Five trends changing the way we shop

By Gabrielle Stannus

Coming into the busy spring period, you probably think you have your retail strategy sorted. Dr Louise Grimmer, a researcher within the University of Tasmania’s Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, lists five trends influencing consumer behaviour that retail nurseries of any size should be paying attention to now.

Trend #1: Being Mobile
Our love affair with the mobile phone continues to grow. “Over 95 per cent of Australians browse the internet on their smart phones and it is predicted that over half of all online sales will occur on a mobile this year in preference to tablets, PCs and laptops” says Dr Grimmer.

Despite this, Dr Grimmer says that many Australian retailers are failing to develop and offer retail apps. “Many retailers either do not utilise the technology at all, or they rush to launch their apps in the market but fail to develop a platform that meets their customers’ needs, ultimately creating a negative experience”, says Dr Grimmer.

At minimum, ensure your existing website is configured for mobile use. Then consider developing and implementing an app to help you increase your sales reach.

Trend #2: It is all about convenience
Clever retailers are bringing their products closer to their customers and/or making it easier for them in-store.

“Retailers are bringing retail formats to where customers are located”, says Dr Grimmer. Virtual stores and kiosks are now located in train stations and airports across the globe, allowing time-poor customers to scan a QR code, select a convenient delivery option and then pay with a mobile phone.

Customers shopping for groceries at Amazon Go pick their purchases from the shelf and “just walk out”. They need an Amazon account and a smartphone loaded with the Amazon app which registers their movement and selection in-store.

Imagine being able to purchase your plants without the need to stand in line at a checkout!

Trend #3: Serious tech
Advances in augmented reality (AR) technology are allowing its users to superimpose information on the world they see. Think Pokémon Go!

Beacons are part of a wider range of AR technologies called ‘nearables’1. Eye beacons for example can tell the retailer where the customer is in the store. This technology is useful for proximity marketing, micro-location targeting, customised marketing, indoor-mapping and self-guided tours2.

Magic Mirror technology allows a user to experience a product before purchasing it, i.e. how it might look like on them (clothes, make up) or what it might look like at home (furniture).

The Plant Life Balance augmented reality ‘greening app’ is one local example of AR technology, helping users to calculate the indoor air quality benefits of adding particular plants to different sized rooms.

Imagine your customer being able to see how your plants look in their garden and then purchasing them without even stepping foot into your nursery!

Trend #4: The need for speed
Dr Grimmer claims that retailers are no longer really engaged in price wars; it is all about speed and time. So how can you reduce the time it takes for customers to receive their online purchases from you?

A click and collect service may be one answer. Customers make their purchases from you online and then collect their shopping in-store or from an external locker in the store car park or busy transport hub.

“Recent research has shown that when customers come into the store to collect their online purchases that around 50 per cent of them will make an additional purchase while they are there, says Dr Grimmer. Clever retailers offer discount on products ordered online in order to entice them into their store to make that additional purchase.

Trend #5: Let’s get physical ... again
Despite the popularity of online shopping, Dr Grimmer says that physical retail remains the king or queen of retail: “Almost 90 per cent of retail sales in the United States are represented by physical stores with similar numbers here in Australia”.

Customers can pretty much buy anything they want online now. So why are they still coming into retail stores in these numbers? “Customers want education and inspiration and they are increasingly spending their discretionary income on experiences”, says Dr Grimmer.

So what experiences can you provide to attract more patronage? Think classes or workshops, interactive activities, or places for customers to meet and socialise. Or even a pop-up shop!

What are you doing?
According to Dr Grimmer, those retailers who can offer unique products (either in store or online), as well as offering superior customer service and with a dash of technology when appropriate, are those that are performing well. Does that sound like you? If not, what changes will you make to your retail strategy?