Smartphones, search engines and social media have transformed retail. Mobile phones are fast catching up on laptops as a final destination for bargain-hungry and time-poor shoppers.
In 2017, 40 percent of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in the U.S. came through smartphones and therefore, mCommerce stores, instead of a laptop or desktop-based eCommerce stores and physical retail locations.
M-commerce is no longer a secondary concern to eCommerce. In the last few years, this channel has become fully fledged and is only set to increase in importance over the next few years. Smartphone shopping is more convenient for customers.
Instead of customers using their phones to research, compare prices, read reviews and browse for bargains on social media, mCommerce stores have become the final destination. When customers don’t have the time to get a laptop out and use a full-size browser, this is the perfect solution. Brands wanting to capitalise on this growing trend need to be acutely aware of their mobile user-experience, to ensure their customers can shop as easily on a smartphone as through your eCommerce store.
For retailers, staying aware of technology and sector trends keeps you aware and agile. Here are a few we anticipate you need to be ready for in 2018.
Trends that will impact online retailers
#1: A challenging environment
Economically, we – and many retailers – after a challenging 2017, except more of the same in 2018. The economy, in Europe, the UK and U.S. is relatively healthy – with low unemployment and stability. However, macroeconomic factors and localised situations, such as Brexit in the UK, could have an impact on the wider economy.
Customers who are already price sensitive, and too many of them with too much debt, will keen to find more bargains and savings in 2018. Retailers would be wise to avoid over-stocking, or allocating too much budget to cost items that don’t generate returns.
At the same time, price-sensitive customers will force down margins, which means any advantage you can gain through M/E-commerce is worth pursuing, especially if it results in higher order values, fewer returns and a reduction in the number of carts abandoned. Anything that reduces friction for consumers – making it easier for them to complete a purchase – is worth pursuing, which means user-experience and tech enhancements for mobile stores should be investigated when customers are going to be looking for any reason to avoid spending money.
#2: Mobile-friendly discount/loyalty schemes
When price sensitivity increases, customer loyalty reduces.
And yet, it’s always cheaper and easier to generate more revenue from a loyal customer than convert a new one. Loyalty is worth its weight in gold.
Unfortunately, most schemes are too inconvenient for customers. Not everyone has a printer to print off coupons, discounts and vouchers. Not everyone wants to carry around an extra piece of plastic in their wallet or purse. Even downloading an app, can, for some customers, seem like an unnecessary nuisance.
If you want a frictionless discount/loyalty scheme that actually generates a return, take a look at what your customers prefer. Aim to integrate points – through custom-made or third-party tech solutions – with credit and debit cards, so that points accumulate every time they spend money, whether they do that in-store, online or through your mCommerce shop. You can also ensure discounts and other tailored offers are sent to customers through push notifications that are integrated with in-store POS and e/mCommerce checkouts.
#3: Up-skill retail and online staff
Before customers make a purchase they’ve often conducted an extensive amount of research.
Online, even on smartphones, customers browse competitors. They do this in-store, too. Your staff – whether they’re in-store or interacting with customers via a Live Chat feature – often won’t have access to as much information as the customer.
This needs to change. To ensure your team can hit targets, they need to know as much as the customer. Staff need to ability to check stock levels, offers, competitors deals and personalisation options – using registered customer data – through apps for team members that will enhance the shopping experience for consumers.
#4: Integrate alternative payment options
In North America, Europe and Asia, alternative payment platforms are growing in popularity. M-commerce retailers need to be aware of this and integrate options, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Alipay (amongst others, as needed) to ensure your customers can pay using their preferred method.
#5: Increased mobile competition
Now that mCommerce is generating a larger share of retail revenue, expect increased competition. New competitors and more established brands are going to invest more in this area. And those that haven’t invested enough in user-experience and the back-end tech will strive to achieve a higher standard. For customers, this is good news: Improved user-experiences, more discounts and personalisation. But for retailers, this needs to be achieved at scale to make lower margins more profitable and sustainable.
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