10 digital retail trends for 2017

What do digital retailers need to be aware of heading into 2017? Analyst PSFK shared ten predictions – and examples of retailers leading the pack in these areas – in an insight session at Shop.org, Retail’s Digital Summit.


#1 – Create confidence for shoppers to guide their own journey

More and more, consumers are doing their own research before committing to a purchase, and retailers need to provide the tools and advice to support that journey heading into 2017.

This can be challenging in the digital space, where shoppers cannot try or touch the product, but there are instances of retailers using emerging technologies to bridge this gap. For example, Ikea recently undertook a successful virtual reality pilot to immerse shoppers in their kitchen designs, while Rent the Runway has been helping real women make purchases by getting staff with a similar body type to try on outfits and sharing them with potential customers on Snapchat.

#2 – Eliminate the obstacles that cause friction in the digital path to purchase

Ultimately, consumers will take the path of least resistance – which means any form of obstacle can result in purchase abandonment. Digital retailers need to develop ways to remove friction from the shopper journey, looking at how technology can bridge some of the current experience gaps.

Taco Bell is a good example of innovation in this area, as the food company has launched ‘taco-bot’, a pilot in which consumers can place an order through their instant messenger service and pick up from their local outlet.

#3 – Democratise access to exclusives and incentives

Loyalty has seen a significant shift in consumer opinion over the past 12 months, with a greater emphasis on experiences and bespoke rewards over traditional, points-based schemes. Retailers, therefore, need to look at ways to bring the personal and exclusive to a wider audience.

Sak’s Fifth Avenue is a leader in the democratisation of shopper experiences, having launched an assisted shopping service application that enables customers to access 24/7 email and chat functionalities.

#4 – Recognise and personalise for returning customers

Every consumer today leaves a digital fingerprint wherever they interact, and retailers need to utilise this data trail to tailor their experiences based on richer customer understanding.

There are a number of retailers making inroads in this rea, such as Nike, which has aligned its various mobile application to create a profile of its regular customers’ lifestyle and purchasing habits, tailoring content around their individual behaviour.

#5 – Promote transparency in customer relationships

Authenticity is a big deal in retail right now – and not just when it comes to marketing and product proposition. Shoppers want to feel they are receiving value with each interaction, and that they have complete clarity of retailers’ brand values, policy and processes.

This doesn’t have to be a dull and legislative process; Sage Project is a good example of a company that is trying to make small print more fun, by presenting nutritional information from food labels in a light hearted, cartoon-style format, showing consumers key stats such as how many minutes of exercise it will take to burn of the calories contained in a product.

#6 – Collaborate with like-minded companies

Strength in numbers will become an even more prominent concept in 2017, as retail organisations that share the same values will work together to build a halo around their brands.

Content will play an important role in the success of these collaborations – for instance, Instacart has experienced success by teaming up with All Recipes. Consumers can add a list of ingredients from their chosen recipe at the click of a button, then a personal shopper will ensure those groceries are delivered within a matter of hours.

#7 – Educate consumers, and respond to their needs

Collaboration will prove equally important with the end buyer moving into next year. There is already a culture of consumers creating their own content, and retailers need to successfully harness this appetite in order to increase advocacy.

South American beauty retailer, O Boticario, is already doing this effectively by live streaming professional makeup tutorials through social media. Not only does this create online interaction with consumers, the content lives on beyond the live stream.

#8 – Cultivate a fan community

Leading on from the concept of consumer collaboration, retailers need to focus on building brand advocacy by creating communities for loyal followers to come together and share experiences.

Athleisure company, Bjorn Borg, is a pioneer in this area with its Tinder-style ‘Sprinter’ application, which enables fitness fans to find workout partners in their local area.

#9 – Encourage advocacy among loyal customers

Beyond communities, there are other ways in which retailers can encourage advocacy to utilise loyal customers as a marketing touch point. For example, makeup brand CoverFX recently launched a ‘show us your shade’ campaign, turning real customers into makeup models to create am organic, authentic advertising initiative.

User-generated content and shopper-led exchanges have already grown exponentially in the retail sector, and this trend will continue through 2017.

#10 – Deliver on delight

One final digital development that will grow in importance over the next 12 months is the ability to surprise and delight consumers. There’s been a lot of talk about overhauling retail loyalty programmes during 2016, and this will continue as retailers seek ways to offer unexpected perks to regular customers.

A good example of this approach is at Taco Bell, where patrons are given incentives in return for interacting with the brand on social media. As we mentioned earlier in this article, these rewards do not necessarily have to mean money off; exclusive, one-of-a-kind experiences also have a strong appeal.

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