By Karina Margit Erdelyi

Market Research and Data Analytics Insights Are More Critical Than Ever.

Market Research and Data Analytics Insights Are More Critical Than Ever.

Staying ahead of shopper, retail, and channel trends is a major challenge in today’s disruptive environment. As shopping moves increasingly online, upending the classic retail paradigm — what is it that people are looking for, and how can a company make sure that they understand what their customers actually want?

The holiday shopping season is upon us and with it a new C19-informed paradigm.

A global shift to safer shopping practices has created new challenges for brands big and small and a need to rethink retail strategies. FOGO, or fear of going out, has made safety a major deciding factor in choosing where and when to shop.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, reported that e-com sales increased 79% in the third quarter of 2020, while rival big-boxer Target said its e-com business was up 155%. Retail gurus say that the growth reflects a permanent shift in how we shop, not a fickle fluke of the pandemic.

To be fair, market forces propelling the rise in online shopping were set in motion far before the pandemic struck full gale-force in spring 2020.

“We think these new customer behaviors will largely persist,” Walmart’s Chief Executive Officer, Doug McMillon, said in a recent statement.

Watching the last seven months’ decline in brick-and-mortar stores and the simultaneous surge in online shopping has been like watching retail evolution on Dexedrine — cementing 2020 as a major inflection point for retail.

From the bodega to Bloomingdale’s, shoppers are seeking direction and reassurance. Safety is paramount — and not just for shoppers. People also want to know that precautions are being taken to protect a store’s staff. In a study by Ipsos, two in three people surveyed globally said that how a business responds to the pandemic will critically impact their future spending.

If one thing has become increasingly clear — retail models and strategies are in a phase of unprecedented transformation — making forward-looking market research and data analytics insights more critical than ever to not only understand how the landscape is shifting, but to help chart a smart, new path forward.

This holiday season, “shoppers are interested in two things — getting a good deal on items and feeling safe — and this is driving significant changes in how they approach the season,” says Rod Sides, vice chairman, and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader, Deloitte. “Also, with nearly one-third of consumers not having firmly decided on where to shop for specific items, those retailers that prioritize safety precautions, for both the customer and employees, are likely to win this holiday season.”

It’s clear that the time to pivot is here — and step into the future of retail.

In this uncertain landscape, businesses have to reimagine the shopping experience by putting their customers’ needs and concerns first. As we prepare for 2021, meeting evolving expectations will be more critical than ever — but what does that really mean?

Here are some tactics that market research and data insights experts see shaping the future of safer shopping:

Photo by Warby Parker

1. Invent an Experientially Rich Online Shopping Experience

Online shopping has been, until recently, primarily a transactional experience — but now that in-person shopping has dwindled, re-capturing some of the joy of discovery in an online format is vital. There are numerous ways businesses can do this; for example, Warby Parker’s Webby Award winning app lets customers virtually try on glasses prior to purchase. Yes, there are plenty of apps and websites that let you overlay a pair of glasses onto your face, but Warby Parker has stepped the game up by rendering the glasses in a live, 3D preview powered by augmented reality, or AR.

Photo by Anton on Unsplash

2. Hybrid Vigor

Depending on their comfort levels, people are opting for different degrees of safer shopping. For some, this means more limited in-store engagements; for others, curbside pickup and contactless delivery. For most, it means a smattering across the smorgasbord of shopping options — which means you will likely be more successful if you give a customer varying ways to engage depending on their FOGO.

Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

3. The Rise of M-Commerce

As people spend more time online, smartphones have become a larger part of the shopping experience. From research to checkout, mobile is now a significant part of the buying experience — and you want to make sure that your mobile experience is as friction-free as possible. Hard-to-read text, slow loading times, unintuitive navigation, and more can all turn shoppers off. Work to ensure that you deliver a seamless, effortless shopping experience if you want to succeed in this brave new retail world.

Online sales are expected to increase at their fastest rate in 12 years, according to Forrester Research — accounting for 20% of all retail purchases in 2020, up from 16% in 2019. The retail landscape is in the throes of reinvention; what is true today is likely to be upended in the tomorrows to come. Market researchers and data analysts have become our guides through the thick of the retail jungle. The future is here — and things are moving more quickly than ever. If you are not informed on the trends, and the market + consumer insights of what is influencing your customers’ buying behavior, you will be left behind.