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“Shopping at the edge” will expand
Digital, mobile, chatbots, social, curb-side — shopping now happens anywhere and anytime. At Salesforce, we call this phenomenon “shopping at the edge”.
Last year, retailers transformed, replacing most aspects of the physical shopping experience with digital and fast-tracking technologies such as live chat, video, live-streaming, and social shopping.
Looking ahead, with retailers increasingly investing into digital experiences, commerce is expected to become prevalent in emerging channels, such as online gaming. Businesses traditionally reliant on in-person selling will also gradually embrace digital to reach existing and new audiences.
In light of digital-first shopping, the post-purchase digital experience — from convenient payments to embedded service and loyalty — will also be prioritised more than ever.
Physical experiences will rebound, but digital will dominate
The global pandemic accelerated digital change that was already on the horizon, though its artificial nature will slowly (but surely) cause some rebound of physical experiences once life returns to normal.
In anticipation, retailers can modify their in-store shopping experience to drive digital: Imagine shopping in a store as your phone serves up information about a product you’ve been looking at online and directs you to the aisle where it’s located. With tech like this, the store will be a new growth channel for digital.
Additionally, bricks-and-mortars can create fully emotional connections generated by touch — a sense in shopping repressed during the pandemic — through pop-ups, brand collaborations, events and more.
To build the physical-digital bridge, store strategy must be divided into two lanes: efficiency and experiential.
- Efficiency is about seamlessly connecting the digital shopper with products and services, using stores as mini-distribution sites for buy-online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) and curb-side pickup.
- Experiential pertains to creating moments that inspire, excite, and take customers on a multi-sensory journey that builds brand affinity and amplification.
Despite in-store shopping expected to rebound, digital-first is still the reality retailers are embracing to build experiences that synergize all touchpoints—whether online or offline.
Personalisation is the new black
Twenty-twenty changed the retail industry forever. Year-long exposure to early promotions, free shipping, and contactless commerce has given customers higher expectations for personalisation, service, and omnichannel transactions. Indeed, 79 per cent of consumers say that the customer experience is as important as a brand’s products and services. Altogether, this shift means that personalisation will take precedence in retail strategy.
Today, consumers are more willing to share their personal information for a more curated experience. When we asked 10,000 consumers what made their favorite brands stand out, the top answer was the capacity to cater to unique needs. The experience that a brand provides through meaningful and relevant communications creates the authenticity that shoppers crave.
To meet these needs, retailers are predicted to power personalisation at scale with well-defined artificial intelligence (AI) strategies. This also means that omnichannel experiences must be personalised and seamless to service customers in any way they want. For example, through an SMS conversation, a shopper might want to receive promotional offers and complete a transaction, but also reach out to the retailer for help.
We’ve learnt this year that the consumer journey is not a funnel, it’s an infinite loop; brands can earn loyalty by nurturing customer relationships at every stage of the journey across channels.
Young consumers will reward uniqueness
Gen Z will continue solidifying itself as the main driver for retail in an all-digital world. It is these digital natives who hauled their parents and grandparents into new shopping behaviors in 2020, driving significant increases in digital sales. While their true spending power may not be recognised yet, their outsized influence will become more omnipresent in industries ripe for disruption.
Today, younger consumers increasingly seek connectedness with a brand — its heritage, what it stands for, and its purpose. Expect retailers to respond with creative collaborations, limited products, and sustainability campaigns to build loyalty and trust.
The road to retail recovery is long and arduous. We’ll realistically see improvements in late 2021 and early 2022 as vaccines rollout and lockdowns ease, allowing shoppers to return to stores but with a solidified affinity for digital connectedness to the brand. Meanwhile, online shopping will continue to grow and remain the norm.