This past semester, I had the honor of working as the Managing Editor of Kent State’s fashion, beauty and culture publication, A Magazine. Our staff had so much collaborative talent, and I couldn’t be prouder to have been a part of that team.
After reading seemingly endless amounts of articles about the integration of technology in retailing, taking courses on media, and ELLE’s 2017 initiative of “Why You’re Going to Love Shopping Again”, I was inspired to write an article for A Magazine about the fading boundaries for readers who may not be as aware of these changes. If you’re not lucky enough to have access to our amazing print issue, check out the article below:
Welcome to the new world of retail. We suddenly blinked and entered an altered dimension of shopping. The barrier between the brick-and-mortar and digital experience has begun to fade, and this blurred line has created enough chaos to end the world of shopping as we know it. It’s brought us to one of the world’s largest retailers, Macy’s, set to close over 150 stores in 2017, yet Amazon is planning to open various brick and mortar locations. There’s been a takeover of pop-up shops sweeping the nation, while more and more designers have joined the “see now, buy now” bandwagon.
For all of this change, we have technology to thank. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, but it does call for adaption. In today’s economy, we’re all about experiential shopping and accessibility. With online retailing rapidly advancing, shoppers are exposed to an extensive array of colors, sizes and completely different styles than those offered in stores with a simple click of a button.
The behind-the-scenes look at online shopping shows us that retailers are embracing the use of metadata. Often referred to as cookies, metadata tracks anything from your most clicked on color to how often you shop for shoes. This information is used to tailor your shopping experience, even when you’re just browsing the web. Metadata is responsible for those sidebar ads that conveniently contain that skirt you were looking at earlier, so it’s always on your mind and in your shopping cart.
Online discount retailers are on the rise. Similar to the brick and mortar stores like Ross or Marshall’s, AreaTrend is one of the companies taking full advantage of the online retail trend. Since 2011, they have nearly tripled in size and offered us at A Magazine an insight to their digital success. They offer luxury products at a fraction of the cost, all while providing excellent customer service and expansive variety. By connecting with retail giants like Amazon, AreaTrend and others, online retailers are able to post their products on multiple platforms to be accessed by customers from around the world.
“The biggest advantage for online retailers is the customer base. With the right price, products and promotion, the customer base is seemingly infinite,” says Jordan Sweress, Retail Buyer for AreaTrend.
Without face to face contact with the customer, these retailers rely heavily on business analytics to predict what their customer is looking for and providing respected quality assure to their customers. It’s quick, easy, and comfortable for the buyer: the ultimate, modern retail combination.
These online retailers are using pop-up shops as a way to compete with already established retail locations. Businesses are coming to the customer versus waiting for the customer to come to them. Using these analytics, they are able to pinpoint places of interest to their frequent consumers.
There are also bloggers and new media techniques playing a key role in this. Social media allows potential consumers to see designers’ collections months in advance, but who really wants to wait to buy that must-have item? Avoiding the three-to-six month delay, this has caused designers to alter their previous business models to launch seasonal lines much earlier. Bloggers are constantly posting about what’s on trend at that very moment. With the tap of the screen, followers can purchase whatever item is showcased in real time. IBM Digital Analytics
have shown that there has been a 29 percent increase in mobile shopping since 2013, and that number is only rising.
This is a lot for the classic brick and mortar stores to compete with. Industry leaders, such as ELLE, are recognizing this. The magazine’s 2017 initiative is “Why You’re Going to Love Shopping Again”, which emphasizes the importance to shop local, integrating technology and psychology with the shopping experience.
A common goal is to have customers want to come into a store, since it is clearly not a need at this point in modern society. Malls used to represent a place to relax, socialize and of course, shop. To captivate the attention of the contemporary shopper, brick-and-mortar stores are adapting their ways to create an enriched experience. Many malls are attempting to turn a shopping trip into a whole day affair by offering restaurants, spas and movie theaters to capture the customer’s full attention.
An Infosys study showed that 78 percent of consumers are more likely to return to a store if they receive targeted, personalized offers. The emphasis on customer relations is what is pushing this shopping generation to the next level.
“Change in consumer buying patterns is having a transformative effect on current retail business models and new formats are emerging, although the essence of the retail business remains the same. Retail is the exchange of goods and services for money, with the customer in charge more than ever before,” says Marjorie Wachowiak, professor at The Fashion School and industry veteran.
The use of business analytics allows personalized retailing to better satisfy the customer’s needs much more efficiently and caringly than in the past. Targeted marketing comes into play here by offering consumers special coupons, promotions and VIP clubs, which increase the store’s foot traffic and return rate. This also includes warranties and guaranteed return policies to make customers more comfortable with their purchases. Customers are more likely to make those high profiting purchases if they feel they are getting a good value and are confident in their decision.
Solid customer service is key. Many retailers are reformatting their employee training policies to ensure that employees are knowledgeable, helpful and patient with customers. Retailers like TopShop and Nordstrom are offering in-store stylists to assist their customers in addition to their regular sales associates. Stylists work one-on-one with customers to guarantee the customer finds what they are looking for in the most efficient way, as well as making the customer feel comfortable with what they are purchasing.
Forecasting methods are also improving to more accurately depict what each store location needs in terms of selection, color, size and so on. The use of eye catching displays and fixtures throughout the store exemplifies what the customer can gain from shopping at that particular store. Store planners must take into consideration what that particular demographic is looking for when entering the store: certain locations require more “trend items” or larger array of sizes. This all boils down to understanding the customer, because shopping is ultimately about them.
Technology may be causing madness within the retail industry, but in the end, it only results in benefits to the consumers. Get your wallets ready for a whole new shopping experience.