In 2020, the retail industry experienced rapid, large-scale disruption as customers chose to stay home due to the public health pandemic, and instead move to more online e-commerce experiences. Now, retail marketers must determine how they can take these changes and apply them to their marketing strategy moving forward.
Consumer-facing industries are creating and implementing next-generation marketing strategies to improve the customer experience in the coming year. Already, customers are capable of making purchases through a variety of channels, giving them a considerable amount of control over their path to purchase. To stay relevant with these consumer-centric trends in retail, marketing teamswill need to be able to engineer memorable customer experiences using advanced, data-driven marketing analytics.
What is Retail Marketing?
Retail marketing is the strategies, tactics, and initiatives through which retail organizations drive brand awareness, sales, and overall ROI. With the unforeseen changes of the past year, 2021 is poised to introduce a number of emerging trends in retailing to combat evolving challenges.
7 Retail Marketing Trends For 2021
Every facet of a retail organization should be leveraging advanced marketing analytics software to meet customer demands. From manufacturers optimizing their production, to sales staff understanding how to best communicate with customers, data-driven marketing will be central to an organization’s overarching customer-centric strategy.
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Let’s take a closer look at seven of the leading retail marketing trends that organizations will need to be prepared for throughout 2021:
Trend #1. Eliminating Delayed Gratification
Today’s consumers want their demands fulfilled as quickly as possible. It wasn’t too long ago that online shoppers believed it was reasonable to wait weeks for their products to arrive. Now, about a decade later, consumers are beginning to expect free overnight shipping from online retailers. This coupled with the fact that more people than ever are choosing to shop from home, means that retailers must be prepared to deliver on expectations.
Retailers need to respond to this trend by creating processes that allow order fulfillment to be as agile as possible. This requires precisely forecasting your customer’s demand by tracking purchase cycles within your market, and stocking products accordingly.
Trend #2. Streamlining Online and Offline Experiences for Hyper-Personalization
Personalization has been a mainstay in retail innovation for most of the decade. In 2021, this trend is expected to continue as retailers take a more holistic look at customer data. Instead of using a customer’s data to send them targeted advertisements and promotions, retailers will use personalized people-based marketing insights to create simple, streamlined shopping processes. For today’s time-pressed consumers, this is a significant value-add. At a time when many people would prefer to shop online only, creating a personal experience based on customer insights can help to fill the gap that would otherwise be filled by a selesperson in-store.
Retailers should use information about a customer’s likes, needs, and values to provide the most relevant experiences to customers. So, if a customer visits your online storefront, they should view personalized recommendations based on their recent search and past purchases, both online and offline. It’s critical that marketers consider how these efforts will be measured, as attribution models like media mix modeling and multi-touch attribution cannot effectively provide the granular, cross-channel insights needed to make informed decisions for future media planning. Instead, they should consider taking advantage of marketing technology that can derive a more comprehensive unified marketing measurement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also created a clear need for adaptability. Many marketers have found themselves struggling to keep up as their historical data and usual benchmarks for performance no longer apply. In 2021 and onward, flexible marketing analytics will be critical to keeping up with unforeseen changes in the marketplace. Marketers should re-evaluate if their current solutions can take this fact into consideration. If not, they should consider platforms that leverage intelligent algorithms like Bayesian learning and forgetting, which enables marketers to collect only the most relevant data.
Trend #3. Leverage Experiences Powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
AI marketing and machine learning will be leveraged to create personalized recommendations based on the real-time needs of customers. This allows them to make simpler, instant decisions, leading to a better customer experience.
An example of this would be Peapod, a grocery delivery service, which leverages a service called “Order Genius,” that creates personalized recommendations for online grocery shoppers. It creates a smart grocery list that can be fulfilled in moments by considering a customer’s past purchases and their purchase cycles. So, Order Genius will suggest that a shopper that previously ordered bread reorders it on a weekly basis, while recommending that the same customer only repurchases deodorant on a monthly basis. This personalized approach to grocery shopping makes the process simpler for customers, improving their experience.
Trend #4. Socially Integrated Visualized Search
Have you ever seen a passerby with an outfit that you liked, and wondered where they bought it? Retailers are providing an answer to this situation by optimizing their product offerings for visual search. Visual search allows users to simply take a picture of the outfit – or download a photo of a similar outfit – and search for articles of clothing within the picture. Then, a search engine like Google will provide a list of matching items, giving users an easy path to purchase.
To prepare for the emergence of visual search, retailers should ensure they have a presence on image-based platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. For example, fashion brands should constantly provide new photographs that model their newest clothing. Then, customers can use an application like Google Lens to identify exactly what piece of the outfit they’d like to shop for from that photo.
As image search becomes more sophisticated, retailers can also use it alongside marketing AI to create product innovations. With this technology, customers could link their Instagram or Pinterest to their customer profile, allowing the retailer to analyze the photos within. From there, they could curate a list of recommended items that suit a shopper’s existing outfits or general sense of style.
Trend #5. eCommerce Shopping on Social Media
According to Forbes, roughly 15,000 retailers closed their brick-and-mortar stores in 2020. As a result, many social media platforms have introduced e-commerce shopping experiences. For example, Instagram recently announced the Shop tab, which gives users an opportunity to search for and connect with brands, creators, and products. Alternatively, many brands are taking advantage of influencer-based marketing by partnering up with popular content creators for sponsored partnerships and affiliate marketing. As these digital platforms continue to bring the shopping experience directly to consumers, brands should consider how they can leverage them to gain actionable insight into their target audience for even further personalization.
Trend #6. Transparency and Values-based Branding
Roughly 71% of consumers prefer to purchase from brands that they feel align with their personal values. Growing concerns around data privacy and recent political unrest means that people expect transparency from today’s brands - and now more than ever, they expect to see companies “walking-the-walk.” Otherwise, they run the risk of incurring reputational damage that can have long-lasting effects on brand equity and perception, even among loyal customers.
Trend #7: Shopping Assistance via Smart Home Speakers and Chatbots
The smart speaker market is growing rapidly, with market revenue projections of 35.5 billion in the next 5 years. These devices, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, allow customers to order something without ever having to look at a screen. Additionally, retailers are turning away from the use of face-to-face customer support and instead are leveraging chatbots and virtual assistants to guide users through their online shopping experience. As these trends continue to grow, retailers will need to consider how they can optimize their strategies to meet customers where they are.
Preparing for Emerging Retail Marketing Trends
2020 brought rapid, unprecedented change across the retail industry, potentially changing the way customers shop moving forward. Retail marketers must be prepared to continuously adapt to these changes and the resulting trends in the coming year if they want to maintain a competitive edge in the 2021 retail marketplace. Although a soundproof strategy is central to properly executing these retail trends, it’s important to ensure your organization has good data intelligence, high data quality, and a centralized marketing measurement platform location to store and analyze data. With the right tools, expertise, and processes, retailers can ensure they’re staying competitive in a constantly shifting marketing landscape.