In a world where Victoria’s Secret scraps its print catalog and Amazon is on track to become the country’s biggest seller of apparel, it would be a gross understatement to say the retail industry has changed in recent years.
Increasingly fickle consumers have caused retailers to launch—and sometimes ditch—tech-driven services such as buy-online-pickup-in-store, curbside pickup and same-day delivery, not to mention myriad apps, in the hopes of attracting shoppers. But nothing seems to stick and brick-and-mortar stores continue to watch their sales slide.
That’s not to say all hope is lost. According to a report from marketing communications consultancy Walker Sands, which surveyed more than 1,400 U.S. consumers last February, there are four key areas retailers would be wise to focus their attention on this year.
Nearly a third of consumers now shop online at least once a week, Walker Sands discovered, up 41 percent from two years ago. While only 9 percent have used same-day shipping in the past year, almost half (49 percent) of those surveyed said they would shop online more often if same-day shipping was offered more frequently. The same goes for free and one-day shipping, as well as easier returns, both online and in-store. To that end, the consultancy named supply chain and logistics technology a make-or-break area of investment for U.S. retailers in the year ahead.
Only 6 percent of respondents said they had used beacons (Bluetooth-enabled devices that communicate with a shopper’s smartphone in the hopes of enhancing the in-store shopping experience), but 70 percent of those who have never used it said they would be willing to opt in—if retailers offered the right incentives, that is. More than half (52 percent) said they would turn on location-based technology if they could receive coupons, while 36 percent would use it to access product reviews. Thirty percent said it could improve their shopping experience if it helped them navigate aisle layouts and product locations.
After years of resistance, luxury brands are slowly starting to launch e-commerce. With 76 percent of shoppers aged 36-45 open to shopping online for luxury items, Walker Sands said there’s a major opportunity for retailers to create a more personalized shopping experience in the space using virtual reality. Late last year, Tommy Hilfiger introduced VR to select stores, offering shoppers the chance to experience a 360-degree, three-dimensional version of the brand’s runway show. According to Walker Sands, VR will be key to bringing together the worlds of luxury and e-commerce in a way that rings true to both.
More than a third of consumers (36 percent) said they used a mobile payment app in store in the past year, up slightly from 34 percent in 2015, but most shoppers are still skeptical about security and privacy. That’s the main reason Walker Sands thinks the technology has not yet taken off. Millennials, however, are much more likely to embrace mobile payment technology and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said they had made a mobile purchase over the past year. To that end, the consultancy said it’s important for retailers to accept as many forms as possible.
“The future of retail isn’t just about pure e-commerce anymore. With a growing emphasis on in-store technology and omnichannel strategies, the pendulum has swung back in the other direction and it’s important for retailers to focus on finding the sweet spot in the middle,” the report concluded.