The convergence of technology, data, mobile, and influencer marketing is transforming the shopping experience at an extraordinary pace. The world has gone digital and regardless of demographic, ethnicity, and income, today’s shoppers are using social media to connect and evaluate purchases. What’s more, they’re looking for seamless shopping experiences from in-store to mobile to online. Retailers and brands that grasp the customer need for customized and relevant content that is delivered in real time across all channels will see notable results at checkout in 2014.
Data and its effect on shopping
Led by the profitability of recommendation engines for online retailing giants like Amazon, brick-and-mortar retailers are finally combining the rich information available from purchasing behavior in traditional customer loyalty programs with digital connections, allowing for a more “customized” shopping experience. Today, this primarily takes the form of emails and text messages promoting items and special offers. However, in the near future social-savvy businesses will borrow from the relationships they build with customers online to inform a more personal in-store experience.
Connecting our virtual selves to the physical world
In 2013 we saw the debut of wearable technologies like Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear. These devices will eventually bridge the gap between shopper and retailer to help provide personalized offers and contextualized new product discoveries. Shoppers have always parted with personal information in exchange for increased convenience and savings. Over the next 12 months mobile technologies will speed this trend, giving retailers new ways to connect, inspire, and delight shoppers during their weekly provisioning trips.
The millennial shopper
Millennial shoppers are looking for a connection with their favorite brands above anything else. The brands they follow and interact with need to be willing to have a two-way conversation like never before. In addition, brands need to “humanize” themselves to appeal to the millennials’ sense of connection and that connection needs to happen quickly, if not instantly. When making purchasing decisions, this demographic looks for visual inspiration and connections that integrate products organically into their lives. Visual social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube will continue to grow and resonate with the millennial crowd, so if your brand doesn’t have an active presence on these platforms, you might be missing out on connecting with this generation in a big way.
The multicultural shopper
The exponential growth of Latinos in the U.S. has now translated into an enormous online community that is hungry to engage. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of U.S. Latinos online has grown more than 14% in the past four years to over 33.5 million. When you combine Latinos’ youthful population and their reputation for being among the earliest adopters of tech gadgets along with their heavy consumption of social media, this creates the ideal digital shopper demographic. Online Latinos are looking for culturally relevant connections. They seamlessly switch between English and Spanish language sites to fulfill their specific needs and desires. Brands that connect best are reaching out to Latinos in multiple languages and on targeted websites.
So much for one-stop shopping
The big box stores of the 1980s offered the convenience of one-stop shopping, but this also meant some compromises in quality and selection. Now we can get exactly what we want, when we want it—pretty much anywhere. Need a refill on your prescription? Use your Walgreens app to order from the most convenient store location, then swing by a half hour later to pick it up. Friend’s birthday party this weekend? Just allow 48 hours for that gift to come via Amazon Prime.
Even when consumers do shop in-store, their brick-and-mortar trips are now more specialized: one store for free-range meat and organic produce, one for snacks and beverages, and another for laundry detergent and paper products. Big box offered the convenience of one parking spot, cart, and check out, but we now want personal service, speedy transactions, in-home delivery—and the very best of the best.
The year of the integrated influencer marketing plan
Leveraging your brand advocates and fan’s influence should be a part of any integrated marketing plan. When done the right way through traditional, digital, shopper marketing, or social strategy, the content created by these influencers can help brands amplify existing programs, seed the market with interesting content around new product launches, and even help to right the ship when a brand has faced a challenge. But brands will need to open the corporate doors to transparency and customer listening. Those who do, and who market with these brand ambassadors, not only will gain valuable insights, but also will build engaged audiences.
2014 will be a landmark year
Exponential change is on the horizon and it’s going to be an exciting year. Brands that can harness data, technology, and fuel passion through innovation and unique, personalized experiences with their customers will win the hearts and a share of the wallet of today’s consumer.
Amy Callahan is COO of Collective Bias