Future Predictions for Retailers

Once again, futurist Marian Salzman has set the tone with her annual trendspotting report for 2012 where she predicts the big trends in shopping that needs retailer attention. The year ahead will no doubt bring innovation from retail pioneers so lets take a look at a few of her predictions that could have big implications.

Technology Aids Shopping

Marian calls it “shopping under the tech influence” which really means that whether you have an ecommerce site or brick-and-mortar store, the shopping experience is heavily influenced by technology.  While we’ve seen some interesting innovations from retailers like Wet Seal, JCPenney and Macy’s, now is the time to take new technology not necessarily intended for retail and apply it to the shopping experience.

Shoppers increasingly rely on social and mobile to compare prices and check inventory, but that’s so 2011. Now retailers must go beyond the expected and really harness these technologies to drive results.

Innovative Use of Technology Gets Attention

One Janrain customer, Go Try It On, developed a mobile app that enables shoppers to snap a picture of an outfit from their mobile device and share it to their social networks for fashion advice. What if your customer could do that from her own home using an Xbox Kinect? Check out this short video that previews how we’ll go beyond today’s eCommerce site to an interactive experience where shoppers can see how clothes will fit and look on their own body, purchase items and share with friends at home through their Kinect.

Bodymetrics in the Living Room from Bodymetrics Ltd. on Vimeo.

It’s important to keep in mind that new technology isn’t just relevant to a younger generation. When social-savvy working moms need fashion inspiration they no longer have to hit the mall and deal with teenagers. They simply login at Pinterest and browse outfits that like-minded friends have already pulled together with details on where to buy the whole look. Retailers are already experimenting with Pinterest to drive traffic back to their site with Pin It buttons on product pages and campaigns like Land’s End’s “Pin It To Win It” contest that encouraged fans to create Pinboards with their favorite products.

It should be no surprise that consumers of all ages and walks are heavily influenced by their friends and family, and Pinterest is just one more social network that enables buying influence. Whether shoppers share the products they love, rate or buy at your site to their Facebook, Twitter or other feeds, the reality is that referral visits back to your site initiate from a trusted source leads to a higher likelihood of a purchase. Social sharing isn’t new technology but holds the potential to have significant impact on growing your business.

Social Must Lead to Engagement

Marian notes that our obsession with social media will intensify in 2012 but retailers must now turn their attention to engaging in meaningful ways beyond a focus on the Like button. Measuring fans, friends and followers aren’t the metrics that drive bottom line results, or engagement.

ShopWithYourFriends is leveraging technology to bring a social element to online shopping. Just last year they launched a real-time social shopping portal where fashionistas can discover new trends and shop virtually with their friends from social networks. Using badges, trophies and points can sound like fun and games, but when approached strategically, game mechanics reward people for the actions that help you reach business objectives.

Social Shopping with Game Mechanics

Go Beyond the Shiny New Toys

To be effective and truly stand out, new technology cannot be about the novelty, or newness – we saw frequent campaigns that missed the mark when QR codes became THE next marketing tool; Facebook pages have become another broadcast media; and most mobile ads are no more interactive than a 1990 TV commercial.

Retailers have new tools in their arsenal like Facebook commerce, push notification technology, and in-store GPS, but using them right out of the box is the expected move – and will likely provide lackluster results. Take note of how innovative industries are using new technologies and improve upon it.

What Will Truly Change The Way We Shop?

Mobile, social and local are positioned to have significant impact on business this year, and retailers are in the perfect position to benefit from these tactics with the right strategy and execution. My own prediction for 2012 is that this is the year retailers will make social a critical element in their shopping experience, whether the device people use is on their lap, in their hand or on a screen in-store.

Add your own predictions in the comments section. And if you’re headed to eTail West in February, let’s connect. I’d love to hear how you’re leveraging new technology this year! Send me at email to Gina(at)Janrain.com.