Analyst Insight: Consumers are showing their preferences for all things mobile and leading retailers are dabbling in various technologies and will decide on their approach this year. But more broadly, retailers need to create a multichannel information strategy, which includes understanding rich sources from a unified platform of web and mobile to create more precise demand and merchandizing and product strategies.
-Ann Grackin, chief executive officer at ChainLink Research
Shoppers are getting so much savvier about how and where to shop. They will make sure they are armed with the right information, now more than ever, to assure they are getting the best deals.
Issues to consider:
• They will price-compare in store, on the web and now on mobile. They will price-compare options on mobile while in your store!
• New information channels and techniques to reach consumers, such as mobile apps, social networks, opt-in for promotions, etc., are extremely effective, attract new channels and are green!
• Loyalty programs using RFID and Scan/QR and social networks both allow retailers to glean important data about customers, as well to craft programs, in an instant, to take advantage of tribes.
• Web/search partners abound from Yelping, social networks, and product- or interest-specific sites. Twitter "personalities" who hawk their finds have amassed huge followings.
• Location-Based Services (LBS) is also gaining in popularity.
• 2011 will also see, finally, the Near Field phone, allowing the U.S. shopper to join Japan and Europe for really smart phones and touch-and-go access, self-check, payments, etc.
• Demand management and merchandizing strategies need to be thought through and more deeply deployed. Only a small percentage of retailers have these solutions in place today. But serious evaluations are going on and this market will continue to grow.
• Trade promotions, always popular, will grow in practice and popularity with consumers beyond 2010 heights. Retailers will need to collaborate more with their brand suppliers to make these programs work - not just "me too" offers of little long-term value.
• Consumer products companies which support retailers have to get serious about demand and trade promotion systems, as well as reaching beyond their channels to understand the end consumer and create customer intimacy and brand recognition.
The challenge in all these is creating a holistic strategy that is interoperable and allows for flexibly and growth since ideas are coming quickly. Retailers also need to be open to small, young technology providers and allow them to make their case, since they are currently the most innovative and attracting the most opt-ins.
Retailers briskly spent on technology in 2010 and the trend will continue in 2011. In fact, our forecast shows an increase in 2011 over 2010. The most significant factor for retailers to address in their technology strategy for 2011 is to create a mobile platform strategy. The many technology options, information channels and consumer programs need to integrate and form an understandable and usable framework.
Consumer products companies have to keep up with retailer requirements in order to stay in the game. Compliance and demand response are critical focal areas.
Most importantly, the databases of the future need to absorb the information from these many sources to create a cohesive picture and create a stellar customer experience.
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