It’s no secret that the pandemic has disrupted the retail and consumer goods industry across the globe. Traditionally, an industry driven by in-person interactions, retailers are forced to face the “new age” of retail. As we enter into a post-pandemic era retailers need to remain agile to the shifting trends going into 2022 and beyond.
That said, the reality of this “new age” is that it’s actually quite similar to the pressures of retail before. However, there’s a renewed sense of importance around the concept of building true omnichannel experiences in an effort to bridge the gap between online and offline experiences for customers. Retailers today, more than ever, need to lead with empathy and engage with their customers’ hearts and minds. So, what do retailers need to focus on to be prepared for the year ahead? Our experts believe it’s down to omnichannel experiences, loyalty, and data.
Retail trend 1: Continued convergence of offline and online shopping experiences.
The fusion of the physical and digital shopping world has re-validated one simple truth: retailers’ ability to keep pace and succeed in this "new age" of retail will be dictated by their agility to adapt to the ever-changing customer. The customer being at the center of everything hasn’t changed, but how Salesforce is helping retailers drive loyalty at scale by creating a unified view of their customers, is only getting better.
Customers on average traverse nine touchpoints in their journey with a brand, and those touchpoints are fragmented between stores, customer service departments, loyalty programs, and e-commerce experiences. According to Salesforce, 83% of customers now expect flexible shipping and fulfillment options, like buy online and pickup in-store (BOPIS), which isn’t possible without bridging online and offline systems. We are living in a hybrid world, and the retail industry is no stranger to this.
Not only do retailers now have to create experiences in online and offline channels, but with the increased competition in online arenas, consumers have a lot more choice, leading to a lack of brand loyalty. Customers demand the best experience online and offline—retailers must meet their expectations in all arenas or risk seeing customers go elsewhere for those experiences.
Retail trend 2: Heightened focus on loyalty.
Consumers have a plethora of options within the retail and consumer goods industry, making loyalty a pivotal focus for retailers now and for years to come. This year, Salesforce launched Loyalty Management (Loyalty Cloud) to help drive more meaningful customer loyalty experiences. With the phasing out of cookies, access to third-party data will become increasingly hard to get. Retailers will need to rely on loyalty as a source for first-party data.
In the next six months, over 1000 new loyalty programs are going to be rolled out. Consumers are looking for more than points and discounts. They’re looking for experiences and integration into the brand. This means getting into your customer’s heart and mind, and not solely their wallet through a premium personalized experience.
It’s not as simple as launching a loyalty program, retailers need to listen to their audience and ultimately understand what will drive them to come back to their brand over and over again. This may mean points or discounts, but it’s more likely that consumers are exhausted with these kinds of programs. We believe in leading with experience-based offerings to ensure brands don’t devalue their products or services.
Retail trend 3: The death of third-party cookies.
On average, retailers have customer data across 44 different systems, making it difficult to effectively manage consumers’ offline and offline experiences. Data is the bridge to understanding the needs of your customers through their shopping habits. With the phasing out of Google cookies in 2022, retailers will need to focus on first-party data, which includes data within your CRM.
There’s a focus on the importance of building a system of engagement so that agents, customers, and users can access the right data, from the right system, at the right time. Salesforce has always been there for that—but the need for this has only been further proven by the impacts brought on by the pandemic.
In the theme of the right data, from the right system, at the right time we’re starting to see more of an integration of Slack after Salesforce’s recent acquisition. While Salesforce is still early in full use-cases and deep integrations across the suite of products, we will see how important Slack will be to enhance retail experiences in store, online, and in loyalty programs into the new year.
So, what does best in class look like for retail in 2022?
Based on these emerging retail trends as we continue to adapt to this “new age” of retail, you need to:
- Bridge your online and offline experiences.
- Earn your way into your customer’s hearts and minds through personalization.
- Think of data as the key to unlocking both of these, with well-earned first-party data.