Push your foot to the throttle and keep your eyes on ecommerce.
The massive disruptions over the last year has strong armed brands into digging into their digital strategy playbook, ripping it up, and rethinking how to provide better online experiences for digital shoppers. (Many brands didn’t have to completely rip up their playbook but certainly had to update it and add a few chapters.)
The acceleration of all things digital has made companies increase their tech spend and think more creatively about how to drive deeper engagement.
So with this in mind, what does this mean for retail in 2021?
Meet shoppers on emerging touchpoints
According to research by Salesforce, the amount of retailers who have replaced parts of their physical stores with digital fixtures was 66%. In addition, 7-in-10 of them had invested in emerging digital touchpoints such as livestreaming, video, social shopping, and live chat.
With so many top-level retailers investing heavily in digital, “we expect to see commerce become prevalent in newer channels, such as online gaming,” said Anna Rosenman, VP of Salesforce Commerce Cloud. “We will also see businesses that previously were highly reliant on in-person selling embrace digital as a means of reaching existing and new audiences.”
And it’s not only about the quality of the shopping journey for customers while they’re shopping; nurturing the post-purchase experience is set to be prioritized.
“From convenient payments to embedded service and loyalty,” added Anna. “The data captured beyond the buy button will enhance the broader customer journey. This first-party data will help retailers better segment and personalize marketing to capture new audiences, deliver a more intelligent commerce experience, and increase the lifetime value of customers.”
Tell better branded stories
Never have companies felt the need to communicate clearer and more frequently with their customers than in the last year. With so much disruption and uncertainty (is the store still open? Do they have enough stock? Can I still get same-day delivery? Is shipping still free?) reaching out to consumers has become an important part of everyday retail life.
“The big revelation was social commerce,” said Vinod Kumar, Salesforce PM director for Commerce Intelligence. “While TikTokers were chasing their 30 seconds of fame shuffle dancing to siren jams, all the major social ‘walled gardens’ rolled out some form of commerce capability.
“Social commerce coming into its own during 2021 may not be a prediction per se… The percentage of US adults who have purchased products directly on social media has nearly doubled over the past two years — from 13% in Q4 2018 to 25% in Q3 2020.”
2021 is the deep dive into better storytelling via a brand’s ethos anchored to social platforms.
Win young loyalty
Carving out uniqueness among a forest of similar selling brands can prove rather difficult. But if you’re wanting to reach the stratosphere, you don’t even need creativity and genius to be fully dialled in. Sometimes it’s as simple as digging into personal convictions and channeling them into your brand.
Think of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, run on Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and is anchored to its activism – they even have it as a category on their website, right next to its sportsgear.
Younger shoppers seek out brands with a broader vision; brands with greater social awareness. They also rode the ever-increasing waves of ecommerce and influenced the rest of us in how to shop online – strongly hinting at their importance as a commerce group.
As a result, “The lines between creators, buyers, and sellers will continue to blur,” according to Adriana Bourgoin, chief customer officer of Commerce Cloud. “Customized sneakers have already become the norm. Influencers regularly launch products in partnership with major brands such as Urban Decay’s new eye-shadow palette.
“Marketplaces, such as Etsy – which grew by more than 100% by the third quarter of 2020 – and the introduction of ecommerce on social platforms have created a digital bazaar on a global scale. In 2021, expect to see more of this, but with greater adoption by professionals, such as beauty advisors and hair stylists, with corporate sponsorship.”
Personalization is the new agile
Some trends come and go while other trends stick around, becoming part of the fabric. Entering the new millennium brought in many fads and trends. Among them was the agile way of doing things, which was concerned about how to accelerate the speed of development for new software. This was a trend that stuck, and now, it’s taken over endless office spaces – and Slack channels. Agile has cemented its position into the foundations of the development environment.
Another aspect to have come into increasing popularity is the functionality of personalization. “In almost every case,” said Alex Drinker, leader of Retail Go-To-Market, “retailers found gaps in what they needed to serve this new digitally enabled consumer. This change in consumer behavior was, and will continue to be, a catalyst for the industry to improve upon all areas of the customer journey and to force some leaders to reevaluate traditional business models.”
2021 is building on this with brands having to get smarter as to how they’re going to better connect with their customers, who are increasingly demanding personalized content and offers, as well as higher expectations.
Personalization is not a VIP of the digital world. With 2/3 of sales still channeled from the physical store, shoppers are still very much connected to the outside world.
And so personalization is taking on a role that stretches from the digital to the physical, and helps build omnichannel experiences. As one example, sending a text to a customer about special offers that you have after they enquire about particular deals that you may have.
According to one Salesforce survey of 10,000 consumers, the aspect of a brand that made it the favorite of a consumer was that it catered to their unique, personal needs. Injecting smarter artificial intelligence into ecommerce platforms is going to be one of the key changes for big brands and retailers this year.