The retail sector is learning to live with consumers who have less cash to spend and fewer opportunities to secure credit.
These consumers are price conscious, well-informed and much less inclined to simply walk down the traditional High Street and buy on impulse.
Delivering an excellent customer experience has rarely been more important.
With customers harder to find, keeping the ones you already have and ensuring that they buy from you on a regular basis is therefore high on the agenda for most retailers.
As quoted by Forrester, Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, expressed it like this: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
This is true not only in-store but also, increasingly, through other channels too - most notably, online and mobile.
Online is continuing to grow in significance for this sector and the UK is leading the way.
In 2010, 13.5% of all purchases in the UK were done over the internet. On current trends, this figure will rise to 23% by 2016.1
Until relatively recently, online shopping would have have equated to sitting in front of a computer.
The smartphone revolution has changed that and an increasing number of consumers now have the Internet in their hand, wherever they are. Retailers understand this and mobile has accordingly assumed a very high priority.
Business analytics specialists SAS highlight mobile as one of the 5 key retail trends for 2012:
The speed with which mobile has transformed retail is staggering. In just a few short years, QR codes, cutting-edge apps, and the ability to search for product information, reviews, or even just store locations – all from a mobile phone – have had an enormous impact. When it comes to where mobile ranks as a priority for retailers, the NRF Foundation's 2011 Retail Horizons report found 69 percent of retailers identified mobile commerce as a top strategic initiative, up 28 percent from 2010. I have no doubt that when the 2012 report is released, we'll see those numbers continue to grow.2
These are encouraging developments for retailers as online, mobile and social media channels help to build strong customer relationships and will retain or even increase their relevance as better economic times return.