A CGTN broadcast in 2019 on “The Future of Shopping ” predicted that despite the proliferation of innovative technology, the next 20 years would see retailers providing more interactive experiential events. Retailers and retail marketers are among those who have taken this sentiment to heart.
“It’s all around community,” Customer Experience Futurist, Blake Morgan concluded during the broadcast, adding, “since even if we have a technology-powered society in the future, people still crave human interaction and we have to leave the house to get that.”
Three months after the CGTN media clip dropped, America tipped into COVID-19 pandemic and the why and how of consumers’ purchases changed in numerous ways. Retail marketing had to adjust their models accordingly.
Emerging consumer trends indicate it’s still “all around the community,” albeit as an omnichannel model that blends physical with digital. Retail brands also leverage artificial intelligence and real-time data to deliver more relevant content, product, and service information to consumers.
The shopper path to purchase has changed
People still shop in a linear path from awareness of their needs to researching, evaluating and eventually purchasing their products. In most other areas, however, the pandemic fundamentally altered consumers attitudes, behaviors and purchasing habits.
For one, corporate reports show that consumers now prioritize their emotional, situational and motivational needs over sustainability and brands, according to The Conversation. Rising inflation, tax rises, higher prices, and disrupted supply chains have made shoppers more frugal on the one hand, the article notes. Lockdown with its sacrifices has prompted a deluge of impulsive spending on the other.
When it comes to consumer decision-making, a recent article in Business Perspectives and Research reports that today’s shoppers have become “ROPOs,” which means they research online before purchasing offline. According to Google, consumers use its search engine to shop more than 1 billion times a day, with 48% of consumers saying they get inspiration for purchases when they are online.
Since the onset of the pandemic, billions of people have turned to online shopping, with 43% of consumers saying they would shop more online now than they did before the pandemic, per ChannelAdvisor.
“The accelerated consumer shift toward digital is here to stay,” Nike’s CEO John Donahoe told CNBC. “Digital is fueling how we create the future of retail.”
Consumer psychology: The three EIRs
Today’s consumers are hyper-focused on their cognitive and emotional needs rather than on their loyalty to brands. The ROPOs study by Dr. Vipul Patel, professor of technology in marketing at Victoria University, India, focused on 526 consumers and concluded that modern consumers could be categorized as those who buy to maximize value, those who seek to avoid risk and those who purchase for convenience.
Savvy retailers address these drives with what Atif Farooqui of training and consultancy firm MAK-blue calls the EIR model: emotional hooks, imagery and reason to buy. Avail digital advertising and offer products with long-term benefits that are visually appealing, hyper personalized and experiential.
Some examples include Sephora layering its path-to-purchase with referrals from beauty bloggers and endorsements and Johnson & Johnson’s recent launch of a book club to give customers a way to socialize in person.
Retail marketers: The omnichannel approach
As e-commerce became “m-commerce” and then social commerce, most of the world’s successful businesses and retail marketers have adapted to omnichannel retail that integrates all the channels you sell through – including email, mobile, social and the physical store.
Innovative technology – virtual assistants, robots, drones, artificial intelligence and augmented reality shopping experiences – have become a facet of today’s evolving retail experience as consumers seek the excitement and convenience that comes with digital shopping.
Retailers find they need to digitize their retail stores and plug in robust e-commerce platforms to retain consumers.
Some retail brands purchase innovative marketing technologies, such as machine learning to keep up with demand and to help their companies stay relevant as they scale across both physical and digital landscapes.
Most businesses also have a robust social media presence to meet consumers where they are. Models such as “buy online, pick up in store” are now part and parcel of the options consumers expect as they shop. It’s all about merging digital experiences with those in stores.
In short, that CTGN broadcast was right that shopping was poised for rapid transformation. It could never have seen how quickly that change came, however.
A pandemic, followed by economic uncertainty, has irreversibly changed consumer needs and behavior and forced retail marketers to adjust their models. Hyper personalization and an omnichannel experience have become table stakes.
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