2016 has been a great year for retail. Things largely shifted from product-centric to consumer-centric. New technologies revolutionized the way people shop and while e-commerce still leads the way ahead of brick-and-mortar, 2016 saw the lines being blurred as people decided to expand their shopping experience. Omnichannel took centerstage as shopping wasn’t an isolated activity, but something people liked to do all day and pick up where they left off, often on different devices. Mobile rocked the world of ecommerce and convenient shopping on the go became the mantra.
With so many great things happening, 2016 provided us with some riveting material to write. Obsessed as we are with understanding consumer behaviour, we touched topics that try to explore the depths of a shopper’s psyche and help businesses figure out exactly what they can do to make their customers happy.
Take a look at the most read articles of 2016 to see what struck a chord with the larger populace, what we learnt from it all and what it means to the future of retail and ecommerce.
Looks like some topics just remain fascinating, no matter what the context. We’ll probably never stop wondering what makes men and women so different.
In this particular article, Anneke Van Aswegen talks about how men and women shop and at the very outset, gives you one big takeaway – They Are Different. You must market to them differently. There’s just no blurring the lines here.
While men go shopping to solve a problem, women go shopping to have an experience. Or like Anneke very correctly says, men are on a mission, women are on a journey. We couldn’t have said it better, really. It’s just the very essence of gender specific marketing. Men like to quickly find a product that solves their problem, a straightforward, utilitarian approach. Women on the other hand, wish to enjoy the process of shopping, try different products, discover new ones, and experience the journey of buying a product.
The article opens with a rather intriguing revelation that while 43% of sales are influenced by online, online sales account for only about 9% of retail. The article delves deep into finding solutions to bridge this gap.
Through the article, you will find that the reasons why some websites don’t do very well at selling despite having great products and easy checkouts, are actually related to some very basic human emotions. For instance, there are enough problems in the world already, shopping shouldn’t be another one. Websites should be simple, easy to navigate and should make relevant products easy to find. Also, using concepts like gamification, graphics and videos help make things interesting and keep a buyers attention long enough (which ain’t easy, we promise you that).
The article also emphasizes the importance of product descriptions which should be good enough to make up for the lack of being able to physically touch and feel the products. Most importantly, the article stressed the importance of helping customers choose. Help them find the right product when they aren’t sure, and they are sure to keep coming back.
Now that is important, as you can tell by the very title. You have to know why the customer would want your product, what it would do to his/her life, instead of just reciting the features your product boasts. This succinct article by Bill Wildmer perfectly captures the essence of marketing, which is that you need to sell value and not just a commodity.
“Guided Selling is basically answering the paradigm on ‘I go to that store because there is a good salesman who knows exactly what I need and will give me the right directions’.”
Euginio Cassiano, VP Global Accounts Europe, SAP Hybris, perfectly sums up the concept of Guided Selling in that one sentence.
In this very popular article, 12 successful ecommerce experts from around the world shared their opinion on the importance of Guided Selling for ecommerce. All of them agreed that one of the biggest problems customers face today is difficulty choosing the right product from the million and a half options out there.
A brilliant Guided Selling strategy that asks the right questions, correctly assesses what products would best please the customer and shortlisting the select few as opposed to presenting a hundred options in each category is definitely the way to go.
This article by Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at London based Insider Trends, shines a light on three trends that really ruled the retail scene in 2016 and will continue to do so, as they are just so fundamentally useful. Firstly, Cate points out that retail spaces are not just stores anymore, they must showcase the products with innovative design, often blurring the lines between a store and a gallery, to keep the visitors intrigued and enamoured.
The second trend Cate marked out was the rise of brand communities, like the Nike Run Club, that offer a whole new level of customer engagement that creates more than just loyal customers, it creates a lifestyle.
Finally, a very predominant trend is that of in-store technology. 2016 has already seed POS tech like RFID, QR Codes, Virtual Mirrors and Beacons take the retail world by storm and this trend is only going to grow and be adopted my more stores, until it becomes the way of the world.
What hints of being a post about Halloween shopping turns out to be a super savvy article about how e-tailers can become their customers’ favourite by integrating an interactive product advisor to their website. To give you a demo, Daria Yaver, SMARTASSISTANT’s very own SEM expert designed a fun and smart quiz about Halloween costume shopping that makes the humongous task of choosing one out of hundreds of costumes, so much easier and fun, and tells you how you can do the same to win your consumers over too.
Celebrity endorsements aren’t new to the world of retail. They have been with us for a long, long time now. However, consumers today are way more aware and conscious of what they are buying and hence, celebrity endorsements alone won’t fly if there isn’t real quality in your product, says Angela Sokolovska, Marketing Director at BOND.mk.
Every customer that comes into a store falls into one of four categories. The Expert – one who knows exactly what he wants to buy, The Lister – one who knows the features he’s looking for but needs to choose among the options, The Browser – one who just began browsing to see if anything catches his interest and The Novice – one who is looking for genuine advice from you to solve his problem. This very targeted, solution oriented article shows you exactly how to help each one of these customers.
The finance industry has quite literally turned on its head after the financial crisis. People are less trusting towards banks and are willing to change banks after a single unhappy interaction. The competition too is fierce as a great deal of new banks and finance portals emerge. Abby Driver, in her article, talks about exactly what customers expect from a bank and how you can fine tune your services and care to keep up with the changing times.
Consumers today want more than just shopping, they want an experience. While online shopping is loved for many reasons, people still crave for a social experience which is why conversational commerce is gaining traction with the millennials. Chatbots and virtual assistants engage with consumers on a very personal level, making the entire process of shopping much more intuitive, automated as well as fun. This article, another one by Angela Sokolovska once again expounds about the importance of adopting new, path breaking technology to help customers and in turn help sales.
So those were the 10 most loved articles of 2016 and some very clear patterns have emerged here. If we had to sum up the key takeaways from these, they would be –
- In the end, it’s all about making your customer happy. Shopping must be enjoyable, quick and hassle free. Customers will pay an extra dime, if they get excellent service from you and quickly move away if the customer experience isn’t at par.
- Digital Advice is going to be the next big thing. As product variety explodes and there are a hundred variants to choose from in even the most mundane categories, customers will reward you with much greater business if you can help them choose the right product and make their life simple.
- Technology. Technology. You must innovate, make checkouts even smoother, product discovery even faster and shopping experiences even more enjoyable. Nothing attracts consumers like new technology, anything that makes life easier and more fun. So go on, make shopping fun and watch how the business grows.