Life has changed for just about everyone since COVID-19 struck. Entire industries shut down, and many workers either lost their jobs or were forced to work from home. Shoppers stayed at home, too, but online shopping rose to new heights in the name of safety.
If you’re in retail, chances are you had to make considerable adjustments in 2020. However, it’s now 2021, and while retail took some slumps in the past year, you can expect it to be on the upswing going forward. And there’s big growth and excitement percolating with brick and mortar retail, too. With these changes in mind, here are some of the top trends you can expect to see in retail marketing this year.
When you shop online, you create an account, in most cases, and retailers can track your purchase history and other details. A retailer’s ecommerce service can also use your purchasing history to suggest other products and tailor their marketing to your specific needs. In the past, while this activity was growing, it wasn’t common practice yet for retail stores. If you went to a store, you went in, you bought your item, and you went home.
Now, even brick and mortar stores are creating customer accounts and tracking spending and buying habits. They are getting customers onto email lists, and sending out targeted marketing to appeal to individuals and personalize their experience.
Today’s retailers now have a wealth of ecommerce purchase information from the past year that they can combine with past and current brick-and-mortar data. Buyers can expect to have even more personalized shopping experiences both in-store and online because retailers have gotten to know them even more than ever. And retailers can be more efficient with their marketing, as they can feel more confident about targeting their buyers with the right message.
Virtual Experiences In-Store
While the pandemic is fading, that doesn’t mean that some of the same fears that people had all through 2020 aren’t still pervasive. Trying on makeup or clothes, for example, are two things that may go by the wayside. Or at least they won’t be as prevalent going forward. So how do retailers allow shoppers to test things out before they buy?
Augmented reality is one way that retailers can do this. Customers can see a virtual rendering of what makeup would look like on their skin tone, or see how the color and fit of a sweater would look on their bodies. Not only is technology like this helpful, but it’s also really engaging and customers may shop a certain brand just to use it.
Competition Is Fierce, So In-Store Experiences Must Exceed Expectations
Unfortunately, the pandemic brought the end to some retailers, big and small. That means that those who remain face increased competition. To compete, stores will need to make sure their online and brick-and-mortar experiences are perfect. You can target customers to shop in both places, but once they set foot in a store, customers will expect a great experience in exchange for their time.
They’ll want chances to try products and have access to personalized service as much as possible. Stores also need to be clean and neat. All racks and other display items, like boxes and cases, must be immaculate. Then, a retailer will need to wow their customers with displays that impress!
Opportunities to Fill Gaps
With business contraction, there’s an opportunity for businesses that survived the pandemic to fill in gaps. You can expect to see retailers expand certain offerings to fill in product niches that are now underserved by a market with fewer players. Don’t be surprised to see more companies marketing products and services that you may have thought were slightly outside of their specialty in the past.
Further Blurring Between Retail and E-commerce
With so much competition and pressure from online services, brick and mortar retailers will continue to change how they do business. They will need to provide services that overlap with online sellers to be able to compete and make it as convenient as possible for the customers. This means continuing with services like curb-side pick-up and delivery, if possible.
In addition, the online and in-store experience will continue to blur. Customers will expect a seamless hand-off from their online to their brick-and-mortar journeys. That means sales and marketing teams will need to make sure in-store and online staff are educated on product information and availability. A customer may go into a store to get an up-close look at a product, but they won’t be patient with needing to bring a salesperson up to speed on product pricing and information. The website and the physical space must work in tandem to provide a holistic shopping experience.
With the pandemic more controlled and everyone welcoming more normal times, you can still expect technology to continue to influence both the in-store and brick-and-mortar experience.