The retail industry is expanding in directions it would have been difficult to predict even five years ago.
Despite the sluggish economy, e-commerce reports record sales last year with an anticipated double-digit growth in 2011. Fueled by new technology and an evolving social-media shopping sphere, commerce is almost unrecognizable to the common consumer. However, it spells good news for retailers who quickly adopt such changing sales and marketing strategies.
Here are six retailer trends changing the way consumers shop in 2011.
Social Media Sales. As Gen Xers move into their peak spending years and become entranced by social-media shopping, more retailers are jumping on the bandwagon to engage their customers via Twitter and Facebook. In fact, the Facebook store, referred to as “F-Commerce,” is an increasingly popular outlet for retailers to target such social-media shoppers. Also known as social shopping, the process allows consumers and retailers to aggregate and share information in real time about special offers, products, prices and purchases. The big advantage to consumers is they needn’t leave a social-media site to shop and can immediately share their purchase with friends and other fans. This helps reduce the solitary feeling of online shopping. Via social media, merchants also provide information about special offers and, increasingly, coupon codes and downloadable coupons.
Daily Deals. With the explosion of limited-time daily deals via group-buying (more than 23 million in the last year) and flash-sale sites like Gilt Group & Jetsetter.com, it’s no surprise other retailers have adopted this successful sales strategy. In fact, online retailers like Target and Overstock now offer Deal-of-the-Day sales that bode well for sales. Even Facebook and Amazon have added daily deal services.
Mobile Sales, Coupons and Instant Deals. The busier we become, the more we rely on our smartphones to shop, compare prices and look for deals while on-the-go. Retailers have cottoned onto this need as a new opportunity for capturing and engaging customers. For example, the CouponSherpa iPhone app allows shoppers to research mobile coupons for specific items, then use those same coupons at checkout. Foursquare has become increasingly popular as a way for retailers and restaurants to provide special offers when you “check in.” Amazon’s iPhone App allows you to scan a bar code or take a photo of a product seen while window shopping and, at the your later convenience, purchase that item with just one click.
Free Shipping. Originating in Australia, retailers are talking about charging shoppers for use of their changing rooms. The move is designed to prevent consumers from trying items in-store, then buying them online at a discount price. Fortunately, retailers have shifted marketing efforts to target online shoppers by creating a more accessible e-shopping experience and offering free shipping both ways as well as site to store free shipping. Online stores like Zappos and Piperlime now offer free shipping both ways and merchants like Walmart and REI offer site to store free shipping.
Name Your Own Price. Gap has recently taken the daily deal concept a step further with the launch of its new Gap My Price program, which allows customers to bid for clothing and accessories. The process is the same as with Priceline, which targets cost-conscious travelers: You extend a sales offer for a particular item; Gap then makes a final offer you can either accept or reject.
Body Scanners In Malls. We’re not talking about security scanners here, but rather a system that helps you deal with manufacturer’s increasingly different sizing charts. MyBestFit addresses this problem with mall kiosks offering free 20-second, full-body scans. Here’s how it works: You step fully dressed into a 380-degree booth and a wand rotates around you, emitting low-power radio waves that record roughly 200,000 body measurements to assess areas like bicep circumference. The system then matches these measurements to sizes in its database for roughly 50 stores, including Talbots, Old Navy and Eddie Bauer.