The retail industry has changed markedly since 2010. More consumers love the convenience of shopping anytime, anywhere and at any store thanks to increased shopping technology such as smartphone apps, social media websites and online security. Now that companies deliver convenience, customer expectations of retailers have changed.
Accenture's 2015 Global Consumer Pulse Research survey shows customers are 29 percent more likely to change companies in 2015 than they were in 2010. This so-called switching economy means $1.6 trillion in sales is up for grabs, and companies that cater to customer expectations of digital, mobile and social media technology may win the day. People that switch companies sway consumer spending patterns, change market forces and demand more shopping technology to make consumer spending easier.
Large companies can no longer afford to be complacent. The survey indicates as many as 56 percent of shoppers have increased the number of brands they consider buying. Repeat customers may be harder to retain if they can find a better deal, smarter bargain or greater value with another company. Searching for products and services online allows consumers to instantly compare prices, shipping costs and product specifications. Simply price matching from another company may not be enough to keep customers coming back again and again.
Customer loyalty must be earned by offering unique, personal products found nowhere else. Shopping technology shows retailers can tailor coupons, discounts and customer loyalty to personalized needs. Sending out a $50-off coupon for a television means nothing to someone interested in less expensive baby clothes. Customized smartphone apps help track product preferences, provide special offers and even help greeters as someone walks into a store.
Retail stores must sync online and physical marketplaces. If someone buys a product online, companies need to make sure the item can be returned to a physical store. Returns to a purely online retailer should be painless. Brick-and-mortar stores could have contemporary, up-to-date websites even if no products get sold online. Websites and social media mark great ways for customers to get in touch with a retailer's service department even if the business only sells products in a physical store. Shopping technology revolves around having specific policies in place so stores can adapt quickly to consumer demands.
Firms should be proactive in their dealings with customers and competition. Reward customers who take surveys with discounts, contests or buy one, get one offers. Discover what the competition does well and adapt quickly to seize on what another company lacks.
Executives and owners should watch how shopping technology has changed over the previous five years to note trends moving forward. Businesses must adapt to competitors quickly, otherwise they may suffer the same fate as Montgomery Ward, Radio Shack and Blockbuster Video. Prices reflect quality and value rather than having the least expensive product out there. When executives consider shipping and logistics, even small businesses can have a global presence thanks to websites and connectivity.
Shopping technology has changed the consumer-based economy from supply chains to 3-D printing and smartphone apps. Companies that note changes and those that adapt the quickest earn the most profits in the switching economy.
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