What's Driving Retail? Here Are Three Consumer Trends for Holiday, Beyond

This is the first installment in a three-part series on high-tech shopping trends.

What are the consumer trends that can bring cheer to your holiday, year end and beyond? I’m tracking three: local goes social, personalization goes high-tech and lines of distribution are dissolved. Regardless of the size of your operation, the trends in consumer shopping transcend stores and apothecaries. They are part of a bigger picture in consumer demand and will go well into 2016.

The current picture is, of course, that of the holiday shopping season. The Wall Street Journal reports mobile shopping is humming. However, it’s driving smaller orders. IBM product strategist Justin Norwood is quoted as saying, “Shoppers tend to make fewer multi-item purchases on their phones, compared with purchases made on their laptops, tablets or desktop computers.”

This trend presents a great opportunity for beauty brands to track customers’ interests while online and then follow up. The data gathered from the shopper’s time on your site can be used to communicate afterward via email, text, etc., about items that were viewed, but not purchased.

I’ve participated in the evolution of consumers’ use of technology for decades. Before I began working in skin care 20 years ago, I was one of the first Fortune-25 high-tech female officers developing mobile software technology. At no other time has mobile technology been a bigger part of consumers’ lifestyle than today. As business owners, tech is a must for success and is being driven by consumer demand.

LOCAL GOES SOCIAL

Targeting consumers in hometown and regional markets is definitely no longer limited to local TV, radio and open houses. In order to grab consumers’ attention, those tactics must be combined with social outreach. Here are a few takeaways from a recent report from Facebook on how small businesses can best drive traffic in over the holidays:

  • Take advantage of call-to-action buttons. These buttons can be used to ask customers to “call now” or “contact us.”
  • Businesses can use Facebook’s new local insights section to view the demographics of and trends associated with people in their area. They can also see what time of the day most people are in their neighborhood so they can plan and staff accordingly.
  • Test local awareness ads and use the location-based “Get Directions” call-to-action button to encourage people to shop at your location.

Pinterest and Twitter are now set up to drive ecommerce sales. Instagram’s carousel ads have started appearing in feeds. The carousel format gives marketers more options for compelling storytelling in News Feed, which is now available with video in addition to images. Instagram ads are now available to businesses; additions like “Calls to Action” allow shoppers to take direct action, including “shop now.”

PERSONALIZATION GOES HIGH-TECH

Studies show that consumers are seeking a personalized experience when it comes to beauty and personal care. Utilizing your beauty advisors as experts to help create these experiences either in-store or digitally can engage customers. Beauty bars are a great example.

Media consultant Mark McKenney adds: “For beauty retail, the trends include using modern technology to enhance an online shopping experience by making it as easy as possible to shop both in a brick-and-mortar to seamlessly online. Our devices already have access to information on our preferences and might suggest a coupon or further information on an item we see in the store. There are devices on counters that let you 'try on' a new lipstick—could that be paired with connecting to a certain item that is already on your online 'must-have' list?”

As McKenney said, technology enables making that human touch a quicker, easier, cost-effective process. Examples include:

  • This year included the launch of numerous beauty apps that take personal services direct to the consumer and offer coaching. I am particularly proud of one such app—My Skin Authority. I led the creation of the app, which is completely unique in that it connects people with a skincare coach for live, authentic, personalized coaching. The technology is powerful, sophisticated and relevant, yet, the coaching is simple and free.
  • Because people can literally take a coach with them to stores, they are going to be more educated when they shop. To help educate, while capitalizing on the popularity of branded videos, Sephora is launching in-store videos that will provide tutorials and ads, as well as recommended products to achieve certain looks. Customers can watch tutorials in-store, consult with sales associates on how best to achieve a certain look, and watch videos of product recommendations and best-selling products, updated in real time at what Sephora is calling Beauty Workshops.
LINES OF DISTRIBUTION ARE NOT ONLY BLURRED, THEY ARE DISSOLVED

Today’s consumers move seamlessly between brick-and-mortar, online, experiential and wholesale in a way that no longer acknowledges any boundaries. Therefore, business owners have to think about consistency at every touchpoint, regardless of channel.

The beauty industry is one of the most high-touch industries, yet beauty professionals often limit their outreach and education within their industry, which is a missed opportunity. Look at the customer experience from a whole—coaching over the phone and Skype, loyalty programs, interactive sites and apps, social media and treatments—everybody benefits if you are consistent in touching people through all of these channels. Examples include:

  • The National Retail Federation cites online companies, including ModCloth, as expanding reach with pop-ups, and many other online retailers using events and temporary locations to test new concepts and markets during the holiday season.
  • Facebook reports that three out of five shoppers are taking a multi-channel approach with their holiday shopping. Facebook’s biggest suggestion is that retailers should seek to integrate mobile into every aspect of the retail experience.
  • Same-day delivery and store pickup have become favorites among consumers, especially younger shoppers. The ability to get online orders more quickly could lead to more shoppers waiting to buy until later in the season. This also enables small business owners to make educated decisions on how much to stock and when.

In my second piece in this three-part series on high-tech shopping trends, we’ll take a closer look at the specific technology-based tools and methods available now and coming soon to enable businesses to capture consumers’ attention.

About the Author: With more than two decades in beauty, Celeste Hilling is a recognized media expert on the science of skin care and trends in technology. Based in Southern California, Hilling is also the founder, CEO and product formulator for Skin Authority. Skin Authority is a healthy skin lifestyle company utilizing technology to develop pure, powerful products and engaging consumer experiences. More on skinauthority.com, Facebook at Skin Authority, Twitter @SkinAuthority and @MissSkin.

Check out the second and third installments in this article series on high-tech shopping trends.

[Image courtesy of Skin Authority]