Over the last few years most everyone has changed something about the way they shop—adjusting to new technological solutions; testing delivery rather than in store; trying new and different products, brands, and retailers that met needs we didn’t know we had. Facing enormous challenges throughout the last two years, the retail industry had to innovate to keep shoppers happy.
Buzzback has been providing consumer insights since 2000, and we joined forces for a recent webinar to examine how shopping habits and choices are continuing to evolve. Here are insights from that webinar.
This trend overview from the webinar outlines three areas of change:
1. EXPERIENCE: How the experience of shopping is changing.
2. DELIVERY: The new ways that products make their way to us.
3. DIFFERENTIATORS: How retailers are standing out in an increasingly crowded and complex field.
The retail experience is changing like never before as brands embrace technology to connect with customers, making shopping more engaging, fun, information-rich, and making how we shop the center of attention.
ARAR/VR/MR and the Metaverse
– IKEA has developed an app called IKEA Kreative to help you envision furniture in your space. After you take some pictures, the app “removes” all your furniture so you can design your own space to bring IKEA 3D products into your home, in mixed reality (MR).
– It seems like every day there is a new brand activation in the metaverse. Samsung has created an immersive space for people to play, dance, discover, create, and connect with others in the metaverse, with the option to personalize products in a way “that make their lives easier.”
Social media has reeled us in with “social commerce”
This feature allows for easy browsing and purchasing without leaving an app, and it includes everything from home goods to fashion to services. To give you a sense of the scale, here is one stat from Morning Brew : “43% of retailers that sell on social platforms say 50%+ of their revenue comes from social media sales.”
We’re already conditioned to browse online before shopping live, now live streaming brings us even closer to the real thing with an interactive talk show-like experience where customers can ask questions and “buy now”—very close to being in the store! In fact, ShopifySHOP has found that “half of shoppers want to see product videos before they buy.”
Experience: Looking Ahead
These innovations are already amazing, and I’m certain it is only going to become more immersive, interactive, and fun, with more options for how to visualize potential purchases and engage with brands.
– Watch for innovations like virtual fit and virtual try-on tech to improve, and for virtual worlds to offer more fun and exploration while building loyalty.
At the start of the pandemic, we were just thankful that items could get to our homes, but now we want that same level of speed and convenience —all the time. Retailers have met the challenge with new solutions including fleets of electric delivery vehicles, delivery drones, cute robots, and BOPIS solutions.
Curbside, same day, 2 hour
We want what we want, when we want it, wherever we want it. Can’t or don’t want to come into the store? The store will have it ready for you, curbside. Gotta have it right away? You can get it next day, or many retailers even have same day options. In the middle of a party or a picnic? Shipt’s ads say they will shop for you and find you wherever you are…even poolside. It’s all about convenience.
Robots and drones
– They’re a novelty at this stage but robots are showing up on streets and sidewalks everywhere even as they continue to evolve and improve. The Starship robots profess to be a faster, cleaner, and smarter delivery solution.
The Tiny Mile robot named Geoffrey, painted pink and with hearts for eyes. Geoffrey aims to “empower neighborhoods with low-impact and affordable delivery.” Sharif Virani of Tiny Miles says that “Geoffrey is your modern-day friendly postman in pink. It’s just the next iteration of that delivery guy, and there’s a human face behind it.” More convenience with added purpose!
– Drones: Amazon Prime Air is ready to launch a pilot drone delivery program in Lockeford, California with the goal of getting items to customers quickly, cost-effectively, and—most importantly—safely, in less than an hour.
We got used to buying razors direct, and then having mattresses show up on our doorstep, but now lots of categories are cutting out the middleman as consumers embrace DTC. A report from Diffusion states “Nearly 60% of US adults purchased from a D2C brand at least once in 2021, while 65% said they plan to shop with a D2C brand in 2022.” And in categories you wouldn’t expect, like ice cream brand Jeni’s. “You don’t typically think of shipping ice cream, but Jeni’s does it — opening up new revenue opportunities even in places they don’t have a brick-and-mortar store.”
Delivery Looking Ahead
Retailers, brands, and entrepreneurs continue to adapt, experiment, and innovate to give customers the most convenient, seamless, and delightful experience. Expect customers to demand more from brands.
– They’ll be looking for more control like smart tracking, options they can choose from, and, increasingly, green solutions.
Standing out in a crowded field has always been a challenge. Building that base of loyal and returning customers will be predicated on how retailers differentiate their brand creating a positive, affordable, convenient, helpful, fun, and relevant experience.
Fictional influencers, also known as virtual influencers, are created by brands to do everything real influencers do but with more control and imagination. No scandals, no real-life mishaps. For example, Lu of Magalu from Magazine Luiza, a Brazilian retailer has “31 million followers and is the most-followed virtual Influencer on the internet of 2022.” They have infused her with the characteristics of a real person; the style, opinions, and causes she fights for. She was even on the cover of Vogue Brazil.
Guggimon is the fun, provocative influencer from Superplastic the toy character creator, and has, according to Christopher Travers, “been elevated beyond toy culture and into the mainstream, appearing in Fortnite as skins, partnering with Gucci and Paris Hilton, and selling out NFT drops.”
Taking a stand
For some brands taking a stand on issues is a natural move and is easily aligned with their values, but others are struggling to find the right balance. Consumers, however, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, say that brands that take action in response to injustice earn more trust.
A survey from Sprout SocialSPT found 71% of U.S. customers agree or strongly agree that it’s important for brands to take a stand on sensitive topics – up 7.6% from 2017.” And skincare brand founder, Sarah Brown believes that “customers are looking for brands to align with their values. They are calling out complacency and demanding transparency. A purchase now represents your values, a demonstration of shared beliefs between customer and brand.”
In June, inflation reached a 40 year high and it’s been hitting consumers hard. The drop in gas prices in the US has been a welcome change but people are cutting costs wherever they can by eliminating or canceling services or products, or switching to cheaper alternatives.
The internet is full of suggestions for acknowledging the problem and helping customers live with inflation:
• Develop generic/white label options
• Offer bulk self-serve
• Create seamless online and mobile presence for deal and sales alerts
• Switch to a digital coupon strategy—-printed coupons are dying
• Expand frozen grocery options
• Innovate information apps like GasBuddy
• Encourage fewer shopping trips with tips and reminders
• Advertise overstocks
Differentiators: Looking Ahead
Standing out in the crowd will be done in three primary ways:
• Controlling how your brand is perceived whether it’s authentic or provocative
• Committing to transparency and conviction that aligns with what consumers expect your brand to stand for
• Empathize with customers letting them know you understand them during an uncertain time; helping customers manage the tough times never goes out of style