British people, it seems, are the biggest online shopping addicts in Europe, with the British ecommerce market taking the title for largest European B2C ecommerce market since 2015, when the market was valued at 174.2 billion US dollars. This valuation increased by more than 10% in 2016, accounting for an estimated 192.5 billion USD, by the end of the year.
It’s clear that it is not just a matter of addiction, but an influence of the mature ecommerce structure, investment in technology and a wide variety of goods available online. In addition, from a total population of 65.5 million, the country has 60.3 million online users – equating to an outstanding 92% internet penetration! While, consumers still primarily buy in store, ecommerce via mobile and supporting technologies is rapidly growing in importance and is becoming fundamental to how, when and where people shop. The question is, are retailers ready?
Currently, the majority of retail sales still take place through physical stores, but this scenario is changing fast. In 2020, two-thirds of online shopping will be carried out using smartphones and all online retail will involve a smartphone at some stage; the same consumer research from OC&C, Google and PayPal also found that almost half of Brits would like customer support via mobile chat, but only 16% of the top UK retailers are ready.
Have you heard about smart fitting rooms? This is where intelligent mirrors give a 360-degree view of your chosen outfit and let you ‘try on’ clothes without even having to get undressed. On top that, you can order your favourite outfit in different sizes or colours, or get tips on how to accessorise it just by tapping on the mirror. Ralph Lauren’s Fifth Avenue flagship store in Manhattan installed smart fitting rooms in November 2015, which has resulted in an increase of customer engagement, both online and offline.
FashionLike highlights how online and offline can be integrated through technology. Used by online retailer C&A in Brazil, FashionLike can show whenever someone likes an item from the online store, by displaying the information on a mini-screen embedded in the clothes hangers for that garment on the store’s physical racks. Think about it, are you going to buy the jacket with more than 1,000 likes or do you prefer to be rebellious?
Physical stores might seem to be in competition with their online counterparts, but retailers are increasingly keen to integrate the two channels. If you pop into a shop for a popular t-shirt you have seen in the latest TV ad, you may not be able to find it in your size. At this point, the option of ordering directly from the online store, from within the physical store, should be offered. It is a good idea to provide some additional customers service in store, to help customers make their online purchase and ensure that the transaction goes through. Otherwise, the potential customer could make a swift exit, and forget about that epic t-shirt.
If you look at the customer’s journey today, you will notice that it has changed a lot over the past ten years. People are using social media to find new products or to ask opinions about what they are going to buy on the high street.
But, it seems that Facebook (the most popular social media network in the UK along with YouTube) has never become the online shopping dream once promised. In the past year, Facebook made a big promotional push to encourage online retailers onto the platform, but it is yet to take off for direct sales.
However, with the news last October that Facebook ‘s ‘Marketplace’ was launched, in an effort to help consumers buy and sell goods in their local area, it looks like there is more to come in this social-ecommerce integration story. Watch this space…
Boundaries are becoming blurred in the mind of the new tech-savvy customers as they are currently using more than one device: the screen on which a product is researched is not necessarily the one where the purchase is made. The purchase may even be completed in real life at a physical shop. The online to offline (O2O) trend has arrived.
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