in today’s shoppers.
It’s not just about what happens in-store either. More and more, retailers are going to be turning to influencers to help them promote these unique and buzz-worthy happenings. For the savviest merchants, influencer strategy is the name of the game. Leading brands are taking a very deliberate approach to recruiting and creating relationships with both niche and more mainstream influencers that are best suited to reaching specific audiences and credibly delivering a specific message.
Rewarding the Super-Loyalists
Everybody has their stack of loyalty cards and log-ins. But that’s the problem, right? When everyone has access to an exclusive club, it stops feeling very exclusive, doesn’t it?
In 2020, we’re going to see retailers pour more effort into rewarding not just their loyalty club members, but particularly their true super-loyalists. For some, this might mean creating a tiered loyalty program that charges a nominal fee for admission to the elite level. That higher tier must then deliver on a person’s investment by offering deeper discounts and more-personalized rewards that tie into a customer’s lifestyle.
We’ve seen this model work quite well in the travel space, and retailers are getting wise to the opportunity. Customer loyalty is the real currency, and 2020 is going to be all about treating your best customers even better.
Partnerize provides a software-as-a-service platform for managing online marketing partnerships, such as with affiliates and influencers.