Culture change in digital shopping

Simon van Wyk

Simon van Wyk
Founder, HotHouse Interactive. Tweet him @Hot_House

The figures reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week show that retail trade rose 0.4% in August, marginally beating economists’ expectations of a 0.3% rise. At the same time, according to the National Australia Bank’s latest Online Retail Sales Index, the rate of online sales growth, which has eased slightly, is sitting at 9.6%.

Signs of maturity

In addition, new data from media investment and intelligence agency Magna Global shows that online retailing is showing signs of maturing. According to their latest annual research, ‘The Changing Face of Retail’, group buying and price comparison sites are losing their appeal over here. Retailers will be heartened by the news that Australians are moving away from a focus on low price.

Magna Global also reports that shoppers use their mobile devices as their constant shopping companions. While online shopping using desktops increased by 11% in the past year, shopping using a smartphone jumped by 19% and tablet-based couch commerce leapt by 52%. The research shows an important pattern emerging in online and in-store shopping. Online shopping peaks on Thursdays and Fridays, while in-store has kept its traditional peak time on Saturdays.

M-commerce growing overseas

Over in the UK, sales through desktop websites plateaued in the second quarter of this year according to IMRG and Capgemini’s ‘E-retail Sales Index’. However 23% of all online retail sales over that time came through smartphones and tablets.

Echoing the Magna Global research, the Index shows a significant change in consumer behaviour as shoppers migrate from laptop computers to mobile devices, and gain increasing confidence in m-commerce.

Meanwhile, looking at US data, Emarketer predicts that retail ecommerce sales will increase even faster in 2013 than they did last year. Emarketer is projecting a rise of 16.4% in spending to $262.3 billion on top of the 16.2% jump last year. While the growth rate is forecasted to slow in coming years, it is expected to remain at a healthy 12.8% by 2017 when US retail ecommerce sales will amount to $440 billion.

Of course, as with every year, a significant amount of retail spending online will take place during November and December. Indeed Emarketer estimates that close to one quarter of all US retail ecommerce sales will occur in the last two months of the year. If Emarketer’s estimates play out, this frenzied shopping activity will yield $61.8 billion in holiday season sales – an increase of 15.1% over 2012.

Mobile shoppers

Staying on trend, Emarketer predicts retail m-commerce sales will figure strongly this year as more smartphone users turn to mobile as a channel for shopping and buying. In the US, nearly 102 million people will use their smartphones to browse or research products while 52.3 million will use their phones to make a purchase.

The right platform

Of course consumers don’t think in channels, to them omnichannel isn’t a marketing buzz word – it’s a way of life. Consumers expect to be able to shop on any device or at any location, at any time. And this means using their mobile, desktop, or tablet to shop online, as well as wandering into physical stores, and experiencing consistent pricing, offers, pick-up options, product availability, and payment methods. It also means the ability to start the shopping transaction on one device, continuing it on another and completing it on yet another.

While most retailers have begun the journey from single channel to multichannel to omnichannel, digital technology is moving very fast. The days of just optimising full-version sites are over and retailers need to employ a new level of expertise to optimise mobile as part of the customer journey.

There are huge shifts going on in consumer behaviour, and it’s now more important than ever to understand customers’ needs. The crux of the transformation is to successfully address how to service customers and optimise the experience across this range of retail channels.

Retailers must optimise the journey shoppers take on the path to purchase, personalise and improve the shopping experience across mobile, tablets and in store. Using the right technology platform is critical to enabling an optimal customer experience across these channels and driving meaningful and commercially valuable interactions between the retailer and the shopper in both the physical store and digital environment. It’s about leveraging technology to create content-led shopping experiences to help shoppers make more informed decisions.

Retailers have a huge opportunity to connect all parts of their business to create a seamless customer experience and reinvent the shopping experience to take advantage of what’s now technologically possible while focusing on improving the speed of delivery of online orders, click and collect services, multichannel stock inventory and web usability.