Gaining Visibility in an Evolving Retail World

It’s tough out there for a retailer in 2017. Many retailers have closed down brick-and-mortar locations, and some have gone out of business completely. Changing consumer shopping habits have had a major impact.

Each year, consumers do more and more of their shopping online. In December of 2016, Pew Research reported that nearly 80 percent of consumers shop online, which is up from 22 percent in 2000. Additionally, consumers today spend their time gaining new experiences — trying new meals or enjoying concerts and vacations — rather than at shopping malls.

And Amazon has capitalized on these changes. The retail giant’s wide product selection and fast and free shipping perks make it easy for consumers to treat Amazon as a one-stop-shop for anything they need from food to books to everyday household items. In fact, between 2010 and 2016, Amazon’s sales in North America skyrocketed from $16 billion to $80 billion.

Amazon’s continued dominance combined with evolving consumer shopping habits has created the perfect storm for retail distress. As a result, retailers know they need to shake things up to remain relevant. For many, that means implementing new ways to gain visibility and grow demand.

Thankfully, there are unique strategies for retailers to capture customer attention and stand out in a competitive field.

Three ways for retailers to gain visibility and grow demand

Traditional advertising and marketing alone are no longer enough for retailers looking to compete in today’s cut-throat environment. As more consumers conduct a majority of their shopping online and Amazon heightens expectations, retailers need to think outside the box to grow visibility.

  1. Capitalize on interest shown on social channels: Consumers no longer visit a retail site and search through category trees to browse products and gain inspiration for items to purchase. Instead, they do this on social network feeds they’ve personally curated according to their interests.

To capitalize on moments of inspiration on social, retailers need to have the right products available on their ecommerce sites. Retailers should take note of the products that generate engagement and attention among key audiences on sites like Pinterest and Instagram, and expand assortments accordingly.

Many are turning to a technique called drop shipping, where a brand or other supplier ships products directly to consumers on behalf of the retailer that enables the purchases. With drop shipping, retailers can efficiently and cost-effectively expand product selections to maintain and boost customer demand.

For example, if you’re a home goods retailer and you see consumers online engaging with content about juicers, you can test different juicers within your product assortment without investing in the inventory upfront. That way, when a consumer searches for juicers after being inspired on social, your retail brand is there with the items he or she wants.

In the future, social channels will likely be monetizable, but they’re not there yet. In the meantime, retailers can focus on expanded product assortment to remain relevant at the moment of customer inspiration.

  1. Differentiate your brick and mortar experience: Brick-and-mortar locations are struggling, so retailers need to differentiate their in-store experiences to meet changing customer shopping habits and remain relevant.

Consider the experiences offered by retailers like Warby Parker, Nordstrom Local and Bonobos. These retailers are offering highly focused, personalized services and are seeing the benefits. Nordstrom Local, for example, doesn’t sell a single clothing item in-store. Instead, the Hollywood-based location offers wine, manicures, tailoring and other experiences along with the ability to order clothing and accessories online.

Unique interactions like these create memorable experiences for customers and feed into the changing ways in which consumers spend their time — unique experiences over shopping for possessions.

  1. Improve your digital advertising efforts: As more consumers make a majority of their purchases online, it’s imperative that retailers have a solid digital advertising strategy. A successful digital strategy can capture customers’ attention at the moment they search for products organically and can retarget customers with specific products they’ve viewed.

An effective digital advertising strategy for retailers is tailored to a retailer’s product catalog. That means retailers need a central hub containing complete and consistent product content. What’s more, the right strategy and platform will streamline advertising across all channels and marketplaces.

Customers will lose trust in your retail brand if you advertise products that are no longer available or contain the wrong information. And inconsistent advertising from device to device can also frustrate customers.

Additionally, make sure you’ve consulted the right partners or invested in the technology necessary to target consumers based on behavioral and demographic data. Targeting the wrong consumers with products they’re not interested in is a waste of time and resources.

Thanks to Amazon, the proliferation of social media and changing customer shopping habits, retailers today struggle to capture customer attention and loyalty. It is difficult to compete with Amazon’s fast shipping and low prices, but those that think outside the box can win the fierce retail battle for consumer pocketbooks and loyalty.