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Ramakant Khandelwal

Ramakant Khandelwal, Chief Marketing Officer, PAYBACK India.

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Trends in Loyalty, Retail and E-commerce Space to Look Forward to in the Year 2018

With initiatives taken by the government to digitize the customer’s payment mode and more new players entering this space, there are a plethora of choices for the Indian customer who is always on the move.

Indian Retail has come of age and has emerged as one of the fastest growing sectors in India. It is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10 percent from $641 billion in 2016 to $1.6 trillion by 2026.

There has been a remarkable change in terms of the lifestyle preferences and buying trends among Indian consumers over the last two decades. The consumer today is spoilt for choice owing to the availability of multiple brands, attractive value propositions and access to e-stores round the clock. With an informed and discerning consumer at the forefront, brands cannot afford to forego the need to build long-term and sustained loyalty and engagement.

While retailers are constantly involved in introducing new trends, industry leaders are also looking at customer engagement programs, which is the biggest influencer in the retail and e-commerce segment. To better understand how the industry is growing at such a velocity, let’s have a look at the trends in retail, loyalty and the e-commerce sector, which will define what 2018 is going to bring to the customer watch list.

2018 Loyalty Trends:

  1. Omni-Channel Experience: Customers, today, want a hassle-free shopping experience and easy access to all things they wish to buy; which is basically that it should be under one platform. Today, digitization has made the omnichannel experience a seamless process, where a customer can browse and find all products in the same place.

Screens/devices rule the loyalty space, especially as the access to the internet has become increasingly integrated. Consequently, UI experiences and seamless visual platforms provided to the shopper will witness a marked change in customer interaction and communication. Omni-channel changes the way we deal with a shopper, this route will give brands and e-retailers a chance to pursue a certain trend or season. Furthermore, it will help enhance customer approach behavior and build loyalty among the brand, the store, and the customer.

  1. Big Data/Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots: Data analytics is slowly changing the dynamics of the retail industry. It is leading to more targeted and sharper segmentation basis consumer behavior and usage. Big Data reveals the trends, opportunities, and challenge areas, and more importantly, customer focus and segmentation. The analytics and information through Big Data can help in predicting the consumer needs. Through this in-depth analytical reporting, businesses can provide better products & services to customers through comprehensive consumer connect forums and product performance analytics.

Chatbots, at the simplest level, are front-end interfaces for companies to communicate with their customers. More advanced bots leverage artificial intelligence to offer an enriching and interactive user experiences. Companies can embed these bots on their home pages, or they can rely on native platforms like Facebook and Slack for distribution. It is already becoming a regular platform where the market is witnessing companies across all industries, including hospitality, dining, and travel, create bots for customer support, sales, and marketing services.

  1. Social /Digital Media Integration: This is one of the key influencers, and social media apps are winning on this game-changing platform. In today’s scenario, brands want to connect directly with the customer, creating compelling messages, and the best method of interaction is through social media. Social platforms are an exciting way to reach a larger audience; for customers, these integrations make shopping easier, more convenient and more social. By analyzing the social conversation across platforms, brands can respond in real-time with hyper-relevant content.
  1. Personalising and humanizing a brand: One of the greatest customers connect programs' needs no validation and that is - ‘personalised content and humanizing a brand’. For decades, renowned brands have been connecting with audiences through personalized gifts and gratifying shoppers with simple content which has a pivotal role in changing the customer shopping journey. This goes a long way in building strong loyalty.
  1. Customer Life Cycle: Mapping and understanding the entire customer journey helps in creating a more engaged experience with the brand. It also ensures nothing slips through the cracks when it comes to managing and serving customers and all individuals and departments are on the same page when it comes to customer needs, customer handoff and internal knowledge transfers, and most importantly, results.

2018 Retail Trends –

  1. Pay on the move: Payment gateways and ease of transactions via personalized devices have changed the industry’s buying behavior. With initiatives taken by the government to digitize the customer’s payment mode and more new players entering this space, there are a plethora of choices for the Indian customer who is always on the move.
  1. Omni-Platform Experience: Steady growth in industry trends and technological developments have created multiple opportunities to integrate the online and in-store consumer journey. Multiple channels have manifold advantages and this leads to the integration of networks which are benefiting the customer shopping journey.
  1. AR / VR: Technology is changing the customer experience and is going digital. In the near future, customers will likely use AR and VR extensively to explore and interact with potential purchases. Augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is seen by many as the next generation of disruption in the retail world. Virtual reality, along with its sister technology, augmented reality, offers retailers the opportunity to transform how they interact with the consumer.
  1. Experiential Marketing: The power of experiential marketing and one-to-one engagement is that it enables brands to create true dialogues with consumers to address any issues of mistrust, demonstrating the ethics of a brand. Experiential is all about engagement, and furthermore, personalized engagement thus creating top of mind recall for the brand in the consumer’s mind space in a relevant manner. If consumers are seeking to be treated as individuals, then experiential is the perfect platform to deliver this.
  1. Protection of data and gaining from less is more: Retailing has transformed with factors such as big data, predictive analytics, data protection (a big game changer today) and less is more.

2018 E-Commerce trends:

  1. Price Comparison - According to research, 85% of shoppers will carry out online research based on promotions and personalized offers reaching them through the mobiles. This initiates a critical role in the decision-making and buying phase; customers will explore avenues to get the best price scenarios. This will increasingly bring competitive pricing to the forefront.
  1. Technology and AR: The customer engagement process has matured today; it is a distinct platform which provides personalized content. Social media platforms such as Snapchat are already witnessing the AR features it gives access to projects their images through the camera with ‘Bitmojis’. Large brands have already begun to enable these platforms by projecting their products and reaching out to customers directly in their homes.
  1. Subscription-based personalized content: With numerous selections and user-based content reaching out to give the audiences personalized viewing options; e-commerce has broken all barriers in screen time spent on shopping. According to research, the viewership with an increase in content consumption to more than 80% users accessing the internet by 2020. Chatbots will equip customers to connect instantly with brands of their choice. Thus, forever changing the modus operandi of how business conducts promotional offers and interact with consumers.
  1. Driving conversions through compelling content/storytelling: Today, customer don’t have to browse for a product, and retailer and e-commerce player are celebrating this very fact. Why is this trend so important in today’s consumer-driven world? Because content is the main contender in convincing the customer and setting one brand above or aside from another. Therefore, e-commerce players urgently need to up their game to stay in the competition by developing captivating content that carries meaning. Videos and interactive content are more fulfilling to a customers’ needs than general store browsing. Each brand has a story to tell; by creatively engaging audiences and packaging it for the customer to suit their personal needs will enable more conversions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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