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The Emerging Trends in Retail Shopping Experience

Baishaly Roy

July 30, 2021 |

trends in retail shopping experience

There have been many trends in the past of retail shopping that have emerged and submerged – however, the goal remained the same. Customer experience continues to be completely reinvented and reimagined even though the retail trends kept changing. 

In today’s world, going to the store is not always an option for retail shopping; retailers have to get creative in how they break through to new consumers and maintain loyalty while simultaneously adjusting to newly adopted shopping behaviors.

  • According to Vertebrae, retailers using AR are enjoying a 19% spike in customer engagement.
  • Online sales continue to outpace industry growth by 300%.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption has turned the industry upside down, bringing with it unparalleled technological innovations.

In 2020, the customer conversion rate for AR engaged users increased by 90%

About 3,800 physical stores across the country closed, including major brands like Macy’s and Best Buy.

Physical stores have adopted elements of the online experience to encourage us to continue visiting them and played to the strengths that in-person experiences can offer, such as more personal service levels.

This year has significantly altered how customers prefer to shop and communicate with consumer-facing brands. Companies across multiple industries have raced to respond to changing customer demands throughout the pandemic.

What can you do to aid the retail shopping trends?

  1. More Use of Chatbots

Due to the pandemic, face-to-face contact had to be reduced by the retailers of the retail shopping industry recently. In order to meet the customers, and solve their queries, the companies had to come up with unique chatbots and virtual assistants.

Though there are certainly benefits to in-person experiences, chatbots offer companies and users alike some big advantages, like shorter wait times and 24/7 availability.

For example, 

In 2016 Sephora used the Kik app to create a personalized prom experience for high schoolers. 

Partnering with influencer Helen Philips, the brand encouraged subscribers to submit questions for her live tutorial via Kik. 

They also pushed alerts and prompts on the chatbot prior to the event, which drove engagement on Kik, as well as to the Facebook Live broadcast.

2. Initiating Interactive Entertainment for Customers

To be at the forefront of your game, pitching marketing strategies isn’t everything. Thinking about some fun elements for your customers is important as well in the retail shopping industry.

Interactive in-store activities make the customers spend more time in the stores. Through the applications of technologies like motion tracking and virtual reality, retailers can create fun activities for shoppers.

For example, 

Kraft created a unique store experience by installing an interactive floor in grocery stores equipped with motion tracking. 

This allowed customers to jump on floating pieces of cheese noodles and macaroni. 

To Kraft, this was a great marketing strategy and meant customers would linger for a longer period in the pasta aisle – or even in front of their product offering on the shelf.

3. Generating Social Media Presence through Users

Everyone can post some great brand images and photoshoots on their social media profiles to reach out to the users. But doing it the other way around in the retail shopping industry can be a bit tricky. 

Creating the experiences that customers feel excited about sharing can help brands quickly accumulate user-generated social content.

For example, 

L’Occitane provides iconic art installations and Instagrammable photo spots within the store. The customers can use the displays to create social media content that trends – all while taking pressure off the corporate social media team.

4. Organizing Exclusive Events for Customers

Expecting your customers to always act as your loyal buyers isn’t possible in the retail shopping industry. You need to feed them to keep them loyal to you. And the best way to do that is by entertaining them.

For example, 

When St. Ives of Unilver wanted to attract more traffic to the physical store, they decided to put on a concert series called “Mixing Bar.” 

The series was so successful that St. Ives has continued to put it on each year for their customers.

Unilever also gave the first 60 shoppers in line an exclusive meet-and-greet with the featured performer, which added a sense of urgency and exclusivity to the event – and to the consumer decision-making process.

5. Reinforcing Brand Identity

There are so many up-and-coming brands every day in the retail shopping industry, and the masses will forget your brand name in a bit. So, it is important to reinforce your brand identity from time to time.

For example, 

Vans converted several underground tunnels in London into 30,000 square feet of skateparks and art galleries. They even included a ramp and street course for customers to use. 

The store drew a huge amount of publicity. The initiative also helped reinforce Vans as the premium retail store for the skating community.

Emerging Retail Trends in 2021

Trend #1: Live Streaming is shaping e-commerce

Denied a shopping center based shopping binges because of the pandemic and social limitations, numerous customers joyfully went through hours internet watching their #1 superstars, neighborhood TV characters, and forces to be reckoned with having engaging shows on different themes like wellness, skincare, cooking, and so forth that are intended to sell.

These influencers, promoting products for sale, lead to a number of purchases from the comfort of everyone’s home. 

To win the shopper, retailers in the retail shopping industry need to grow their techniques to incorporate innovative methodologies, for example, live streams and other social initiations that will assist with keeping their brands and items at the top.

Live streams turned into a significant instrument in creating income for some worldwide organizations and brands. This pattern is required distinctly to develop more pushing ahead.

Here’s an example of a Shopee tweet where they are announcing their live stream to their audience.

[Shopee]

We’re so happy to be chosen as @ShopeeID Indonesia’s Brand Ambassador #StrayKidsAdaDiShopee!

Don’t miss our first performance at Shopee Indonesia 11.11 Big Sale TV Show, 11 NOV 7 PM JKT. Further info, click 👉🏻https://shopee.co.id/11-11-tv-show

Another example, 

Zoom has enabled people to transcend social distancing guidelines and host multi-generational family gatherings.

One more example, 

Disney+ recently released GroupWatch, a new feature that allows people to watch programs simultaneously with friends.

And, one more

Animal Crossing has helped users feel more connected through events like celebrating International Museum month and hosting wedding season.

Trend #2: Responsive retail environments are on the rise

The relationship between brick and mortar and e-commerce shopping has become more complex, as complimentary online and offline shopping options are more common.

For example, the rise of buying online pick up in-store (BOPIS), buy in-store, ship to home (BISSTH), and other blended retailing options have brought together tangible and virtual shopping experiences.

One such example includes, 

Starbucks announced they are reconfiguring operations to integrate touchless transactions more seamlessly and reduce physical interactions, including store closures, a shift to more mobile pick-up, and acceleration of digital transformation programs originally slated for roll-out between 2023 and 2025.

Another example, 

Best Buy retained most of its year-to-year sales as a result of pre-pandemic bets made on curbside pick-up.

Customer experience leaders can find new ways to blend physical and digital experiences to better satisfy customer demands. While accelerating plans is one way to adjust to the changing landscape, brick and mortar stores need to assess evolving customer needs to become more responsive to changing preferences.

Trend #3: Demand for convenience is boosting e-commerce

Topics like “30 minutes”, “home chef”, and “healthy food” seem to be dominating the food delivery conversations last year.

Consumer demand for the convenience of not leaving one’s house grew rapidly due to Covid in 2020 – boosting conversations around delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. 

One of the major topics of conversations within the topic last year was delivering food and beverages. Beyond ordering groceries, consumers started showing a lot of interest in meal kits.

Here’s an example of a Twitter user seeking recommendations from her fam:

Charlotte Stokely 🐝

@char_stokely

Looking for a healthy meal prep delivery company. Any recommendations? Thanks!

As consumers remain house-bound, they are looking to bring variety to their eating experiences. It is pivotal that food retailers and foodservice operators monitor consumer buying behaviors and growing trends for particular products or services so they can meet needs at the time of highest demand.

Trend #4: Video interactions and support

In addition to 1:1 video calls, retailers can also expect live streaming to become one of the fastest-growing trends in personalized digital efforts.

This type of real-time communication and demoing is the closest many retailers and brands have come to physically connecting with customers outside of an in-store shopping experience.

For example, 

Zoom has rapidly become a household name, while traditional power players have scrambled to deploy free video chat services and new features.

Video chat is no longer just a channel for stale conference calls. Large tech companies have already set some of this in motion with recent announcements for making work-from-home policies more permanent, which will undoubtedly bolster the use of video chat as part of work-life.

Now, it creates an opportunity for consumers to personally interact with store associates and receive tailored information on measurement and sizing straight from an in-house expert.

Trend #5: Augmented reality enhances the reality of online shopping

With AR technology, shoppers can truly see the item they’re shopping for, which helps them make a buying decision. AR really changes the shopping experience in specific industries, such as fashion and home decor. The customer can get a better feel for the item without seeing it in person.

35% of people say that they would be shopping online more if they could virtually try a product before buying it. 

And, 22% would be less likely to visit a brick-and-mortar store if AR was available via their favorite e-commerce store.

For example, 

Zara allows shoppers to project their preferred outfits on empty mannequins around the store or even at home.

This helps customers better visualize the products they’re interested in. And, it provides them with a kind of budget-friendly personal shopper.

Trend #6: Offers Seamless Social Commerce

In 2020, nearly 41% of customers said they were shopping online for things they would normally buy in-store.

There has been a great surge in the world of online shopping, and this time it is here for a long time. Given the hurdles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, going to the brick-and-mortar stores for shopping is almost history.

Compared to the traditional shopping style, shopping online is much more seamless and smooth. Instead of clicking through to a third-party website, users can make purchases right from the social media app or site.

For example, 

In 2020 alone, we saw a partnership between TikTok and Shopify, an expansion of Snapchat’s Native Stores for brands, and the introduction of Facebook Shops.

Trend #7: Ethical and Values-Based Brands on the Rise

Though marketing strategies and campaigns have become a thing now, one can hardly let go of the ethics and values a brand is associated with makes the brand stand out. Even though the deals aren’t that great, the shoppers tend to prefer transparency, values, and ethics over anything else. 

Offering genuine transparency and taking a stance on ethical issues can be risky for brands. Still, when done right, it can build lasting customer loyalty and trust.

For example, 

71% of consumers prefer buying from brands that align with their values.

And, 

41% of US consumers actively seek to buy from a company associated with social, environmental, and political ideals.

For brands, this shift to values-based purchasers implies that brands that are generally less approaching can presently don’t pull off concealing any problematic strategic policies or ecologically hostile activities.

Trend #8: Increase in Smart-bot Shopping

Did you know that 87.7 million adults in the U.S. own a smart speaker? It seems like everyone these days has an Amazon Echo or Google Home. Back in 2019, the sales of smart speakers got hiked by 70%. And, it is estimated that by the year 2025, the global smart speaker market could grow to over 35.5 billion U.S. dollars.

Around 20% of smart speaker owners use them for shopping activities, such as ordering products, conducting product research, or tracking deliveries.

Devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers have become key tools for many online shoppers, especially as we all spend more time at home during the pandemic. For brands that prioritize voice-optimized SEO, this could mean a boost in traffic.

Trend #9: Creative Brand Identities on Amazon

During Q2 2020, Amazon generated its highest net revenue yet – almost 88.91 billion U.S. dollars – even higher than during the holiday shopping quarter (Q4) in 2019.

Amazon reigns supreme when it comes to online marketplaces, even with the new-age shopping experiences. However, building a strong brand identity is crucial for connecting with shoppers and establishing trust. Amazon has introduced more tools than ever for brands to build unique brand identities. 

As Zak Semitka, Specialist, Marketplaces at Tinuiti, says, 

“Amazon continues to emphasize and release opportunities for brands to tell their story and build brand equity across its platform with content. With this comes the introduction and adoption of New-to-Brand metrics and the beginning of tracking the impact of these efforts. I believe tracking metrics will inevitably need to continue to expand as brands become increasingly interested in understanding the impact their advertising and creative strategies have on attracting new consumers to purchase.”

Trend #10: A New Approach to Influencer Marketing

The way influencer marketing used to be has changed a lot in the year 2021. Now, it’s a lot different than what it used to be. We’ve seen a major shift in the way brands and influencers work together. Influencer content has slowly transitioned to a raw, real aesthetic, and this change will continue into 2021.

Brands have already started partnering with influencers to create and share content on IGTV, Instagram Live, TikTok, and Instagram Reels to build and foster digital communities.

For example, 

Bandier partners with industry leaders to run workouts on IG Live, then publishes the videos to IGTV for those who miss the live stream. It’s a way to bring the brand’s community together through a shared interest while also demonstrating its gear’s durability.

Brands that don’t prioritize authenticity in their influencer partnerships can wave goodbye to high engagement and ROI next year. It’s time to focus on unique influencer content that prioritizes education, entertainment, and the viewer experience.

Conclusion

The first step business leaders should take in exploring new engagement strategies in the retail shopping industry is validating their pre-pandemic customer insights.

Successful customer experience now depends on how well retailers are digitally connecting to their consumers without leaving their house.

With physical interactions remaining limited, understanding how technology can act as a tool for retailers to create innovative and creative experiences will be the key to adjusting to new customer expectations.

Baishaly Roy

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