Top 3 digital trends in retail and why retailers should follow them

April 1, 2021
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Consumers’ shopping behaviors have shifted for years toward e-commerce, but the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing dramatically changed and solidified new habits. The buying-selling experience made a major move from physical stores to digital platforms, and retailers should zero in on certain omnichannel strategies to reach more customers.

Here are three digital trends that every retailer should be leverage in 2021.

1. Social shopping

When in-person selling came to a screeching halt at brick-and-mortar stores during the nationwide shutdown last year, a new set of customers began to explore shopping on their social channels. With all the free time at home, many discovered they could browse and easily buy at their favorite or new-to-them brands on Facebook and Instagram Shops and TikTok, which has a new global partnership with e-commerce platform Shopify.

Expect this e-commerce trend to flourish well after the pandemic subsides and people once again feel comfortable shopping in stores. Technavio recently reported that the social commerce market is poised to grow by $2,051 billion from now until 2024; and according to CivicScience, the percentage of U.S. adults who’ve purchased products directly on social media nearly doubled from 2018 to 2020.

It’s essential that retailers make advertising and selling on digital channels a priority; that means utilizing platforms like Instagram or Facebook Shopping where customers can easily click and buy an item without ever leaving the app. Social channels are also an ideal way for retailers to connect with new customers and showcase or release new products on Instagram Stories or TikTok. Authentic storytelling is a skill retailers should prioritize, so customers better connect with their ethos and specific brand philosophy.

Another digital trend to watch out for in 2021 is shoppable TV ads that connect programs to a mobile phone app, enabling viewers to purchase what’s on-screen.

2. Under the influence

The digital space was saturated with influencers before the pandemic, and influencer marketing is only expected to gain more traction with the onset of new social platforms and creator tools. Retailers should focus on hiring and partnering with digital influencers, both large and small, to boost their brand recognition and showcase products with videos. With so many new customers flocking to social channels, retailers can benefit from influencers sharing authentic and creative videos on IGTV, Instagram and Facebook Lives, Instagram Reels and TikTok.

Videos are a great way for customers to see inspiring fashion try-on sessions, watch a real-time product demonstration or hear genuine feedback on a product. The trick: Retailers will need to build authentic connections with selected influencers who share their same ethos to see positive outcomes, and ultimately, build a new customer base and sales.

3. Reality check

With social distancing regulations and a no-touch policy at some stores, retailers should fast-track augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) options for smart phone users. While AR/VR were once considered futuristic, consumers still have a try-before-they-buy mentality, and retailers will need to bring these technologies into the present. That could mean offering virtual try-on sessions, including fashion or cosmetics, demos of products to showcase how they work, or even previewing how products look in the home.

ABI Research forecasts that by 2022, more than 120,000 stores will deploy AR; and in a pre-pandemic 2019 Neilsen global survey, 51% of consumers said they were willing to use this technology to evaluate products. At T-ROC, we launched VIBA, which stands for virtual interactive brand ambassador, during the pandemic to provide a contactless shopping and customer service experience. Soon, we may also see more gaming-type experiences, where consumers can interact with other shoppers and see or try on products as they move through the game.

And while we can expect to see more robots in physical stores, especially as more contact-less experiences are desired, chatbots are also becoming a necessity in the digital space. Retailers can use chatbots to engage with customers on messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or Kik, and the advantage is 24/7 help to answer questions and shorter wait times for customers.

As the way we shop continues to change and evolve, harnessing the power of digital is more than a trend, it has true staying power for retailers.

Original article source: Top 3 digital trends in retail and why retailers should follow them

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