By Derek Bonney, email@example.com
Technology has shifted everything, especially the retail experience. Not only has it changed how we locate, evaluate and purchase products or services, it has created a treasure trove of data for both retailers and marketers. So let’s examine something I call the “Retail Shift.”
With the advent of e-commerce in the ’90s, consumers with Internet access were invited to shop for their favorite products and services 24/7/365. I like to think of this time as the era of “Access.” If there was an Internet connection, consumers could purchase anything at anytime, no matter their physical location.
Of course, this led to the infamous retail doomsday scenario – the concept that shopping malls would become ghost towns and everything would go digital overnight. I believe it was this same wishful thinking that ushered us into the dot-com bust.
The reality is that a good majority of consumers like the social and emotional gratification they experience during the physical act of shopping. However, as access to the wired world proliferates, the web is morphing into communities and smartphones are creating a new level of engagement. This leads us to the start of a new era, one I like to call “Control and Influence.”
Mobile has resulted in one of the most disruptive channels in the retail sector. Today, 64% of smartphone users shop online via their device; and a third of smartphone users have shared their location with a retailer via some sort of check-in app. Not only can we now let retailers know when we are present in their stores (or nearby), we can also locate and complete the entire transaction in the palm of our hand (or sometimes theirs). And beyond location recognition, mobile has also altered the in-store experience. By simply scanning a barcode, we can now gather additional knowledge on a particular product or we can search other merchants for a better deal.
Let’s not forget about tablets. A recent report from Monetate showed that for the first time, tablets drove more traffic to commerce sites than smartphones. And as tablets look to outpace the distribution of smartphones, we can only expect this mode of shopping to become the new norm.
And here's a startling concept – for a typical brand, only 1% of their Facebook audience regularly engages their content. This means there's a high probability that 99% of the brand’s Facebook audience isn't regularly engaged. Statistics also show that consumers now place more trust in peer reviews than unbiased entities that are dedicated to testing and ensuring product quality.
But let’s look beyond Facebook as social media is a much larger channel. When it comes to Twitter, Wal-Mart has championed one of the most successful uses of the channel with their “Wal-Mart Moms” initiative. A group of 20 moms are given special access to Wal-Mart products and asked to openly share their opinions via blogging. A genius move since blogs are the No. 1 channel when it comes to influencing female online shoppers.
Best Buy on the other hand has led the way in showcasing how Twitter can be a great customer service channel with Twelpforce. Twelpforce provides consumers with immediate access to approximately 3,000 Blue Shirts who are ready to help solve any technical challenge, all via tweets.
Now we are seeing a new social experience emerge completely driven by images, and channels such as Pinterest ar