- Huw Hughes |
The world of commerce is growing quickly. Contactless card payments, in-app purchasing and voice command purchasing were once alien concepts for shoppers, but are now well and truly integrated into our everyday lives. But how will commerce continue to change, and how can retailers keep up? That was the topic of this year's World of Commerce event, held in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, as industry experts discussed the rapidly growing world of commerce, and how it will affect the future of retail.
“Experience is becoming increasingly more important. People are choosing experience over everything else. Even price,” said David Wise, Director of Channel for EMEA, during his presentation about the continuously evolving retail landscape. “When you look at what’s happening in the high street, you see that retailers are being challenged. We’re seeing stores closing down or moving to pure-play. The landscape is changing, and the retailers that are winning are the ones that are focusing on experience, because commodity on its own just isn’t enough these days.”
Payments need to be fast and frictionless
But how can retailers keep up with the rapidly changing commerce landscape? According to Wise, it’s about making retail as “fast and frictionless” as possible. While contact payments used to feel strangely alien, now just the process of punching four digits into a card reader can seem unnecessarily laborious.
“Do you remember the first time you took an Uber?,” Wise asked the audience of retailers and business professionals. “At the end of the journey it felt strange. It almost felt like you had stolen a journey - like you had done a runner. Of course you did pay for it, but it was seamless!” This streamlining of processes is the direction the retail industry is headed.
Amazon - quite unsurprisingly - is pushing this idea of frictionless payment methods. In January, the online giant opened its first ‘checkout-free’ store - called Amazon Go - in Seattle, US. “If payments are done in multiple stages we feel friction. It’s about making it as easy for the customer as possible.”
Delivery needs to be quick and painless
The post-purchase experience is equally important for customers, and Wise emphasised that it shouldn’t be forgotten. Fast shipping, for example, is becoming increasingly important for consumers when considering purchases. It’s no longer enough to purchase something with the click of a button - we now also want something to arrive almost instantly. “Amazon Prime and Bol are offering delivery in under a day,” Wise said. “Customers don’t want to wait for things, they want them immediately. This is convenience commerce, and it’s addictive.”
The rise of subscription services
Razors, curated ingredients for meals, and even mattresses. Subscription purchases are on the rise, and the fashion world has taken note. Stitch Fix, New York & Co., Under Armour, and Gap are just a few of the brands now offering subscription-based services. According to Wise, retailers willing to take risks and push the boundaries of the customer experience are the ones that will prosper the most. “We can’t ignore subscriptions,” he said. “These are the types of disruptive models that focusing on making a great experience for the brand and building a loyal fanbase.”
Rich online websites can turn browsers into buyers
If retailers are to really push the potential of commerce, they also need to focus on their online presence. According to a study by Swedish product information management company, inRiver, which gathered information from shoppers in the UK, Germany, Denmark , Sweden and the Netherlands, it takes just 10 seconds for the average online shopper to lose interest in a website if it doesn’t offer relevant information for the product, including fit, fabric, and dimensions.
Additionally, 48 percent of customers are researching items online while they are in physical stores. According to Shirley Johansson, EMEA Marketing Director at inRiver, for retailers to succeed they need to make the online experience as consistent with the physical experience as possible. 40 percent of consumers are more likely to buy if the brand offers a video of an item on its website, for example. At the moment, 29 percent of customers say that online purchases don’t meet their expectations when they receive them. This is a problem, according to Johansson, who thinks online information should be as thorough as possible. “Rich and accurate online product informative can turn browsers into buyers,” she added.
With ever-evolving expectations from the consumer, businesses need to be adaptive and flexible. “You’ve now got digital stores moving into physical stores,” Wise concluded. “Like that little online book store, Amazon, opening physical stores. The retail world is flipping on its head. So maybe the high street isn’t dead, it’s just going through an evolutionary process.” Commerce is changing quickly and retailers need to keep up.
Photo credit: Ingrit Raven, XSARUS