In a year where the global economy expanded at a slower pace than many had hoped, retailers worldwide continued to see sales grow considerably on the web. Estimates suggest that the global e-commerce industry will generate $1.2 trillion in sales by the end of this year, driven largely by rapid growth in Asia and the changing shopping habits of consumers worldwide.
Over the next 12 months, global e-commerce sales are expected to top $1.4 trillion for the first time, as more consumers use mobile and tablet devices to shop. However, 2014 will not be a year for retailers to rest on their laurels. Shoppers are looking for a richer, more personal shopping experience and retailers must reassess how they sell and what they sell if they are to thrive.
Rakuten and Business Review Australia outline the top five global trend predictions for the retail industry in 2014 >>>
1. Content shopping will be king
The lines between entertainment and shopping are blurring further and 2014 will see more retailers offer shoppers a richer, content-led shopping experience. Driven by the media, which have become retailers in their own right to bolster dwindling revenues from advertising and subscriptions, savvy retailers are using multimedia content to make the shopping experience more engaging. Retailers recognize that shoppers are no longer satisfied by the vending machine model of the last decade; they want to be entertained and informed as they browse the web and make purchasing decisions.
2. Social will steer retailers’ stocking decisions
Social media’s power to influence what people buy is widely recognized and in 2014 it will also influence what retailers sell. The rapid growth of social curation communities like Pinterest, where consumers curate their own collections of products that they like, offers retailers access to invaluable insights in near real-time, something that traditional market research simply cannot compete with. Savvy retailers will use social shopping communities as a temperature check for popular product trends and use this insight to inform and refine stocking decisions accordingly.
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3. Omni-channel will require a single customer view
Retailers understand that shoppers often interact with them through multiple channels, but what actually happens along this journey can be a mystery. In any given day a shopper could interact with a brand on multiple devices and through multiple platforms, from mobile browsing in the morning, to lunchtime shopping on a work laptop or liking a product in a social news feed later in the day. In 2014, a top priority for retailers will be to join up the dots between these channels so that a more comprehensive customer profile can be developed. Insight garnered by analyzing the purchase journey of shoppers will help retailers to streamline the channels through which they sell and personalize the shopping experience, helping to boost their bottom line.
4. Hyper targeting will take the online personalization in-store
The long-held dream of being able to target shoppers in real-time, with relevant and personalized, location-based offers took a big step forward in 2013 with Apple’s launch of iBeacon, which allows precise, low-cost indoor tracking in stores. There has been much excitement about the prospect of hyper-targeting shoppers on the go and in 2014 retailers will begin to take this proposition more seriously. We expect to see a number of high profile trials of hyper-targeting technology as retailers grapple to deliver the highly personalized experience that shoppers now expect online and in their brick and mortar stores.
5. Mass customization will make products feel personal
Consumers today don’t just want run-of-the-mill products, they want something that’s unique and reflects their personality. Retailers understand this and we are seeing more companies offer personalized products, from custom engravings to the ability to select bag zip or pocket colour in advance. As this trend gathers pace in 2014, there is a huge opportunity for small to medium enterprises to carve out a market niche against bigger retailers, while adding value to existing products through customization. Furthermore, the concept of customization should extend beyond the product itself; retailers need to look at how they can offer a more customized shopping experiences online by using insights gathered in customer profiles.
Commenting on what retailers can expect in the New Year, Bernard Luthi, CMO and COO at Rakuten.com Shopping, said: “In 2014, retailers will have access to more information about their customers’ preferences and shopping habits than ever before. Used intelligently, this insight will not only shape what products retailers stock but also how they market and sell them. As more shoppers embrace multiple channels when shopping, retailers must take steps to better understand the journey that customers take. This insight will give retailers the understanding they need to develop relevant content and personalized deals, and ultimately help to generate more sales.”