The future can be tricky to predict — especially if you’re a retail marketer doing everything you can to simply keep up with all the changes. After all, nobody saw the last 18 months coming in their crystal ball.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of shoppers have moved online, shifting their buying preferences, spending priorities, and personal values in the process. And you’re playing an important part by adapting business strategies today to satisfy ever-evolving consumer demands and expectations tomorrow.
Looking ahead, the future of retail marketing lacks any obvious light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to success. However, you can be sure of one thing: the bar for building a competitive customer experience is only getting higher. Your customers crave personalized, value-driven engagements at every step.
To keep them happy and coming back to your brand for more, here are five predictions for the future of retail marketing to keep in mind as you kick off 2022 planning projects.
Your shoppers will use multiple channels — but go to mobile first
Consumers have never been more likely to engage with your brand through digital channels — particularly their smartphone. Since 2020, retail marketers have experienced tremendous success by ramping up innovation and investments into personalizing mobile-centric marketing strategies like SMS, mobile apps, push notifications, online-to-store order fulfillment, and more to increase online engagement and make up for record-low in-store activity.
And so far, retail buyers are responding better to this new approach than anyone could have imagined. Our 2021 Retail Personalization Index Consumer Survey revealed that nearly 50% of all shoppers browsed products or made a purchase on their mobile phone in 2020 — the highest annual percentage we’ve measured since starting our research almost a decade ago! For savvy online brands, this increased mobile engagement is translating to website traffic growth of up to 80% in many cases.
Considering that 73% of all ecommerce sales are predicted to take place on a mobile device by the end of this year, it’s time to hop on the mobile-first train if you haven’t already. Here are a few easy places to start:
- Optimize your messages for dark mode display settings and update any relevant text or template designs to ensure satisfying user experiences regardless of device used
- Design mobile-first templates to render your emails on small screen sizes where almost half of all emails are viewed
- Use deep linking into mobile apps to make your online shopping journey seamless from one interaction to the next
- Build out holistic behavioral touchpoints and flows across direct marketing channels like email, SMS, and in-app notifications — while your strategies for each channel shouldn’t be identical, it’s important each interaction feels connected
Building customer loyalty will be your biggest priority
Personalized marketing promotions can definitely increase sales, but moving forward customer acquisition costs are only going to keep going up. For your brand, that means the priority will need to shift from finding new shoppers to building long-term relationships with existing ones so loyalty can inspire repeat purchases.
So, what better way is there to accomplish this goal than by building campaigns with the needs and wants of your most loyal buyers in mind? Or to implement a full-blown customer loyalty program that rewards shoppers for ongoing engagement and every dollar they spend?
If you haven’t done so yet, create behavior-driven, multi-channel customer experience and engagements that promote the benefits of joining your loyalty program across website, email, social, mobile, etc. Even better, you can offer exclusive incentives for signing up to maximize the impact of your efforts — a free gift, exclusive discount, double rewards points, or early access to relevant content can go a long way toward building positive momentum between you and your audience for years to come.
Flexible communications will be even important post-COVID
Thanks to COVID-19, health and safety became a priority for everyone in 2020. And while the world is slowly getting back to normal, many of these concerns are still top-of-mind for your consumers. In fact, 78% of retail shoppers currently view social distancing guidelines and adhering to CDC-recommended pandemic guidelines as ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ for any store they buy from.
Therefore, any brand with physical storefronts in operation should prepare communication templates and messaging ahead of time for any potential regulation rollbacks, unexpected closures, or policies and procedures updates that may yet result. That way, your customers stay safe and in the know regardless of local conditions — a small move that your buyers are sure to reward you for going forward.
Dynamic email content, for example, ensures your interactions are instantly updated as soon as a change occurs. And whether you’re dealing with a global pandemic or not, transparency and real-time information that the shoppers of tomorrow will find more exciting and engaging with every send.
You’ll need fresh, customer-friendly fulfillment to stay competitive in the future of retail marketing
Every customer is unique. But here’s a not-so-obvious statement: building unique subscription models for every buyer persona you market to is your business’ best path to a profitable future. Because 80% of marketers are using new, hybrid fulfillment models to increase leads, conversions, and personalization ROI.
While the risks of COVID-19 are nothing new, many people will still be hesitant to visit your brick-and-mortar stores for years to come. Making hybrid fulfillment options like Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup as appealing an offering — if not more so — than they were at this time last year. And according to our research, more than half of retail buyers won’t stop using these more convenient, customer-friendly fulfillment alternatives even after the pandemic ends.
By injecting automation into your email subscription models and implementing voice assistant order placement for your online consumers, you can enhance the relevance and impact of every message even further by tailoring content to each individual follower’s interests based on criteria such as customer acquisition source, channels engaged, most recent purchase, and more.
Another trend gaining massive momentum is Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL). Unlike traditional ecommerce and in-store layaway payment options, BNPL gives your buyers the benefit of instant gratification — and your brand the advantage of actualized revenue as soon as possible.
Because someone doesn’t have to wait until payments are complete to receive their products, emails that feature BNPL financing options increase conversion rate by 79% and AOV by twice as much on average. No doubt a huge boon for any retail brand looking to better future results.
The future of retail marketing is creating communities, not customer bases
If the past 18 months have taught us anything about the future of retail marketing, it’s that transparency and honesty are more valuable than ever in your marketing messages. So, emphasize a feeling of community and interaction at every opportunity. An experience that hides shipping costs, makes online purchases overly complex and time-consuming, or features irrelevant products and messaging usually scares away more customers than they convert.
While there’s immense pressure to perform and convert as many shoppers to paying customers as possible going forward, keep in mind that not every email or promotion you send has to push a product. In fact, shoppers worn out from seeing the same sales pitch for weeks or months on end are more likely to notice and appreciate your efforts for doing so.
We’ve found that two-thirds retail buyers believe a brand’s ethics and values are important — substantiating 5W Public Relations’ 2020 Consumer Culture Report that notes 71% of shoppers prefer to shop with brands that are aligned to their values. So, rather than prioritizing revenue in your 2022 campaigns, focus instead on starting conversations that lead to long-term relationships between your brand and your potential buyers.