2015 Retail Trends: Back to the Future
With the holiday shopping season in the rearview mirror and a new year ahead of us, retailers are counting up their 2014 profits and reflecting on the past year. The end of each year — and the close of the busiest shopping months of the year — brings forth new trends that will have a major impact on retailers as they're settling into their New Year's resolutions. As you toast to the New Year and look to continue to make investments in online and mobile, think about these trends that will impact you the most in 2015.
Mobile Takes the Lion's Share of Online Shopping
As we've seen in past years, e-commerce continues to grow, presenting a huge opportunity for retailers in the New Year. In particular, mobile has been the driving force behind online shopping growth. According to IBM's Digital Analytics Benchmark, mobile devices accounted for more than 50 percent of online traffic on Thanksgiving Day and one-third of overall online sales. In addition, mobile sales were up overall 27.2 percent during Cyber Week compared to the same period in 2013. To put that into perspective, just a few years ago mobile accounted for only a small fraction of online traffic (6.5 percent in 2010).
In 2015, we'll continue to see mobile taking a larger chunk of the online traffic pie, making it the biggest opportunity for retailers to engage with their customers.
However, despite a surge in mobile shopping, the outlook has been relatively bleak when it comes to expectations vs. reality for the mobile shopping experience. A Harris Interactive survey found that 85 percent of consumers expect the experience on their mobile devices to be better than using a laptop or desktop computer, but less than half (41 percent) thought the mobile experience lived up to their expectations. Mobile is seen as a quick, easy and more convenient alternative to other shopping channels, so consumers won't be tolerant of a slow, clunky or poor shopping experience. Retailers need to ensure they're listening to what customers want and are investing in the right areas of the mobile experience.
To optimize their mobile properties, retailers need to understand consumers’ behaviors across various mobile devices (e.g., tablets vs. smartphones). Consumers are twice as likely to buy on a tablet, yet more likely to browse on a smartphone. This has huge implications for the ways retailers will optimize the mobile experience across various devices. Retailers must also understand that these devices aren't created equal. Smartphones, for example, have smaller screens, which call for a more streamlined experience. Tablets, on the other hand, have a larger screen, which makes it easier for consumers to enter their credit card information and view products. Optimizing your site to provide an engaging mobile experience that's device appropriate is key to winning a loyal customer base.
Offline and Online Experiences Are Converging
Despite the fact that online sales and traffic are growing at a rapid rate — increasing 12.6 percent during the five-day period now coined "Cyber Week" (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) — the fact remains that the bulk of retail sales still occur in brick-and-mortar stores. Consumers are relying heavily on their smartphones to browse for products before they purchase — even when they're standing in a store. It's become apparent that in-store and online are no longer disparate channels.
Mobile helps to bring the best of online shopping into the store. The key to bridging the gap isn't just permitting shoppers to use their mobile devices in-store, but encouraging it. For example, retailers can offer guest Wi-Fi programs, which give consumers the ability to browse online while they peruse in-store. They can also see ratings and reviews for in-store merchandise as they interact with the physical product.