Three trends that could change the way we shop

1. Consumers are in now control; financial institutions are having to adapt

2. Technology and social media are altering the payments landscape

3. The UK has the best contactless and payments infrastructure in the World

By Kevin Jenkins, managing director, Visa UK & Ireland

The way people shop has changed. In less than a generation, we’ve moved from an experience that revolved around high street shopping hours of 9-6 to a round-the-clock experience anywhere our laptop, smartphone or tablet has a connection.

New technologies are giving people limitless inspiration and greater control, challenging the traditional retail framework. Today’s hyper-connected consumers want to be able to buy anytime, anywhere, creating a new omni-channel opportunity for retailers to address.

Our most recent study, The Future of Retail, conducted by research and advisory firm Stylus, looks at the trends affecting this industry and the factors influencing changes in consumer behaviour. Here are three of the most interesting trends from the study impacting the future of retail:

1. Customers want personalised shopping experiences across all touch points

Whether in a physical store or through digital channels, shopping is no longer simply a utilitarian acquisition of a need or want; customers are looking to be entertained, surprised and delighted by their retail experience.

Whether it’s a personalised “Discover Weekly” playlist on Spotify or recommended products on Amazon, the modern-day consumer is becoming increasingly accustomed to algorithms that learn about their preferences to receive bespoke recommendations online.

For retailers, this tailored approach has not yet been replicated offline, so even the most loyal online customer is as anonymous as a first-time shopper the minute they walk through the high street door.

How can retailers react to this trend?

In a physical retail environment, the greatest opportunities to convert sales are often missed. The online connections and customer insights brands have made online can disappear as soon as shoppers reach the store. New technologies can enable retailers to give an engaging, customised experience when they shop on the high street to deliver better value and a seamless experience that puts the customer at its heart. For instance, interactive displays that provide information solely about the product a shopper touches gives the same functionality that they would have online if they clicked on the same product. In-store screens can also provide recommendations for products associated to an item a shopper is trying on (eg, shoes and accessories to go with a dress).

2. There is growing demand for social shopping experiences

Customers are now more connected than ever. The first point of the new shopping experience as entertainment can start with an item pinned on Pinterest, carrying through to looking at a product online, then to consultations with friends or researching reviews, finishing with photos of the newly purchased item shared on Instagram.

How can retailers react to this trend?

At a time when consumers are more socially connected than ever, our study highlights how essential the integration with social media channels is for retailers. Today’s shoppers expect social media to be integrated throughout their shopping experience, from “play to pay”.

One of the most important elements of this finding for retailers to observe is a shift in consumer behaviour from “buy it now” to “hold/consider/consult”, when people pause on their purchase to seek out their friends’ opinions or find the best price. Online, this can be as simple as share buttons integrated into the checkout. In-store, retailers can create sociable breakout spaces and chill zones for the socially connected shopper to consider and compare products.

Lastly, social media gives everyday consumers the opportunity to be brand ambassadors by tweeting, pinning and Instagramming their favourite products to their friends. Retailers have an opportunity to leverage this free advertising, offering loyalty points and special offers for social shares as well as items purchased.

3. Mobile technology has the potential to bridge the gap between online and offline retail experiences

Smartphones have the potential to revolutionise the retail experience. First, they give shoppers the much needed “always on” connection via social media. Through new payment products, they also give consumers a fast, easy way to pay, reducing time spent in queues. Lastly, they have the potential to give shoppers the personalised digital experience they want in a high street setting.

How can retailers react to this trend?

Retailers are beginning to recognise the role smartphones can play in bridging the gap between the online and in-store experience. Existing beacon and bluetooth technologies can help retailers replicate the personalised online experience shoppers are familiar with by notifying loyal customers of deals on items they love.

Furthermore mobile technology can improve the payment experience with mobile point of sale devices that enable sales assistants to move away from fixed till points and deeper into the selling space, creating better engagement with their customers. In addition to payments, loyalty programmes can be integrated into the mobile experience, giving retailers the opportunity to move away from coupons and emails to a deeper, more connected experience with their customers.

The consumer demand is here for retailers to embrace omni-channel shopping. The face of retail will continue to change as consumer patterns evolve, supported by new channels, new payment technologies and new buying opportunities.

Consumers are already embracing payment in all forms whether through contactless cards, mobile or wearable devices. At Visa Europe, we are putting in place the infrastructure and systems to meet the demands of this rapidly changing industry.

Consumers lead the future of retail


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