Originally published by Jennifer Post at Business News Daily on March 24, 2017.

Retail has been a fickle vertical. With a mix of completely e-commerce stores versus brick-and-mortar locations, it’s important to understand what consumers want year to year to ensure your business continues to succeed.

According to Forbes, millennials’ buying power will soon surpass that of the generations before them. Retailers will have to work harder to meet their demands as they influence trends and redefine buying habits.

As a retailer, you can stay up to date by implementing these four trends in your retail store and sales strategy:

Consumers are always on the lookout for ways to make their lives easier, and retailers recognize or are beginning to realize that. Business Insider predicts that by 2020, mobile payments will account for $503 billion in sales. Vend predicts that those retailers that don’t implement mobile payment solutions will fall behind and lose sales.

“Customers have a ‘mobile first’ mentality, almost always having their phones by their sides. By leveraging mobile payments, retailers provide a shortcut for transaction times and erase the need to rummage through a purse for a credit card,” said Jared Wiesel, partner and retail expert at Revenue Analytics. “Furthermore, by tying mobile payments with loyalty programs, retailers can encourage repeat visits and increase customer lifetime value.”

Another major convenience customers look for when shopping is how fast the items can be delivered to their doorstep. A recent study by Temando found that 80 percent of shoppers want same-day shipping. Implementing this type of shipping isn’t always practical for retailers, says Vend, but that doesn’t diminish demand for it, and because of that, retailers must find a way to make it work, or risk losing sales.

“Offering a same-day shipping option can be a real lifesaver for some shoppers – which they will certainly be willing to pay a premium for – and can generate lasting brand loyalty,” said Richard Stevenson, head of corporate communications for ePages.com. “Providers such as UPS and DHL, as well as specialist shipping services for trades, such as artwork and foods, can offer express shipping packages for you.”

Shopping at smaller stores has become a focal point for consumers, so much so that there is even a specific day for shopping local. The reason for this is because customers want a more personalized shopping experience. The days of speaking directly to customers through personally addressed emails have become outdated. In 2017, retailers will be testing new ways to connect with their shoppers on a more personal level.

“Consumers want to receive communications about products that are relevant to their lives,” Wiesel told Business News Daily. “This requires retailers to have deep customer preference data and to apply predictive analytics to hone their message. Retailers should connect on the individual customer’s terms. They need to be included in the process, and whether they want emails, texts or alerts through an app, companies should adhere to those preferences.”

“The aim is to make a connection by communicating your knowledge and passion for the goods the shopper has expressed interest toward,” added Stevenson. “Why not send a text or Facebook message that shares a small anecdote about an item, such as its origin or why it’s special or premium?”

For small businesses, an emerging trend from a point-of-sale (POS) standpoint is streamlining operations and management by significantly building on the role of the cash register. Michael DeSimone, CEO of ShopKeep, said a way to do this is by “giving smaller merchants centralized, end-to-end capabilities that free them up to focus on running their business.”

“From payroll to inventory management to online and ecommerce tools, equipping [small business owners] with the services and analytics they need to better manage their business, all from a single solution, introduces valuable efficiency to their operations,” he added.

Apps have become a huge part of how people do everything these days, whether it’s to communicate, share ideas, or shop, and that will only increase in the next year. Retailers looking to sell their products on Instagram, for example, can turn to solutions like Like2Buy, Tapshop, and Soldsie, all of which make a retailer’s Instagram account shoppable.

Going beyond apps, augmented reality will allow customers to virtually experience products as they might use them in their own lives. Smart dressing rooms in fashion stores, and glass touchscreens as interactive components of storefronts are a few examples of how retailers can, and should, utilize technology, according to Vend.

“It’s early in the game, and companies are still developing their capabilities. Instagram seems to be the furthest along, given their exciting product tag experiments and innovative ways to showcase products through multiple photos and videos in a single post,” Wiesel said.

Customers continue to look for new things when it comes to shopping; exciting things that will draw them into one store over another. That is where the idea of “retailtainment” comes in – a combination of retail and entertainment that aims to provide customers with fun, unique experiences that elevate shopping.

“What captures customers’ attention and emotions are more unique and immersive interactions, such as challenges and competitions. In addition, technology has been untapped so far in ‘retailtainment’ and is likely a key enabler going forward. Look to retailers to weave it into the shopping experience and potentially tie in their loyalty programs to help drive customer lifetime value,” said Wiesel.

DeSimone noted that boutique retailers tend to be well-equipped to differentiate themselves, providing niche products, services or experiences that can’t simply be found on any online marketplace.

“Factoring in new technologies, evolving consumers and, by extension, a changing retail landscape, small business owners have a lot more on their plates today than they did in the past,” he said.

 

Alissa McCue

Alissa McCue

Alissa McCue has over 10 years of marketing and public relations experience working for top brands in retail and technology. As Senior Manager of Public Relations at ShopKeep, the #1-rated iPad Point of Sale System, Alissa is focused on highlighting ShopKeep's major achievements and thought leadership in the POS and technology space for independent businesses.