Predicting the Next 5 Years in Retail
A common theme heard at the National Retail Federation's Annual Convention & Expo in New York City this week was that consumer shopping behavior was transitioning towards e-commerce and a cross-channel approach as a result of the growing consumer adoption of smartphones. As such, it's incumbent upon retailers to adjust accordingly in order to remain relevant in 2012 and beyond. Helping retailers get a glimpse of what their future might look like was Mitch Joel, preseident of digital marketing agency Twist Image. Joel led a session where he outlined five things retailers will need to focus on in the next five years to be successful.
1. Create direct relationships. Retailers are at war with brands over direct relationships with consumers. Brand manufacturers are increasingly looking to sell direct to consumers via e-commerce sites. They no longer need to go through retailers, Joel said. Brands are seeking "cradle to grave" relationships with consumers. To combat this trend, retailers need to stop being in an arms race for "Likes" and follows. Instead, retailers should be the ones liking their customers and prospects, Joel said.
2. Sex with data. Retailers have been "fooling around" with data for several years now, but moving forward they're going to have to take the next step and have sex with data, Joel said. They need to become intimate with their data. Retailers must integrate their linear siloed data with their cyclical siloed data to create a universal customer database. Joel referenced Amazon's Price Check, which has been the focus of much controversy, as being scary for retailers because it displays just how much data Amazon has collected. This has been made possible through Amazon's infrastructure, which stresses feedback (e.g., ratings and reviews) from its customers.
3. Utility ... or death. People often download apps but never ending up using them, eventually deleting them. The reason why? Because they suck, Joel said bluntly. If the app was any good people would use it. Your app needs to be functional for consumers in order for it to be effective.
Joel cited Charmin's Sit or Squat app, which provides users with the cleanest bathrooms closest to their location, as a great example of a utilitarian app. Users can update the app with their own opinions and ratings to make it an interactive experience. Other companies Joel cited for their utilitarian apps were Skullcandy, which provides geo-located destinations for surf, skateboarding and snowboarding with up-to-the-second reports; streaming music and video; and a full suite of content; as well as Nationwide, whose app walks users through the steps that need to be taken at an accident scene (and includes a built-in flashlight). A square with your app on a consumer's smartphone is prime real estate, Joel noted.
4. Passive vs. active. At a core level, people are passive about media, with TV being the prime example. The more work you make them do (e.g., click on a link, answer a survey, read a print advertisement), the less likely they are to do it. Break up your media by whether it's passive or active, Joel advised. Twitter and Facebook are very active media. Are you in an active media acting passively - e.g., letting a significant amount of time pass before responding to a customer's Facebook post - or in a passive media acting actively? Retailers are going to have to take an active media approach in order to get consumers to react, Joel said.
5. Adapt to living in a one-screen world. Retailers have heard over and over again about the three-screen environment, but Joel argued that's not will matter going forward. There's only one screen that matters, and that's the screen in front of the consumer at that particular moment in time, he said. Increasingly that screen is becoming an e-commerce website, but it also can be a mobile tablet, in-store kiosk, TV screen, among other technologies.