Ten years in retail: then and now

It seems as though the past 10 years have flown by. But looking back, an awful lot has changed, especially in the hyper-competitive and ever-evolving retail environment.

Let’s take a look at the major changes that retail has undergone in the past 10 years.

The rise of online

During online shopping’s infancy many shoppers were a little distrustful and unwilling to change their in-person shopping habits.

But as broadband rolled out around the world throughout the noughties, the rise of online shopping has been astronomical. As technology got better, and delivery got quicker and more reliable, people began to realise quite how much time – and often money – can be saved by shopping online.

In response to the online boom, many retailers are experimenting with more experiential, engaging in-store experiences. Stores are realising they need to offer customers more than just shopping to keep them interested. Find out more in our experiential retail blog.

Smartphones got smarter

When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007, it transformed the way people communicate, shop and work. However, it was the dawn of the App Store a year later that made the iPhone a real game-changer.  This revolutionary mobile ecosystem instantly blew every other smartphone on the planet away, and signalled a new generation of mobile devices.

As phone technology improved, people began purchasing on their smartphones and tablets, too. A whopping 62% of smartphone users report that they have made a purchase on their phone in the last six months – a fact unthinkable 10 years ago.

So, what does this mean for bricks-and-mortar stores? While it certainly doesn’t mean the end, it does mean that retailers need to think multi-channel. From apps to mobile-optimised websites, you need to create a consistent, multi-channel customer-led experience so that people can research and follow-up their in-store visits seamlessly.

Data, data, data

Analytics technology has completely changed over the last decade. The term ‘Big Data’ has been kicking around in nerdy circles for some time, but in the last decade it has become a marketing holy grail – driving understanding and confusion in equal measure.

Back in 2008, you would walk into most retail stores as an anonymous customer. You could buy what you wanted, and walk out leaving the brand none the wiser about who you are, or what you wanted.

But this isn’t the case anymore. Clever brands are collecting and using customer data to enhance or personalise your shopping experiences.

Asking for a customer’s email address at check out and having an app are great ways to collect customer data, and increasingly commonplace. Both allow brands to follow up follow-up with consumers, turning one-time visits into ongoing relationships.

Nordstrom is one brand doing some innovative things to make sure their in-store offering will appeal to their customers. How? By tracking the trending Pinterest posts of their target audience. Finding out what is most popular, they then highlight similar products in their own store.

Bringing the digital in-store

Up until fairly recently, printed material was a given for assets around the store – like price tags, displays and boards. They’re fairly cheap, reliable and have traditionally been effective.

However, it’s not the only option. Digital screens have found a place in retail stores. Movement catches the eye, so video assets can be more effective that static signage, and the assets can be changed an unlimited number of times. Though they do incur a high initial cost, they pay for themselves eventually due to decreased print costs.

From interactive store maps, to product video tutorials, to real-time pricing or stock levels, digital screens can be used in a number of ways to help customers and ease pressure on staff at the same time.

Convenience is king

One of the barriers to in-store shopping is undoubtedly time. After a busy day, it’s tempting to do your shopping when you’ve finally crashed on the sofa after a long day.

Providing an online shopping experience is one way brands can facilitate this, but what else can they do? Convenience shopping has risen steadily over the past decade, as have convenience-based services.

For example, Tesco launched click and collect services back in 2011, while delivery lockers and even delivery shops have sprung up in urban areas in the past few years.

We’ve also seen the rise of self check out. By 2013, there were 200,000 of them globally. Quick, compact and cheaper long-term than staff, they have become ubiquitous in grocery shores.

Tesco and Waitrose have gone one step further with scan-as-you-shop devices that mean you can pack as you shop and don’t have to queue up at all. Amazon even trialled a “just walk out payment in 2016.

Big data, big innovation and big change – the past 10 years have put a lot on a marketer’s plate. If you’d like to find out how we can help you make this complex retail landscape a whole lot simpler for your brand, get in touch.

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