Technology has brought a wave of change throughout all sectors. In particular, the retail sector has seen a huge shift not only from a customer perspective, but a business perspective too. People aren’t just using the digital world to buy, they’re using it to gather information before deciding to purchase. Studies show that, between 2015 and 2017, there was an 85% increase in the number of searched for footwear reviews. For example, a customer might know they want a pair of black chukka boots, but they want to make sure they’re getting the best pair from their budget.
Prior to purchase
Google has revealed that, as users, we are becoming more specific with our choice of search terms. Rising search terms between 2015 and 2017 included ‘kids light up shoes’ and ‘men’s Italian dress shoes’. This is possibly because we often know precisely what product we desire and are confident that our search will yield relevant results due to the vast amount of available information on the internet.
Window shopping has been replaced with taking inspiration from the online world. Social media was the first choice when respondents were asked where they get online inspiration from for their purchases. This behaviour has paved the way for social media influencers and celebrity endorsements too. In fact, the search term ‘influencer marketing’ experienced a 325% increase in searches between 2016 and 2017 — demonstrating company and agency interest in the new technique.
The purchasing process has never been easier, with many online spaces offering super-quick one-click purchases. But even with this rapid purchasing capability, customers are actually able to take a moment to speak directly to a business unlike ever before. This potential user-to-business engagement allows an individual to connect more with a brand, through social media contact and additional communication channels (such as live chat and 24/7 phone lines).
What about ‘try before you buy’?
How are physical shops faring in this new world of digital dominance? Although visits to physical stores were once falling, weekly bricks-and-mortar shoppers are up from 40% in 2015 to 44% in 2018. This could be due to people using shopping as a social activity. What new opportunities does this bring to retailers? Retailers with physical stores have the chance to reduce their stock levels on-site and use the newfound space to create a more enjoyable, sensory experience for shoppers.
There’s also been an increase in the number of mobile phone shoppers. In fact, statistics show that mobile commerce more than doubled between 2013 and 2018, rising from 7% to 17%. It’s looking likely that mobile shopping sales will soon surpass PC-based buying, which is currently at 20%.The increase in mobile commerce suggests that less people are trying before they buy, as they would in a store. The delivery and returns process has been made so easy by many retailers in order to encourage customers to order their products first and then try them at home. Customers are getting used to the convenient delivery service too. In fact, 25% of customers said that they wouldn’t continue with their orders if one-day delivery wasn’t available.
Quicker service and a wider array of goods are just some of the ways the shopping world has been changed. We’ve seen the demise of some high street stores as they struggle to keep up with the requirements of consumers of the digital age. So, what does the future look like for the shopping industry?
The next frontier might be the last leg of the purchase process, with delivery being made swifter. There is discussion from some online retailers of a 30-minute drone delivery — almost 40% of customers would consider this as a method too! We can also expect to see more engaging stores as companies try to encourage more store visits.
Plus, there’s also the chance that influencer marketing will expand beyond its current popularity. But, due to the rapid speed of technological advancements, it’s hard to predict exactly what’s around the corner.