As November comes to a close, it’s increasingly dominated by week-long Black Friday offers. If you’re an avid shopper, you may have found that your favourite brands have flown into your inbox and you’re suddenly scrolling through your social media feeds or favourite websites and being tempted by targeted ads.
In the months prior to this, retailers have been hard at work, strategising new ways to drive web traffic to their online flagship while also establishing an engaging and seamless in-store experience.
With a background in retail management, I can confidently say that over the years attitudes to shopping and the way in which people prefer to shop has drastically changed. For example, a recent survey from Feefo found that m-commerce and the use of smartphones for online shopping in the UK has skyrocketed by 141% in past 12 months. This statistic highlights the importance of accessibility while on the go. In addition to this, a study from Doodle, showed that 68% of shoppers who purchase online also opt for a ‘click & collect’ service, demonstrating how the integration of technology has seamlessly blended into the store experience.
However, taking a deeper look into the more advanced options available you might be shocked by the increasing levels of personalisation being used to enhance the retail industry both on and offline. Take fashion giant H&M for example; last year the brand trialled smart mirrors in its Times Square flagship store. Using these mirrors, customers were given personal styling advice and encouraged to take selfies that were then virtually integrated into the H&M catalogue. And, as a bonus, they were also able to download the image to their mobile phones with a QR code.
Another essential tool being integrated into most digital platforms are chatbots. The advancements in AI (artificial intelligence) means that brands are employing bots as a way to stay ahead of the competition as they can simulate conversations with customers and influence their spending behaviours. Chatbots also benefit businesses with increased communication outside the normal working hours and following initial outreach, users can enable push notifications, meaning brands can follow up after an interaction and resolve any problems quickly.
This trend shows no signs of slowing down either, a recent study from Juniper Networks forecast sales from bots will account for $112 billion by 2023, clearly showing that virtual assistants are fast becoming the future of e-commerce.
With so many ways to shop, and many more exciting new buying innovations to be discovered, I can only imagine how the industry may evolve over the next few years. However, one thing we can be sure about is that accessibility, experience and ease will be the key components shaping service and driving change.