Shopping online is the new normal for retail

As we now head into February, Christmas is far enough behind for analysts to start crunching the data and describing what happened in the final quarter of 2013 – and in particular those final weeks where every retailer was hoping for a boost.

What was interesting last year is just how fast retail is changing, looking back at Christmas is no longer just about sales figures and in-store footfall; there are several trends that are shaping the entire market.

Social media; We have mostly considered social as a customer service tool, extra channels for communication, but big brands are now using it where they might have spent only on TV campaigns for Christmas before. The John Lewis ‘bear and hare’ ad was viewed over 11m times on YouTube alone and became so ubiquitous it was even parodied on a Private Eye magazine cover.

 Shopping is going mobile; A third of all online grocery orders at Tesco are placed from a mobile device. Three quarters of shoppers on the John Lewis website on Christmas day were browsing using mobiles. Retailers are also seeing big spikes in shopping early in the morning and late at night – most probably from people using their mobile device when they wake and soon before sleeping.

 Online is becoming normal; It’s no longer unusual or trendy to be shopping online. Just before Christmas 2013, over 15% of all UK grocery shopping was done online, compared to just 5.5% during the entire year – people are really getting used to it.

This move to online, social, and mobile shopping has a profound effect on the service expectation of customers. If they can buy on the move using a mobile device then they expect better service before, during and after a purchase.

But retail is complex – what customers want is not just a choice between the High Street and an online store, the choice is more subtle. House of Fraser is demonstrating this by supporting a pop-up shop this week in their Glasgow store. Local lingerie brand Gilda & Pearl is being promoted in-store as part of the wider promotion for Valentine’s Day gifts. Gilda & Pearl is more familiar with online sales so a one-week pop-up promotion is an interesting experiment both for the brand and for House of Fraser.

Retailers need to think strategically about what this means for them as the rate of change is accelerating – we can certainly expect more surprises by the end of 2014.

House of Fraser
Photo by James Petts licensed under Creative Commons

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