Just as we have been publishing every day in the month of January, here’s another expert series but this time tackling retail. Do you think these trends will help rejuvenate our offline shopping experience or will online eventually triumph?

Mark Fidelman, CEO of Evolve! 

Using data analytics, companies will tie people to their online surfing habits. A recent article in the WSJ illustrates the trend: 

“The widening ability to associate people’s real-life identities with their browsing habits marks a privacy milestone, further blurring the already unclear border between our public and private lives. In pursuit of ever more precise and valuable information about potential customers, tracking companies are redefining what it means to be anonymous.”

Joshua March, CEO Conversocial

The retail industry is the first to be fully pervaded by the social effect. Consumers are heavily influenced by social interactions when it comes to purchasing decisions. A survey conducted by American Marketing Association found that 90% of consumers trust peer reviews, and 70% trust online reviews. 

Retailers who best know how to work with this reality in 2013 will have a real competitive advantage. Creating material and post-sales experiences to be discovered by fans, and that they genuinely want to share will be the best use of social media for core business objectives.

Adam Berke, Adroll

The retail industry can’t ignore the multiscreen shopping experience any longer. Consumers will be research and buying next year on phones, tablets and computers – new buying patterns will be forged!

Emily Wengert, VP of User Experience at Huge

In 2013, a divide will continue to split retailers – they’ll either win on price and shipping or win on unique product assortment. There will be a boom in the latter, as retailers determine they can’t compete with the likes of Walmart and Amazon and instead tell compelling stories with distinctive product assortments. 

Look for increased participatory product creation, whether that’s customers voting on what product gets developed, getting to design their own versions, or a make-your-own option using 3D-printing technologies.

Carin van Vuuren, CMO of mobile technology company Usablenet

Multi-channel engagement will continue to accelerate in 2013, with retailers using a combination of mobile, in-store apps, and kiosks to enhance the in-store experience. Mobile solutions like tablets for store associates will increase productivity and improve the customer experience, reducing barriers to completing the sale. 

Retailers will also become more experimental with in-store technology, with QR code and barcode scanning becoming table stakes as customers find it easy to adopt and use.

Ryan, Let’s Gift It

2013 is the year for retailers to break out of the constraints of what has worked in the past – and instead focus on driving excellence from the bottom up. For me, I would love to see these three things:

  1. Customer service via live chat and social media being hugh drivers this year
  2. A focus on bringing the online experience offline and increasing conversation via in store incentives and perks
  3. Bigger, better and faster logistic

Marifran Manzo-Ritchie, Director of Corporate Communications. Monetate

The retail industry is going through a seismic shift as consumers are demanding more intuitive shopping experiences that are personalized to their interests and behaviors. Ecommerce marketers have traditionally lagged behind their offline brethren when it comes to implementing sophisticated marketing strategies that provide consumers with a personalized shopping experience. 

This year we will see separation online as new technologies enable more sophisticated marketing that improves the customer experience. The retailers that do not adapt to this new normal will fall behind and become less competitive.

Dan Jeffries, Jeffries Consulting

Retailers have recognized in 2012 that social media is an essential part of their digital strategy.  Being able to talk to their customers in a setting that is comfortable for them has enabled many brands to build loyal customers in a transient and price focused  environment.

Converting online interest into hard sales is the other key area where companies will spend a great deal of time and effort in 2013.  The time, cost and effort that goes into attracting customers to a brands site is all lost if the checkout process is not optimized to generate maximum conversion.  I’ll be recommending clients spend as much energy as possible in looking at the user experience on site and ensuring they make to most of every lead that comes their way.

Mark Simpson, Founder and President of Maxymiser

More loyalty programs and better use of the data—this model isn’t just for travel companies anymore.  Loyalty programs, reward points and status levels—when executed correctly—can significantly boost customer retention and long-term brand loyalty. These rich data portals will now be used to provide a seamless 360-degree brand experience across all channels—meaning not just in their marketing initiative, but also to the customers actual experience in real life.

Ian Foulds, Insight and Strategy Director at Integer London

I predict three technologies will impact the retail sector in 2013 and capture shoppers’ imagination. Firstly, tablets. No one except Steve Jobs knew we needed them, now we can’t get enough of them. What’s more, they’re fast becoming the gateway to retail therapy at home, with a conversion rate twice that of PCs and substantially greater than smartphones.  

Secondly, shoppable videos. OK, they’ve been around for a while but now they’re actually getting really good. In 2013 we could see a whole host of brands engaging consumers with product stories to influence purchase decisions – from heritage and tasting notes of whiskey to the engine performance, boot capacity, music system etc. of a car. 

Lastly, Retailer apps. As showrooming and gamification trends take hold 2013 will see more experimentation to win on the High Street. Like Boots’ Christmas app for gift ideas, House of Fraser’s app guiding you around the store, or Starbucks’ app to pay for your coffee.

Sean W. Bohan, Co-Founder, Decahedralist Strategic Consulting

Expect at least 2 big consumer retailers (Gap, H&M etc.) to more deeply incorporate a dedicated social element into their products, whether by LIKEing or PINning a specific product via the mobile app. Store-digital integration will continue (especially for retailers who have invested in loyalty programs).

Dax Hamman, Chango

The trend in marketing teams at retailers is an understanding of what 1st party data means in a digital context, and how they can use it more efficiently. Take something like ‘site retargeting’ for instance: during the last 24 months many CMOs have realized that a visit to their site creates data, and with the right tools they can use that easily, cutting out the firms making 70% margin on their simple campaigns.

Retailers will embrace Big Data and look for tools such as Programmatic Marketing Platforms to help them capture it, and make it actionable for their advertising and beyond.

Mark Kirschner, Vice CMO, Rakuten

The rise of the specialist retailer: Whether it’s brick-and-mortar or online, there has been a shift towards specialist retailers that can often offer a better-informed and personal service.  An alternative to impersonal mass-market retailers, specialist retailers cater to a specific range or area of products—be that fashion, jewellery, or photography equipment—also can be seen in the way consumers use specialized shopping apps on their mobile devices.

Tom Allason, CEO and Founder, Shutl 

The US home delivery market will be worth around $26 billion by 2016—we believe that same day delivery will serve a signification portion of this as shoppers increasingly demand fast, convenient and  cost-effective delivery options.   

Although major pure-play etailers like Amazon are beginning to offer same day delivery, they are still challenged to provide a flexible, 24/7 service via their hub-and-spoke model. What’s needed is a really fast and convenient point-to-point delivery service for densely populated urban areas where customers are no further than 10 miles away from their nearest store.

Mark Jennings, digital strategy consultant

Mobile commerce genuinely coming into its own, not just by volume of sales but by ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).

Facebook will become more critical than ever with the rollout of the Want button, and the new “Collections” feature for retailers, which allows them to create a catalogue within Facebook.  When Facebook users click Want or Like a product in Collections they will be offered the chance to buy it from the retailer’s website. 

Retailers can finally convert their community engagement into direct sales.