Editor's Note: 6 Cross-Channel Retail Trends to Watch in 2013
While you're likely in the middle of the busy holiday season right now, 2013 is just around the corner. As you begin to look forward to the new year, here's a list of predictions I've put together for what cross-channel retailers can expect come 2013:
1. The year of mobile … really. According to Gartner Research, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide in 2013. What does this mean for retailers? If you haven't already, jump on the mobile integration bandwagon. Next year, consumers will expect that the retailers they choose to shop from will not only have a mobile application, but a mobile-optimized website as well that can be viewed on both smartphones and tablets. Consumers are also going to expect that retailers will enable location services on their mobile-optimized sites.
2. A proliferation of easy payment options. As consumers continue to make more purchases via their smartphones (see prediction No. 1), they'll demand that retailers enable a variety of payment methods on their e-commerce sites and mobile applications. Consumers may also demand the option of paying cash for their online purchases. After all, Wal-Mart added cash as a payment option for Walmart.com shoppers earlier this year. Customers bring their order confirmation email to their local Wal-Mart store within 48 hours of purchase and they can pay with cash.
3. Social media will still be a player. We've all heard it over and over again this year: social media isn't bringing a worthwhile return on investment, so retailers may scrap it as part of their marketing plans. Don't be fooled by its critics, social media isn't going anywhere — at least for the foreseeable future. If anything, retailers are just beginning to fully understand that while social media may not offer the traditional ROI that other types of marketing vehicles do, there's still positive branding power in it.
4. Customization becomes mainstream. Consumers want retailers to know what they want, when they want it and the channel in which they want it. Retailers will oblige in 2013 with a steady stream of personalized emails, sales alerts and product recommendations based on consumers’ latest searches and buying habits via websites, mobile apps and social media sites. Along these same lines, expect to see a rise in "me-tailing" — i.e., a shift towards more personalized products.
5. A renewed interest in customer loyalty programs. Sure, customer loyalty has always been an important success metric for retailers, but with the introduction over the last few years of daily deals as a major marketing innovation for retailers, it's become all acquisition marketing, all the time. As popular as these daily-deal programs have become, retailers still aren't seeing long-term benefits from them. As a result, 2013 will likely see a shift towards a more sustainable customer acquisition strategy that yields long-term benefits. To put it simply, most retailers will be attracted to a completely different strategy for expanding their customer base, namely a new generation of customer loyalty and retention programs.
6. The rise of content marketing. To stay ahead of competitors and build a strong digital marketing strategy, content marketing — i.e., creating information, tips and stories, then sharing that content to attract prospects and engage them in conversation — will be critical to retailers’ success in 2013.
All in all, 2013 figures to be a pivotal year for the cross-channel retail industry. Happy holidays and good luck in 2013!