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3 Trends Shaping the Digital Retail Experience at Shop.org

Retail’s digital summit, also known as Shop.org, recently brought thousands of business leaders to Dallas to discuss the latest trends and technologies driving the digital landscape. Olapic was excited to sponsor the event, and personally, it was a great way to learn more about shifting consumer behaviors and their potential impacts on the retail and e-commerce brands we work with on a daily basis. Certainly, an event as large as Shop.org can be rather overwhelming, with far too much relevant content to absorb over the course of just a few days. So, in an effort to alleviate the content overload, we’ve distilled our top three takeaways for retailers in this post. Of course, the first takeaway may not be much of a surprise to anyone working for a consumer brand:

Mobile Disruption

I hesitate to even categorize mobile as a modern “disruptor,” as it has become more of a mainstream consideration for retail and e-commerce brands over the past several years. Truly, mobile is not just a channel to strategize around. Instead, it represents a foundational shift in the way that consumers make buying decisions. Consumers are tethered to their mobile devices, and are using them to research options for shopping, eating, and social activities on a daily basis. In fact, according to Google Think, 87% of people today have their smartphone by their side at all times, day and night. Still, it has taken marketing and e-commerce teams a while to catch up with their customers’ behaviors, and a primary theme at Shop.org this year centered on how brands can create more impactful mobile experiences. One-click transactions, product immersion, and guided recommendations for mobile users were all topics of discussion throughout the week, along with how to combine the social, technological, and physical customer touch points to optimize a brand’s exposure to a particular audience.

Modern Shopping Journey

Mobile absolutely has altered the way that customers make purchase decisions. Taking it a step further, Shop.org sessions were largely focused on the idea of a “modern shopping journey,” and how customers research products, gain inspiration, and ultimately reach a point of purchase with a brand. In one particular session, PSFK, an innovation consulting firm, shared their top 10 pillars for success in the “new normal.” Of the 10, three stood out to us given our passion for user-generated, or “earned,” content:

  1. Recognize & Personalize: Today’s consumers are demanding more from brands. They expect brands to know who they are and what they care about. Personalized marketing experiences are no longer a nice-to-have, rather, they are quickly becoming table stakes for retailers.
  2. Promote Transparency: Similarly, consumers have little patience for brands that try and pull one over on them. Especially in the fashion and beauty verticals, there have been a growing set of controversies around photoshopped imagery, due to the emerging public sentiment toward authenticity in marketing. We address this pillar through earned content, believing that customers’ photos and videos are far more authentic than brand-owned creative.
  3. Cultivate Community: Brands of the future need to become more than just a set of products and services. Customers want to buy from brands that relate to them, and share in their passions for philanthropy, or sustainability, or any other relevant ideal. Digital communities are thriving more than ever before, and brands can either let them exist separately, or can become a meaningful part of the conversation. Involving your customers in the marketing process by collecting and activating their content is a primary way to cultivate community and build relationships.

Intelligent Brand Partnerships

Finally, there was much discussion on how brands are partnering together to maximize engagement and exposure while providing utility to customers. A simple example is the partnership between JetBlue and Amazon – with an in-flight entertainment experience, Amazon has a captive audience to showcase the network’s original programming in turn for sponsoring the wifi connection for passengers. More often, retailers are recognizing that complementary brands can offer a competitive advantage by adding more entertainment or utility value to customers’ lives, which have become enormously complex. Brands able to simplify decision-making will have a leg up on their competitors.

We could add many, many more takeaways to this list, but these were the three that stuck out most prominently to our team. At Olapic, we’re focused on helping brands engage their digital communities, curating, activating, and analyzing their earned content, and creating better marketing experiences. The themes at Shop.org are validation that customers’ are in control, and that smart brands are adapting accordingly to better engage and convert their important audience segments. Looking forward to how these trends will continue to unfold in 2017 and beyond.

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