Where are consumers shopping today?
The evolution of retail arrives in response to several socio-economic influences, with Covid-19 hindering the in-store experience and technology rapidly improving the consumer experience. Today, brands benefit from knowing where consumers are shopping, how they’re engaging with products across multiple channels, and how to best harness that data to bolster exposure among these multiple channel offerings. Consumers have more power than ever over brands as user-generated content and social opinion directly influence buying patterns. The silver lining of evolving is the increasing options brands can access to reach more buyers. The economic implication of a retail evolution does not mean commerce is wounded; rather, brands must adapt by expanding their digital presence and utilizing the ability to sell everywhere.
What does selling everywhere entail?
Consider consumers in this new commerce setting; they’re shopping online and doing so in as few clicks as possible. The digital shopper seeks a seamless flow from product discovery to purchase with touchpoint convenience across all channels, and a richer, more curated shopping experience. People are looking to be a part of a community of brands and other buyers—to feel both connected and accommodated. Selling on all relevant channels ensures more accessibility to more buyers while maximizing the chance of brand discovery.
What are the relevant sales channels that are guiding the customer journey of 2020?
Branded Website For brand-centric businesses and retail stores making the digital transformation, a custom website that captures their aesthetic drives brand identity further, cultivating consumer loyalty. A branded website allows broader customization and offers brands the opportunity to expand into a destination for their shoppers. Provide customers an interactive experience in the form of virtual dressing rooms (think Warby Parker’s Virtual Try-On) or garner added community appeal through blogs, digital communication methods, or email subscription perks.
Sell on one, sell on many. Marketplaces are the key channels for high-traffic browsing and repeated visitation. Plus, they’re easily integrated into a business’s e-commerce platform, which allows brands to sell and manage orders on multiple marketplaces. Choose from a horizontal marketplace such as Amazon that sells a multitude of items or a vertical marketplace like Etsy that sells specifics like handmade goods and niche products for a specific audience. Marketplaces benefit buyers who already have a product or purchase in mind. The benefit to sellers is the pre-established consumer following marketplaces offer.
The rise of social media benefits any brand hoping to expose their products to more demographics. Instagram is accessed by 500 million people globally, varying in age, who use this platform almost exclusively on mobile devices (which 7/10 consumers prefer to shop on). Consumers are online, on mobile devices, and constantly socially influenced to buy what their peers are excited about. Over 72% of 25-34 year-olds value the reviews they find on social media. Harness the power of mobile commerce through social platforms to boost sales and embrace consumer-generated content.
Many search engines now offer the ability to sell directly from their site. Google Shopping offers merchants the capability to integrate their store directly into Google’s interface with a Merchant Center. This capability allows them to maintain a ‘product feed’, which includes attributes of the products for sale set by the merchants. In their words, Google considers its commerce function a way of “democratizing access to digital commerce.” Sellers maintain full control over product descriptions and pricing while product reviews are automatically attached to each item (favoring 4.5 and 5-star ratings).
The digital era doesn’t mean physical stores are irrelevant. Despite the recent setback, brick-and-mortar accounted for nearly 90 percent of all retail sales towards the end of 2019, according to the US Census Bureau.19. Now, retailers are reimagining their stores to offer experience or convenience. Physical stores play a critical role in the supply chain, so the ability to buy online & pick up in-store (BOPIS) allows consumers to “go shopping” while remaining protected. At the same time, physical stores act as their own mini fulfillment centers which keep the supply chain network operating smoothly.
A physical store only has so many square feet to keep front and back stock, the goods sold based on popularity and demand. But when a customer is seeking a variety of a product or one not available in-store, the retailer should be able to meet those needs without increasing their inventory. Dropship allows retailers the ability to offer shoppers the “endless aisle,” presenting consumers an extended assortment of stock beyond what is physically able to be stocked, meaning consumers are faced with greater purchasing options. This allows the brick-and-mortar store to access virtual stock directly from the brands they’re selling. The retailer will facilitate the sale, making them financially responsible for the distribution, or A-B, while the brand is responsible for the pick, pack, and shipping costs. This system provides the consumer with their desired product and allows the retailer to offer this product as their own without having to carry that stock; the retailer never appears picked over, so shoppers keep coming back, unaware of the multiple steps taken. Dropshipping ensures the same seamless customer journey without the overhead of massive amounts of inventory. This method prevents consumers from shopping elsewhere and remaining loyal to the retailer.
How does one choose the right platform for each channel?
There are over 100 marketplace varieties, 370 eCommerce platforms, and a multitude of dot com domains for hosting a website. The reach of search and social commerce will only continue to grow and provide additional selling outlets. Realistically, brands don’t need to sell literally everywhere; an endless aisle of options is not ideal. There are platforms and marketplaces available with various niche offerings and specialty functions that suit a specific type of business. By curating sales outlets based on their target demographics, brands can relate with their audience for a more concise seller to consumer alignment.