Retail - Where We’re Trending in 2014 and Beyond

Now that the second half of 2014 is upon us, a number of retail trends have been established. Are you familiar with any of them? Whether your business is primarily conducted in your brick-and-mortar store or through an e-commerce site - or both, it's always important as an owner or manager to keep abreast of the most pressing trends. Some will merely be flashes in the pan, of course, but several are already exhibiting major staying power. While you don't necessarily need to jump on the bandwagon of each one, chances are that virtually all of them will provide significant benefits for your company.


Mobile Payments

The mobile payment trend has been picking up steam of late, and it's set to intensify over the next year or two. Why are mobile payments becoming increasingly ubiquitous? For one thing, they provide benefits to consumers and retailers alike. From the standpoint of convenience alone, mobile payments are a no-brainer. Retailers have long been admonished to accept as many forms of payment as possible. Businesses that accept cash only have practically become extinct because people are far more likely to carry plastic than cash.

Just as people have increasingly turned to carrying credit cards in lieu of cash, they're increasingly keeping their mobile devices with them at all times. In fact, according to a Visa study, people are twice as likely to carry their phones with them as they are to carry cash. When such folks visit your store, many are sure to be receptive to the idea of paying with their smartphones. This will increasingly become the case, so the time to start accepting mobile payments is now.

Accepting mobile payments doesn't just help you accommodate customers' wishes; it provides many other great benefits as well. Mobile payments open the door to all kinds of insightful marketing opportunities, as you can easily track and collect information about your customers' transactions to enable targeted and relevant marketing campaigns. You can also combine mobile payments with special offers and incentives of your own, including loyalty programs, which we will cover in a bit. There's really no end to the possibilities.


Gift Cards

Gift cards have long been popular with online and brick-and-mortar retailers, but they've been enjoying a major surge in popularity lately. One of the top benefits of offering gift cards is that they help to promote brand loyalty. Once someone has a gift card for your store, they're almost certain to come back to do shopping in the not-too-distant future. Plastic gift cards can easily be customized to suit your company's brand, and it's even possible to tie them in with loyalty programs, mobile payments and other current trends. In addition, of course, there's the fact that 10 percent to 15 percent of gift card balances are never used. Furthermore, around 65 percent of Americans bought or received gift cards last year, so they continue to be extremely popular and can help attract new customers to your business.


Loyalty Programs

Major companies' successes with loyalty programs have been making waves recently, which proves that this is one trend that's only going to increase in the months and years to come. Starbucks, for instance, saw a 26-percent increase in profits and an 11-percent increase in overall revenues in the second quarter of 2013, and the coffee giant attributes a lot of that success to its wildly popular My Starbucks Rewards program. You don't have to be a major retailer to enjoy great benefits of a loyalty program, and there's no need to spend a fortune to make it happen. After all, digital rewards programs are very cost-effective and dovetail nicely with mobile payments, mobile marketing and the overall mobile trend.

One of the most alluring things about implementing a loyalty program is that it can help you earn repeat business. Studies have shown that repeat customers spend 67 percent more on average than new customers, so it's well worth it to encourage people to come back again and again. With a loyalty card in hand or with a mobile loyalty app, customers are more likely to not only remember your store but to actually come in and spend money there.


Mobile Marketing

If you're not already devoting some time and effort to being accessible and visible via mobile, it's time to get moving. Retailers are increasingly moving away from developing separate mobile sites in favor of using responsive web design, which uses a single set of code to ensure a site renders properly and effectively across all devices. Responsive web design is the hottest mobile marketing trend, and you should consider putting it to use in the next year. Social media also offers many opportunities for reaching customers on their mobile devices, so be sure to put in decent amounts of effort there too.



When it comes to effective web design for retail, here are three words you need to know: dynamic website personalization (DWP). A prime example of the effective use of DWP and segmentation can be found on Amazon, which greets return visitors with recommendations based on prior purchases, past reviews and other information. Personalized content is a powerful way to increase conversions, and customers are increasingly expecting to find personalized experiences on retail websites. By offering dynamic web experiences to your customers, you'll encourage them to stay on your site longer and to buy more. There are many ways to implement DWP, and there's no need to break the marketing bank to put it to work for your business. And, dynamic personalization is not limited to websites, it adds an immense amount of value for e-marketing campaigns as well, especially for those businesses with a loyalty program and/or customer relationship management system (CRM).



Like many retailers, you may have thought the concept of omni-channel marketing - which is to basically remove the division between online and in-store marketing - was little more than a flash in the pan. As it happens, it's here to stay. Consider this: Retail giant Macy's has wholeheartedly embraced omni-channel and even describes itself as an "omni-channel retail organization operating stores and websites." According to an MIT report entitled "Beyond the Checkout Cart," 80 percent of store shoppers check prices online before or while shopping. The same report points out that one-third of them do research on their mobile devices while in the actual store, so consumers have already embraced omni-channel and are increasingly expecting to find a seamless experience between online and offline shopping. From offering online purchases that can be picked up in the store to encouraging customers to use their mobile devices while shopping in your brick-and-mortar store, there are lots of ways to get on board this wildly popular trend.


The Bottom Line

Regardless of the nature of your business, most - or even all - of these trends should provide incredible benefits for you and your customers. The main thing they all have in common is that they aren't going away. Most can be seamlessly integrated, and they tend to complement one another well too. Before 2014 comes to a close, make sure to try at least a few of them to see what they can do for your business.