The recently released Adobe/Econsultancy Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2017 Digital Trends in Retail provides insights based on the responses of almost 500 retailers who participated in the 2017 digital trends survey. These retailers were among more than 14,000 marketers across a wide spectrum of business sectors who responded to the survey. This report gives an indicator of how retailers are embracing digital technology compared to marketers in all sectors.
Customer Experience Continues to Drive Strategy
The focus on customer experience is seen in retailers’ concentration on mobile and personalisation. Retailers understand that their success depends on a mobile-friendly, personalised experience that is relevant throughout the customer journey. The stakes are high: year-on-year growth of mobile sales was 47 percent in the UK and 45 percent in the US. Mobile becomes even more important after taking into account its role as a contributor to purchases made in other channels.
Retailers show their grasp of mobile’s importance in several ways. Mobile leads all channels as an area for investment, with 62 percent of retail respondents reporting their mobile marketing budgets will increase in 2017. “Understanding how mobile users research/buy products” is ranked “quite” or “very” important by 98 percent of retailers, and 99 percent give the same importance to “optimising the customer journey across multiple touchpoints,” showing a strong focus on consumers’ behaviour as they use mobile as well as an understanding that mobile is just one of several channels a customer might use in the purchasing cycle. Finally, retailers lead other sectors 44 to 32 percent in their confidence in the ability to measure return on investment for mobile marketing campaigns.
Retailers also prioritise personalisation as an effective means to achieve leading customer experience. Thirty-three percent of retail respondents report that targeting and personalisation are top priorities for 2017. Budgets for personalisation will also increase, as 57 percent of retailers will increase budgets for personalisation, right behind the 62 percent who are increasing mobile budgets and tied with email, also at 57 percent. “Making our experience as personalised and relevant as possible” was the highest emphasis on improving customer experience for 25 percent of retail respondents, leading all choices and 5 percent ahead of the second choice, “making our experience as valuable as possible.”
Digital Maturity in the Retail Sector
Marketers have made progress on the path to digital maturity, showing some strengths compared to other sectors as well as some areas for improvement. Retailers are more likely to report they are a “digital first” organisation at 13 percent of respondents as compared to 10 percent averaged across all sectors. However, retail is sixth among all sectors, well behind the gaming and gambling sector, which leads with 25 percent of organisations being “digital first.” Among companies that are not “digital first,” retail still compares well against all sectors with slightly more retailers reporting that “digital permeates all of our marketing activities” (16 percent compared to 15 percent) and “digital permeates most of our marketing activities (48 percent compared to 46 percent).
Retailers are also ahead in creating the culture needed for successful digital operations. More retailers (78 percent) report they are combining digital marketing skills with analytics and technology compared to nonretailers (73 percent), and 66 percent of retailers have tools that streamline workflows between creative, content marketing, and web teams, compared to 60 percent across other sectors.
One area of concern is tools to use data for creating personalised, real-time experiences. Despite their generally aggressive pursuit of personalisation, retailers are a bit behind here, lagging 58–61 percent in having these tools.
Looking to the Future
In addition to providing insight into the retail industry’s digital maturity, the report also shows where technology is leading retailers into the future and provides a look at the future as envisioned by retailers.
Using customer experience as a means to differentiate from the competition is the overwhelming choice for retailers, with 34 percent of retailers choosing this approach, well ahead of the second-place choice, customer service, at 14 percent. Only 7 percent will use price to differentiate from competitors. Retailers will be looking to technology to help them achieve this goal, as 28 percent of respondents report that engaging audiences through virtual or augmented reality is the most exciting prospect for 2020. The next choice is also high tech—using artificial intelligence to drive experiences, with 24 percent of retailers seeing this as the most exciting prospect for 2020.
These are a few of the findings in the report. Read the report now for more insights, regional differences, and actionable tips.