Sales figures for the 2012 Christmas trading period showed a great stride from both retailers and consumers toward digital consumerism, with consumers increasingly turning to the internet for easy and fast retail consumption. In fact, in January 2013, some of the UK's leading retailers reported an increase in sales for the Christmas period due primarily to online spending, according to David Ringer, UK & Ireland general manager for TCC. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

Online retailing has become exponentially faster and cheaper over recent years, creating greater competition. The improvement in efficiency of online retailing suits today's consumer perfectly as we become ever more technology dependent. Customers are increasingly becoming less loyal and driven by price, a by-product of the global economic uncertainties of recent years. However, In addition to price shoppers are motivated by efficient and convenient multi-channel retailing.

While many speculate about the future of in-store, 2013 is set to be the year when retailers will need to focus on closing the gap between in-store and online retail experiences. The convergence of new technologies and shopping channels is beginning to place new pressure on retailers to align marketing efforts across the various channels, particularly in the case of promotional activity. Shoppers demand a seamless experience of a retail brand across its store, online and mobile operations.

Retailers are quickly adapting to this move. For example, Tesco, a major client of TCC's in the UK, for example, has demonstrated best practice across numerous platforms by keeping the same look and feel across all channels. Tesco's Wieden & Kennedy Christmas advertising campaign (which included most of the Tesco estate) provided a consistent and emotive message to its customers over the Christmas period.

Technology is going to be a clear driver for marketing trends in 2013, as digital consumerism fuels the new shape of multichannel shopping and offers a link between the virtual and 'real' world. It is vital that retailers are at the forefront of technology to address the needs of consumers and drive sales. In addition, using these insights to tailor retail marketing initiatives will not only give retailers a competitive advantage, but it will demonstrate their ability to understand and respond to their target audience.

TCC has identified three retail marketing trends for retailers to look out for in 2013:

  1. Smart mobile shopping
    The increasing use of these online and smart-phone shopping channels does pose some threat to in-store operations. Despite the growth in online shopping, physical stores will still play a vital role in future. The function of in-store environments is starting to shift to becoming a 'showroom' for online, but further innovation is needed to respond to this trend in order to enable immediate conversion in-store. Stores will, however, be increasingly focused on complementing digital channels.
  2. Click and collect
    Click and collect facilities will continue to roll-out rapidly in the retailing space, more and more becoming a crucial link between the physical and online retail environments. This function not only helps retailers capture spend from omni-channel shoppers and maximise physical store assets, but also provides valuable insights.
  3. Virtual / Reality
    Consumers are increasingly using mobile devices and engaging with social media whilst shopping. This means people can shop from almost anywhere in the UK. This technology provides another bridge between e-commerce and in-store. Technological developments will enable promotional campaigns to monetize this behaviour change. Augmented reality, capable of recognising images in the real world and delivering digital imagery in real time, is set to become increasingly important in this space and will become more present in the UK retailing over the year.

Today's consumer is looking for cheaper, faster and more convenient ways to shop. Naturally, this is why many people are turning to the internet. Nielsen's recent research report, 'Factors that impact how we grocery shop worldwide', looked at what influences consumer purchasing and revealed what many of us would expect as a result of global economic uncertainty... that 85% of global respondents are driven first by price when choosing retailers.

With the rise of online sales and trends like 'Mega Monday', retailers must become increasingly focused on faster internet-based sales and adapt to the needs of savvy smartphone shoppers. But companies also need to look at their in-store strategy, reflecting promotions across all channels and creating richer in-store environments and experiences.

Customer loyalty also plays an important part in consumer purchases across all shopping channels. The Nielsen report also showed that a quarter of consumers consider retailer loyalty programmes as a key deciding factor when selecting shopping outlets.

"Through TCC's work with some of the world's major retailers we've seen that the inclusion of a money-off coupon or a customer reward scheme is often the determining factor influencing an individual to shop with one retailer over another. Such incentives encourage customers to return to the store and reward retailers with loyalty irrespective of the retail channel," concluded Ringer. "This year, the key turning point for retail marketing is the need to align online and offline marketing programmes to target consumers across multiple channels, with in-store marketing complementing digital channels. New technology is offering exciting opportunities to connect these two shopping worlds and drive loyalty and sales."