Editor's View - August 2013

The Future At One’s Fingertips
By Wanda Jankowski, Editor-in-Chief

In its boom times during the first half of the past century, Hollywood was known to remake films every few years with different leading players, but using the same scripts. Sometimes when I watch an old movie, I ponder how the plot would change if the leading players had the smartphones of today in their hands in place of the corded rotary phones of decades gone by.

Throw in that technology—the cellphone—and some old plots lose viability. Updating them for today’s world would take more than a tweak of some dialogue or a minor change of circumstance. The plotline would need to be completely re-imagined.

An article published on Techcrunch.com, March 23, 2013, states that, “In the U.S., Forrester [research company] is projecting online retail sales will reach $370 billion by 2017, up from $231 billion in 2013—a 10 percent compound annual growth rate over the next five years.”

Forrester cites two developments that will contribute to this growth in a significant way. The article states, “Firstly, the rise of smartphones and tablets, which [the Forrester report] says are boosting the amount of time consumers spend online and generating more buying opportunities...And secondly, Forrester notes that traditional retailers have invested heavily in their web divisions—including by offering hybrid online/offline capabilities such as in-store pickup for online purchases—which it says is also helping to grow e-commerce.”

Consumers use smartphones to research products, store options and pricing. But it’s not only phones that contribute to retail web traffic today.

Online retail sites spike from tablet users during evening prime-time hours, the Forrester report states, “when consumers are in a leisure state of mind. This also suggests incremental web sessions and conversions, because web retail traditionally spikes not in the evening, but during business hours.”

This growth in e-commerce is not all coming from new customers. Forrester estimates that only 4 million people will shop for the first time online in 2013.

The growth is largely from existing web shoppers who are spending more time and money online as they become more familiar with purchasing digitally and more comfortable buying “high-touch, high-consideration goods like furniture or appliances online.”

Looks like the future of retail will literally be at the fingertips of shoppers who tap their way into retail sites, searching for information, product options and easy purchasing processes. Forrester’s research results make it all the more important to consider mobile phone, tablet and web components in your retail marketing, selling and customer service strategies when reaching out to consumers.

Like those old movie plots made obsolete for playing out in today’s world by new phone technology, to remain viable retailing must be re-imagined day-by-day to respond to the developing technologies and consumer behaviors of today and tomorrow.

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