It's that time of the year again. The days are beginning to get a little shorter, most of our vacations are a distant memory and the general household anxiety level is rising as kids start thinking of that dreaded 8 letter word - homework! It's time to go back to school, and with that comes back-to-school shopping, followed by Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and dare I say it so early in the season, year-end holidays like Christmas. With these events on the near horizon, it's usually around this time of year that I get asked what's trending in retail. Here's what I'm seeing…
Bargains are Boss
No matter your age, we've become accustomed to looking for bargains. The price/value equation trumps all. Lately it has been reported that consumers' disposable income and wages are not growing appreciably, which negatively impacts retail. Retailers have reported mixed results and I would expect that to continue.
Social Networks Serve Shopping Platforms
There's no doubt that social networks are helping to serve shopping platforms. To highlight this fact I paint a picture of the shopping experience before the advent of social media. Think of retail and the department stores when our parents shopped. In many instances, your mom found a sales person in the department store that she liked and could relate to. She had a personal interaction and built a relationship. That sales person might be able to duplicate that relationship with 5 or 15 other mothers.
Fast forward 20 or 30 years to the present. Now, through social media, that dedicated sales person at a retailer can build relationships with hundreds, even thousands of moms. And the customer base has expanded to now include more dads and kids and grandparents. It's the same behavior only magnified because of technology and the digital world that we're in. The sales people at some retailers have figured it out. That's why they exchange emails and they text one another so that when something new comes on the floor, a new shoe, a new blouse, or a new coat, that sales executive is pinging all of their shoppers. The personal interactions are still there, it's the way we communicate that's changed so dramatically.
Big Data is Critical
Retailers are being forced to adopt or experiment with technology, because if they don't they're going to be out of business. I think what's critical for retailers, and frankly anybody that sells a product, is the need to know and understand their customers. Through big data today retailers have all kinds of information on consumers' buying habits - from what they buy and like to what they don't like. Having the proper mix of brick and mortar and big data technology helps to maximize the consumers' buying experience and allows retailers to focus on increasing that share of wallet.
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With e-commerce becoming increasingly prevalent, social shaking things up and brick-and-mortar-focused retailers stepping up their online game, 2017 will prove to be an interesting year for retail.