Comparison between online and offline shopping will continue to gain attention in 2018. In fact, as early as now news about shutting down of some physical stores across the country abound the Internet. Does this mean more people are now favoring online shopping than commuting to brick-and-mortar stores?
There is no denying that smartphones and tablets are making it easy for shoppers today to research business, survey products, read customers reviews, and even purchase goods. But there are still people who like to see an item in person and touch it before deciding to buy. That said, while physical stores are unlikely to go extinct soon, mobile devices will play a crucial role in people’s overall shopping experience.
Mobile devices (i.e., smartphones and tablets) are expected to be critical players in the future of the retail industry. According to the latest statistics:
- Mobile devices account for more than half of online searches.
- 91 percent of “Daily Active” Facebook users relied on mobile.
- Mobile devices generated 80 cents of every dollar of Facebook advertising revenue.
- Approximately 53 percent of online shoppers prefer to use smartphones for searches.
For shoppers going to various places, mobile devices can take shoppers to stores within their area of location. The delivery of promotions is a factor in online vs. offline marketing. Approximately 60 percent of American consumers want real-time promotions on their smartphones.
However, the obvious downside of tablets and smartphones is that they cannot display as many products at a time. Unlike laptops or desktops users, mobile users must continuously scroll to locate other products or the checkout feature.
Offline consumers and In-Store Experiences
The prevalence and convenience of online shopping will not necessarily spell the doom of brick-and-mortar stores. While e-commerce experiences a faster growth rate, the majority of retail sales still happen offline.
In response to online versus offline shopping trends, retailers in 2018 may find ways to integrate technology with showrooms and shelves. For example, store-provided tablets or other mobile devices can allow shoppers to obtain price and product features by scanning a barcode. Certain fashion retailers mix food, beverages, books, and salon services with the apparel. Interactive dressing rooms allow the store to track customer needs or interests in sizes, colors, and styles of clothing.
The physical retail store affords practical benefits. Unlike customers who shop online, offline consumers can inspect and examine merchandise, and even ask questions to sales staff. Furthermore, the 2018 retail trends will include “click and collect” shopping, as customers browse, select and pay online, and retrieve their merchandise at the store. With this approach, customers can reduce the risk of not receiving items on-time. According to LanderApp, in 2014, UPS ground packages enjoyed a 97 percent on-time delivery rate during the holiday season.
The importance of brands to consumers’ choices will continue as one of the retail trends in 2018. MarTech reports from a survey of consumers’ branding choices:
- Almost six out of ten shoppers prefer to select new merchandise from brands familiar to them.
- 21 percent of customers bought new items because they liked the brand that produced it.
- 38 percent of moms purchased items from brands “liked” by Facebook users.
- 38 percent of social media users recommended brands they “liked” or “followed.”
- 64 percent of users open an email because they trust the brand.
Building brand loyalty involves more than better products and prices. By using content marketing, retailers can offer news, events, and tips. Online marketing has a more significant edge for the simple reason that retailers can relay their stories and visions to a broader reach.
Being a socially responsible retailer carries weight with customers in 2018. For example, approximately 35 percent of grocery shoppers choose socially responsible brands. In 2016, 40 percent of shoppers boycotted brands due to perceived irresponsible behavior.
Customers seek to know, not only product features and price but aspects of the manufacturing operations such as:
- The conditions of the plant or facility
- The amount of energy used or waste produced in the process
- Whether the goods are made domestically or in foreign countries
- The company’s environmental practices and record
Employing social media to highlight social responsibility will figure into marketing approaches. We’ll see an increase in retailers operating social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram to post photographs of employees, manufacturing processes, “green” or sustainable facilities and product ingredients.
Cash is no longer the “king” when it comes to customers’ preferences for payment methods:
- The average person carries less than $20 at a single time
- Approximately one in 10 do not carry any cash
- Less than a quarter of in-store purchases will involve cash.
Convenience will lead shoppers to mobile payments. Vend University reports that seven out of ten consumers in the United States will pay using a mobile device by 2018. These shoppers will make an estimated $60 billion in mobile payments.
We tend to think of online and offline shopping as two different animals, but they might be more similar than we think. Smile.io found that there are more similarities than differences in both shopping experiences, with five key factors to consider. Location, convenience, knowledgeability, an inviting experience and price reflecting value; this is where retail’s focus should be.
- Location is essential in physical stores, but it’s also important in online shopping. Customers in remote places can tilt towards a particular website due to shipping costs, always leaning towards the better alternative
- We can argue that online shopping is inherently more convenient, but layout and branding are critical to work that potential. It is vital that products are easy to find
- Being an industry expert makes users trust you. In brick-and-mortar stores, this can mean having a knowledgeable staff; online, blog entries and live chats can do the trick
- A unique store or a website that’s easy on the eyes can do wonders for user experience. You want your business to be inviting online and offline
- You don’t need to have the lowest prices to be competitive. Brands may cater to audiences willing to pay the extra buck, but customers need to feel there’s an inherent value to spending a little more
Combining these factors online and offline can lead to a far more satisfying purchase experience overall.
Online and Offline
We’re heading towards a world where online and offline shopping experiences are melding. Major and smaller brick-and-mortar retailers have an online presence, while “traditional” Internet-based companies are dipping their toe offline.
- Online retail king Amazon bought supermarket chain Whole Foods last year and opened its first brick-and-mortar store earlier this summer
- All major stores are online, providing an alternative experience for their customers
Retailers need to stop seeing online shopping and offline shopping as an “either/or” scenario. Users expect both experiences to be equally pleasant, and companies need to cater to both worlds. Online and offline shopping are both here to stay.
Contact us today to learn how Bright Vessel can help your business mold an effective marketing strategy for 2018.