How Retailers Can Keep Up With Retail Consumer Trends

By Bob Phibbs

retail trends Trends become opportunities. That’s what I heard when I was an invited guest at IBM’s massive Amplify conference in Tampa a few weeks ago. 

This is the first of a three-part blog with tips all retailers can use to build their marketing and omnichannel sales. 

I had unprecedented access and received a fire hose of information from one of the world’s most valuable brands.

Big Blue is one of the few information technology companies with a continuous history dating back to the 19th century when they were computing time records with punch cards. With that long history and the appeal of their Jeopardy-winning supercomputer Watson, I knew I would receive a treasure trove of new trends and marketing abilities.

The three main areas I found particularly interesting for retailers who are looking for how to keep up with consumer trends were in these three buckets: Marketing, Analytics, and Store Operations.


Relevance is when what you want to say intersects with what shoppers want to hear.

We have to move from product centricity to customer centricity. It’s not about the products! You’ve heard me say that hundreds of times.

There are 350 million websites out there. Browsing activity on your site doesn’t compare with the human-to-human shopping experience in a brick and mortar store. So how can you humanize your websites?

Are you engaging your visitors with dialogue when they come to yours? Are there barriers, friction points if you will, to getting visitors to buy?

One speaker named these four stages of a shopper’s online buying process. Your  site should address each step seamlessly:

  • Discovery – They see how a product is useful
  • Exploring Options – They understand their choice of options
  • Purchasing – You’ve made it easy for them to buy
  • Relationship - They’ll choose to come back based on the good experience

Discovery begins with the brand messaging on your home page. There should always be an emphasis on people and lifestyle, not just on products.

Here are two websites that do a really good job with their messaging.

REI website example

I loved learning REI’s philosophy too,  There is no mission without margin and there’s no margin if there’s no mission.

Here is another site...Carhartt

carhart website example

Notice in both examples how you are drawn to the images of people sharing, of humans interacting in a human world.  Then notice the messaging: REI says home is your best friends and Carharyt says that their product becomes part of the family.

Another excellent point shared about website design,  design for mobile first. As you do that, remove anything that makes the site hard to navigate, search, and ultimately buy from.

It’s funny, 69% of customers said they have had a superior customer experience online. But still only 1% of all e-commerce visitors convert to a sale.

How to keep customers happy and the experience a bit more human?

One presenter’s advice was to check in with online buyers at 30, 90, and 180 days from purchase with a simple email that asks, “How happy are you with your purchase?” You could then suggest they share their thoughts by writing a product review or replying with a happy face or frowny face. It’s up to you.

It’s follow-up that keeps customers loyal to you and builds word of mouth. Actually, that’s a good idea for in-person shoppers too.

We know the best service is personal one-to-one.

Sell also, How Engaging Is Your Store's Customer Experience? Take This Quiz

In fact, Tanmay Bakshi an IBM software developer said recently, “A computer’s power is not with natural language, it’s with math. A human is better at talking to people.”

I can’t agree more.

It doesn’t matter if you are an online-only merchant, a brick and mortar shop with an informational website, or a fully capable omnichannel merchant, you have to make your online content more relevant and personal.


Basic personalization can deliver a different message based on sex or age but Big Data can go bigger than that.  Different demographics react differently to different messaging and content. What if you knew your customer was a dog lover? What if you knew the breed? What if you knew it came from a Rescue Organization and could pull of that information into your website to change content where appropriate and speak to that customer in a personal way?  

That’s what personalization is aiming to do  - to know you so well that you feel they are speaking directly to you.

Having said that, there is always a danger that automated personalization doesn’t allow a visitor to discover new and different as easily.  It’s also not human so context is the key.

Consider what some websites consider personalization right now...

You’ve got a holiday party to go to. You go online and search for red sweaters. You see a couple sites but then get distracted wondering what you’re going to serve. You open another browser window and search for  holiday recipes. You click on one using Myers rum and cinnamon. You closeout the browsers without buying or taking any other actions. When come back to read the NYT, you notice ads for red sweaters in the middle of articles. You go to another site and ads for red sweaters and Myers rum show up. Based on your previous browsing, you have been remarketed across the web with ads for Myers rum and red sweaters.

Some would say this was personalized content.

Now, if you were in a store and they remarketed you with everything you picked up to look at, it might be like having a sidekick running around you screaming, “RED SWEATERS! RUM! CINNAMON! HOLIDAY RECIPES!”

No human in a store would never do that. And on the web, it’s just plain annoying.

Predictive logic is advancing quickly and will soon be able to correlate many more touchpoints. Marketers will be able to deliver the right message at the right time in the right context, and content on webpages you visit will include not only the information gleaned from your browsing behaviors but also from past spending history as well as your social media profile and activities.

This blog was too long so I broke it into three parts. Click the title below to read the second part 

2) How Retailers Can Using Analytics To Build Better Converting Websites

Discover 12 Tips How To Become The Top Salesperson

The 5 Shifts Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Are Making to Generate Up to 20% Higher Profits Every Month

Are you a hungry brick-and-mortar store owner who’s ready for a fresh, people-obsessed strategy? This training is for you if you want to grow your business using a powerful customer experience formula proven to make your cash register chirp.

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