With retail’s quarterly earnings season firmly behind us, it’s the ideal time to take a closer look at who’s sailing merrily into the second quarter on a wave of positive sentiment – and who’s doing everything they can to keep the storm away.
Up to now, retail sales in the US have shown signs of recovery in the first few months of the year, with strong international demand and improved consumer confidence not going unnoticed. But, in a world where online shopping is increasingly becoming the preferred method of purchasing, retailers are taking the opportunity to woo customers with unbeatable online deals.
Recent data from Shopify’s annual holiday shopping guide revealed that a robust year-over-year increase in sales has been seen during the first month of the reporting period, with April leading the way in terms of digital sales and overall growth. With these sales results representing the largest growth seen since 2014, it is clear that the year is off to a strong start, and retailers are only ramping up their online spending to support this trend.
With consumers now making up a larger proportion of the overall retail industry, retailers have gained a clearer understanding of how best to capitalize on their online presence and drive sales. Whilst conventional wisdom would suggest that going all out to create an attractive online presence might be the most effective way to take advantage of e-commerce, retailers are now increasingly utilising other tactics to attract potential customers. In fact, according to the Shopify report, 70% of retailers employed a combination of both online and in-store buying strategies, with an even greater number, 87%, relying on both strategies simultaneously.
Robust growth in brand social media – also revealed in the Shopify guide – will undoubtedly offer online retailers a cost-effective way to build their brand and establish their online presence as both an influencer and a trusted source of information. With the bulk of annual spending still heading online, brand social media is set to be a powerful tool in aiding sales and brand awareness. This is particularly true in regards to large brand social media outlets such as Instagram and Snapchat.
Particularly in the case of Snapchat, retailers are taking advantage of a transition phase that is currently under way, which sees new features being added to the platform by working with Snapchat. One key example of a collaboration between the two companies has been unveiled last month when adverts for mobile technology firm Corepharm were designed to exploit the new update features for the popular photo and video sharing app.
Increasingly, we are seeing the aim of businesses participating in social media being less about paying lip service to it and more about engaging with customers, to enable a genuine consumer relationship that allows them to establish a loyalty. With this in mind, how people talk about brands on social media is a defining element of their appeal and a vital indicator of brand interest.
As the overall volume of digital dollars starts to pour into the sector, we’re only likely to see online retailers continue to look for new avenues to drive customers to their websites and to encourage shoppers to spend. Digital innovators are finding new ways to tweak the product offering to perfection and add meaningful value to the online shopping experience. The potential for growth in sales is only going to increase, meaning the end of the shift to an offline-only economy is rapidly approaching.
Today’s fast-changing retail landscape highlights the importance of being prepared. With retailers seeking ways to develop cutting-edge retail brands, it is now more crucial than ever that brick-and-mortar retailers can adapt, give a great service and make sure their customer’s and their prospective customer’s have a seamless, enjoyable and trusted digital experience.