The Evolution of Retail: What Brands Need to Know [Infographic]

the evolution of retail

Back at the turn-of-the-century (I just love saying that) I was in retail management. Dance music retail to be specific. The stores that I ran pioneered cutting edge dance music and thanks to DJ culture, good old analogue 12” vinyl was actually experiencing sales and usage growth. Oh, how quickly things can change. It was around that same time that iTunes launched and changed the way that we purchase, manage and play our music forever. That was one of the first signs of the evolution of retail.

Fast forward 14 years and that sector of retail has changed so radically that now DJ’s can purchase music live on their smartphone in the middle of a playing a gig. According to data from Baynote the retail industry is forecast to experience more change over the course of the next five years than it has during the past one hundred years. News Corp CTO Tom Quinn recently told CeBIT attendees that consumers are now innovating faster than businesses. Dynamic brands are capitalising on some emerging retail trends, however businesses that ignore the evolution of retail could be left behind.

In this article you will learn:

  • How innovative use of digital media can help win business
  • Five trends that are transforming the retail industry
  • Quick fix digital media solutions to cover the basics
  • Important things to know about retail in 2014 with a helpful Infographic

Evolution is part of life

Webster’s describes evolution as: a process of change in a certain direction . Digital media is facilitating that direction and consumers are dictating it. Showrooming is only one aspect of the changes that the retail industry is experiencing. Retailers now have no choice but to be competitive in the digital marketplace, even if they don’t have an ecommerce site.

Innovation wins the business

A few years ago (before they were standard) I bought a new car stereo with an auxiliary audio channel so that I could listen to my iPod in the car. I did my research online, chose the stereo I wanted and then continued looking online to buy one. While I was searching I stumbled across a retailer that sold the one I was after at a competitive price, but didn’t sell online. They did however have a live chat feature.

I was intrigued, so I posted a question about the installation process. To my surprise Joey pinged me straight back with a simple answer to my question. My next question was how do I buy it? His answer came in the form of an invitation to visit the store with a map link and free installation. I was so pleased with the interactive customer experience that I drove about 10 kilometers across town to purchase it and have it installed.

Although the retailer hadn’t implemented an ecommerce solution, they had identified the opportunity of capturing customers like me online. Their innovation secured my business and I’m still talking about it today. There are plenty of ways retailers can grow their business by leveraging digital media and focusing on customer experience. Mobile technology, social media and data driven analytics are enabling new opportunities for retailers to strengthen brand loyalty, develop customer relationships and drive sales.

Here are 5 trends transforming retail

(and how retailers can benefit from them)

1. Omnichannel retailing

Omnichannel retailing concentrates on allowing customers a seamless balance between in-store, online and mobile shopping experiences. By providing customers with options to research, interact and purchase at their convenience, retailers can now leverage digital media to attract customers into the store, build relationships and strengthen brand loyalty. A pioneer of the omnichannel retail experience is Apple, however brands such Oasis and Target among others are also showing how it’s done.

2. Social Media retailing

It’s no secret that social media is a great way to connect with your target audience. Now stores are taking it a step further and utilising social media trends to influence in-store purchase decisions and merchandising strategies. For example Nordstrom have introduced ‘Pinspiration’ to showcase their most ‘pinned’ items of the week. In-store, items that are popular on Pinterest are labeled with a red tag to make it easy for shoppers to identify and purchase based on social media trends.

3. Collecting, analysing and using big data

Omnichannel solutions allow retailers to better understand consumers’ online behaviour and the use of their digital properties. This combined with improving point-of-sale retail technology means that data collection is easier and more important than ever. However a recent survey by Cisco indicates that we don’t really trust retailers with the collection of our personal data to help improve our shopping experience(s). Collecting the data is only the first step and is almost pointless unless it is then analysed and put to use effectively. Big data insights can be used to improve marketing strategies, identify sales opportunities, meet customers’ needs and expectations and improve customer experience.

4. Mobile apps and payment systems

Systems such as PayPal, Google Wallet and a myriad of mobile payment apps are changing the way we pay for things. It’s not like consumers will abandon cash or credit cards any time soon, however making it easier for your customers to spend money with you makes sense right? Retailers leveraging mobile payment options are shortening the purchase cycle, increasing their chance of repeat business and often taking business from their competition.

5. New retail careers

A career in retail has been typically viewed as a customer facing sales role. Thanks to advances in digital media and changes in our shopping behaviour, retail now offers job opportunities for the tech savvy marketer as well. Forward thinking retail brands are now employing staff to handle tasks including (but not limited to): email marketing, paid search, natural search, social media and marketing analysis to name a few.

Here are some quick fix digital media solutions

These are three boxes to tick right now to ensure that your stores digital media presence has some fundamentals covered:

1. Claim your Google+ Local page ~ This will quite literally put you on the (Google) map. Once set up properly it will make it easy for your customers to find the store, check-in and even review your business.

2. Implement a social media listening strategy ~ Understanding the needs of your customers is crucial. The conversation (about your business) is already happening on social media. It is best to know what people are saying and join in when necessary.

3. Utilise an email list ~ These are customers that are expecting (even craving) interaction. Your email list is an opportunity to leverage digital media to attract your target audience to the website and into their local store.

Embracing the changing landscape

These trends and others present excellent opportunities for retailers. There’s no point burying your head in the sand. Consumers have taken control of their purchase decisions and it has never been more important for retailers to ‘be there’ for their customers.


Our shopping habits and behaviours are shifting faster than ever before. The evolution of retail is developing as quickly as the technologies and the media driving the change. It is vital for retail brands to embrace new trends to avoid being left behind. The Infographic below from Colourfast is a great snapshot of retail trends in 2014 that brands need to be aware of and examples of some retailers showing us how it’s done. Please consider sharing this article to help retail brands to grow in this rapidly evolving marketplace. Thanks for reading and sharing.


Image credits [Flickr] Infographic [Colourfast]

Matt Crawford

Matt Crawford

Digital Media Advisor at Social Strategies
Matt Crawford is a marketing executive with an accomplished career in digital media sales. His background is in the B2B sector and he has extensive experience in retail management and hospitality. Matt has worked with national and international brands as well as small to medium enterprises to help develop effective digital marketing strategies. His down to earth approach makes it easy for businesses to communicate their objectives and consequently achieve their goals.
Matt Crawford
Matt Crawford
Matt Crawford

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