Consumers are adopting technology faster and are more technology savvy than most businesses. Most businesses are typically several years behind in both hardware and software while consumers enjoy the newest and best technology at their fingertips through their tablets and smart phones. The trend is for consumers to go 100 percent digital in their shopping lists and networking and in how they communicate. As a result, consumers are forcing businesses to adopt new technologies to better meet their needs.
Consumers are also changing the face of retail to meet their needs, from stores that never close to a different shopping experience. Brick-and-mortar stores still play a pivotal role in retail, but they're faced with increasing competition from online options.
Digital is changing the way consumers shop and research products. In a fast-paced world, consumers will typically choose convenience over price and selection most any day the week. Apps trigger impulse shopping by providing automatic coupons and product advertisements when a shopper enters a store. Shoppers engage in web-brooming to research and browse product options online via mobile - even at the shelf. Companies like Walmart will automatically refund a price difference if they find a lower advertised price. Some retailers do the shopping for you making your groceries available so that you never have to enter the store.
Another hot trend is subscription-based programs that allow shoppers to preorder goods and services that are automatically delivered before even needing to be added to your shopping list. 86 percent of the items that Amazon sells weigh less than 5 pounds, making them easy and inexpensive to ship.
This trend is expected to accelerate as digital natives come of age. Digital natives are people who grew up with the technology in their hands from infancy. In many instances, digital natives are unaware of many of the things their parents grew up with like CDs, pay phones, video cassettes, printed newspapers, libraries, etc. Everything is at their fingertips and available on their terms 24/7. Waiting is becoming a thing of the past and has been replaced by instant gratification.
Digital is creating a frictionless society. Purchasing and paying for goods and services is as easy as swiping your phone at check out. Shoppers no longer need to carry credit cards, cash, and ID. Everything is secured and available through our mobile technology.
Retailers and manufacturers wanting to take a leadership role will need to focus on improving the overall customer experience. The companies that do it best will create loyal shoppers happy to share their experience with friends and family explosively through social media. Uber is an excellent example of a company that is radically changing and improving the customer experience in a variety of areas. This will be the greatest point of differentiation between solution providers in the future.
Natural brick-and-mortar retailers have a distinct competitive advantage in their ability to provide quality personal customer service. This is something no online service can replicate. Shoppers want to be respected, feel special, and be relevant. There is huge difference between a live person who helps the shopper discover the best possible solution for their needs than a series of drop-down menus. Retailers wanting a competitive advantage will put the shopper first - always!