Over the course of the past decade, the retail industry has arguably undergone more change than it had in the previous century. Entrepreneurs like Rowland Macy and Richard Sears probably never could have envisioned their modest businesses blossoming into a more than $4 trillion industry in the US in less than 100 years. The rise of a predominant consumer culture has been well-documented, and is responsible for much of the increased demand for consumer and trade goods, but the immense transformation of retail into an institution embedded in the American lifestyle has truly been fueled by growth in available technology.
The boom in tech has created a great amount of competition in the mobile space for retailers. By the end of 2011, 39% of brick-and-mortar retailers with top-500 e-commerce websites by revenue also had mobile websites, and nearly 26% had mobile apps. Still, online sales currently represent only 9% of all retail sales – so what is driving shoppers through the doors?
Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and a drastic increase in average consumer time spent online, marketing for retail has, in essence, evolved from targeted engagement on a single channel to capturing an audience across touchpoints on multiple platforms, devices, and locations. Attracting customers is no longer as simple as offering better pricing or amenities; customers make purchase decisions based on experiences. Just this year, JC Penney reported a severe drop in business when they ceased offering sales and coupons (a hallmark of their brand) in favor of an ‘everyday low price’ pricing structure. It’s not a simple formula; considering how many different items are now listed on the modern retail marketer’s agenda, uniformity of message across each andevery channel becomes more crucial than ever.
The best way to achieve this consistency is to build connected experiences that carry the brand between different times and places of interaction. Consumers have been empowered to research, price, and purchase nearly any product or service within minutes and have it delivered directly to their doorstep. Amidst all the options, delivering the right message at the right moment is the strongest way to influence a purchase. Placing as much information in the hands of consumers in order to make their decision is important, but no amount of messaging is useful without timing and targeting. The challenge is to make the transition across platforms as seamlessly as possible; nail the experience even just once and create invaluable loyalty.