Until relatively recently, retail was a wholly in-person experience, but following the pandemic and increased digital literacy in general, more people have moved their shopping online with little intention of turning back.

Retail has always had to contend with changing customer behaviours and habits, but how are new trends shaping the way businesses move forward?

As cost reduction consultants, we’ve worked with various companies to ensure they can reduce retail operating costs; we understand how important it is to adapt to changing markets in the most efficient ways possible.

Seamless Social Commerce

Social media platforms are now catering to retailers more directly and allowing native shopping rather than directing users to third-party sites when they want to purchase. This creates a more seamless experience, reducing the time that users have to shop around and encouraging them to buy what they want when scrolling on Facebook or Instagram directly.

Native social commerce continues to become more user-friendly, and for many, it simplifies the shopping experience, making it an innate part of how and why we spend time online. Embracing social commerce is also important to attract younger generation Z customers who have increasing purchasing power and know what they want to buy and who they want to buy it from.

Even as social media commerce becomes more widespread, it’s still important for retailers to offer a seamless experience across channels, making the journey from one channel to another as simple and easy as possible.

Smart Speaker Shopping

In a similar vein, recent years have also seen an increase in customers shopping via smart speakers. This includes using them to research products, track orders and even make purchases.

As smart speakers and voice recognition technology become more advanced and optimised, consumers are placing greater trust that their speakers will provide the correct information they are seeking.

Hybrid Shopping

Still, we’re not living in a wholly digital world, and there are still many shoppers who prefer shopping in physical stores – whether this be because they just find it a more enjoyable experience or want to interact with their potential purchases in person before making a final purchase.

Trends have shown that an increasing number of people are embracing a hybrid shopping experience by doing research online and comparing products and prices there, then going to physical stores to purchase.

Again, retailers must ensure that their experiences across channels are seamless, allowing customers to research and understand products in digital spaces before moving to the traditional store.

Embracing Good & Bad Reviews

One of the most important things for online shoppers nowadays (aside from a speedy CX) is authenticity. Customers want to know they can trust a brand and its products, and one of the best ways to convince them that you are trustworthy is through authentic reviews for verified purchasers.

For several reasons, negative reviews can be just as useful as positive ones. One of these being that they give you increased authenticity. They indicate that all of the reviews are real and from genuine customers, rather than exclusively five-star reviews that might suggest some are fake or negative reviews have been deleted.

Negative reviews also give businesses an opportunity to interact directly with their customer base, building trust as they seek solutions. Shoppers often drive how others see your brand, so turning one customer’s negative online experience into a positive one could help change the minds of others.

Reviews also provide an opportunity to collect user-generated products as customers share images or videos of their purchases. This can be especially useful for small retail businesses that are still solidifying their brand identity.

Immersive Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) functions to bridge the gap between the digital and the physical, helping shoppers visualise what a product would look like in their home (i.e. as used by Ikea) or whether clothing and accessories would suit them for instance.

Makeup brands like Urban Decay and NYX use AR to show users what makeup would look like when worn, with increasing numbers of brands using these filters directly on Instagram and Snapchat.

AR technologies work especially well when integrated into social media platforms, offering an effortless shopping experience that helps businesses ensure they can reach every kind of audience and cater to changing expectations.

A Return to Physical Stores

While it might seem like traditional brick-and-mortar stores are on their way to becoming somewhat obsolete, this is not necessarily true. Many shoppers still enjoy the experience of going to physical stores to browse or make purchases, even if they pair these experiences with online shopping.

The pandemic pushed all retailers to improve their digital offerings, but we’re now also seeing some instances where digital native stores are opening physical stores. Again, this blends the in-person and digital experience more seamlessly.

Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of this is the Amazon Fresh stores which allows Amazon users to shop by scanning in-store items on their phone, eliminating the need to wait at checkouts.

Could we see this kind of shopping method start to become the norm as shoppers continue seeking the convenience and ease of instant mobile?

Retail has changed significantly over the past few years alone and will only continue to change as customer behaviours evolve and new accessible technologies emerge.

To find out how we could support your business adapt to changing market trends by reducing costs and finding new avenues for growth, get in touch with the ERA team.