7. Relationship marketing and thought leadership will rule retailers' sales & marketing strategies
Say goodbye to pushy sales people who follow shoppers around. Retailers will learn that going for the “hard sell” isn’t effective anymore. Instead, they’ll invest in cultivating relationships and establishing thought leadership.
In 2014, we expect more brands to employ likeable experts—store associates who aren’t there to sell, but rather to dish out advice, solve problems, and build relationships. As Internet Retailer puts it, “the role of the associate will change from an information provider to a facilitator of engagement.” Instead of just giving product and pricing information, they will leverage each shopper’s data (i.e. previous purchases, shopping behavior etc.) to provide tailored advice and shopper-specific offers. We predict that retailers will invest more in training their staff for this role, and they’ll also invest in arming them with the right tools.
In addition, businesses will spend more resources in thought leadership and content marketing to educate and engage with consumers. Kind of like what real estate company Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward did when it launched Completely London magazine in 2009 — a time when the real estate market was down in the dumps.
The magazine offered city guides as well as informative and entertaining articles about the people, places, and properties in London. KFH’s efforts paid off. The magazine successfully positioned the company as a thought leader in the real estate space, strengthened its relationship with existing clients, and attracted new ones.
8. Customers' need for speed will grow in 2014
The "always connected" consumers expect fast answers to questions or requests, and businesses will need to work extra hard to get in touch with shoppers as quickly as possible. And while businesses have already started doing it via live chat, SMS alerts, 24-7 hotlines, and social media, we’re anticipating brick-and-mortar retailers to roll out solutions that would enable associates to give instant, real-time information to shoppers.
For example, shoppers who walk into Burberry stores will see that associates are armed with iPads that they can use to provide real-time product information and availability. Not only that, but according to Retail Info Systems News, associates also have a ton of customer information at their fingertips, “including if the consumer opts in, their shopping behavior, what shops around the world they purchase from, what they have in their basket online,” and more, enabling them to provide personalized offers and recommendations instantly.
Speed can also apply to order fulfillment. As Retail Customer Experience put it, "By 2016, 50 percent of national retailers, will invest in distributed order management, enterprise inventory visibility, and workforce management to enable same day fulfillment."
We believe that in 2014, retailers will find ways to streamline and speed up order fulfillment so they can get products into customers’ hands as quickly as possible. Just take a look at what Amazon is doing. The company recently generated a lot of buzz when it announced its plans for Prime Air, a drone-based delivery service that aims to complete deliveries in 30 minutes or less.
9. Retailers will continue to invest in Big Data to track shoppers
Studies have found that “Fifty-four percent of marketers already have invested in Big Data solutions, and nine out of 10 marketers plan to do so in 2014.”
Why the focus on Big Data? It’s because businesses have realized that in order to predict shopper behavior and provide truly personalized experiences, they would need to gather as much information about the behavior, history, and whereabouts of consumers. Big Data enables retailers to implement dynamic pricing, personalized recommendations, shopper-specific discounts, and more.
Nordstrom is among the top retailers leveraging Big Data. The department store gathers and analyzes massive amounts of information from in-store sales, online behavior, social media, and more to determine which products to promote and how to market them. It even launched the Nordstrom Innovation Lab, “a team of techies, designers, entrepreneurs, statisticians, researchers, and artists, all trying to discover the future of retail.”
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