A decade ago Gordon Brown was prime minister, Katy Perry kissed a girl (and liked it) and we were treated to the dulcet tones of Pierce Brosnan in the first edition of Mamma Mia on film. At the same time, we waved a fond goodbye to Woolworths, we’d yet to discover Instagram and YouTube vlogging wasn’t a career option.
It’s hardly a secret that the economy, technological disruption and even (shhh) Brexit, have radically changed the way we shop over the last ten years. We hear many a news article about the death of the big shop, the changes to the products in our baskets (coloured jeans are back, who knew?!) and even the demise of the high street. But which of these are just short term fads and which trends are here to stay? We’ve done a little digging to see what’s growing in popularity and what’s fading.
The smartphone is barely a decade old, but since its existence, we’ve become inseparable with the devices that are shaping the way we live. Absorbing a growing range of functions, from communication to map reading, keeping up to date with the news to documenting personal moments, phones are at the centre of our lives.
M-Commerce now accounts for nearly £30billion in UK retail sales, having nearly tripled in the last 5 years alone. Tablet sales, by contrast, are down nearly 3% overall, with this trajectory set to continue.
That said, the way we are using mobile to shop continues to evolve. Google and Verto’s mobile shopping journey study found the average mobile shopping experience includes at least 6 visits to an app or mobile site, and the use of at least 3 categories like search, shopping or social. So, it’s not exactly simple for brands to navigate and getting the path to purchase right is vital to marketing success.
But promisingly for brands, consumers are using mobile search to find out advice about the brands they should buy and for details on particular product lines. In fact, Google has found that mobile searches containing the word ‘brands’ has increased 80% over the past 2 years, and mobile searches for ‘top or best X brands’ increased by over 90%.
Over the last decade, we have continued to spend less money on ‘buying things’, and more on ‘doing things’…and then telling the world about it through status updates and filtered photographs!.
Data gleaned from leading credit and debit card companies (who process the majority of UK shopping transactions) shows how we’re moving our spending money around. Just last year for instance, spending in pubs was up +20% year on year, with restaurants also doing well at +16%. By contrast, vehicle sales were down -11% and spending on household appliances dipped -2.5% according to insights published by Barclaycard.
Part of the reason for the rise in shopping for experiences is the fact that they’re a bit of a ‘status boost’ for consumers. Where we used to show our social status through a new car or fancy handbag, we’re now more likely to post a picture from an exotic holiday or adventurous experience in a bid to create memories that others would dream of. Social media is really supporting this change, with millennial shoppers over-indexing in this trend.
For retailers and brands alike, designing experiences for shoppers that tick the boxes for personalised experiences and inspiration is going to be key in the next 10 years.
Rather like Halloween, McDonalds & Taylor Swift, Black Friday is another American import that UK shoppers have come to embrace. Black Friday started in the US in the 1940s but didn’t arrive in the UK until 2010 when Amazon ran their first execution of the bonanza. Before then, a discount day pre-Christmas hadn’t really been heard of!
Three years later, Asda had a Black Friday sale and offered big price promotions on a range of goods, including TVs and laptops. The promise of one-day-only deals sparked chaos as people fought their way to the checkout. Despite experts warning that the Black Friday phenomenon is not making shoppers spend more (it's just making them shop for Christmas earlier) it appears to be here to stay.
Last year the amount spent on UK online retail sites on Black Friday was up +11.7% to £1.39bn, according to data from IMRG,ahead of the original forecast of +9% growth . Although many retail analysts have predicted the demise of the event as shoppers get savvier, we predict it’ll be even bigger in 2018.
The average value of weekly online sales has more than doubled in the last 5 years, with online grocery shopping becoming the UK’s fastest growing purchase channel, according to retail analysts IGD. A decade ago, during the initial introduction of online grocery shopping (or even home delivery and click and collect in the nineties) the market was made up of the Big Four grocers, with very little competition from outside. With the introduction of new players, such as purely online retailers Ocado and Amazon Fresh, online grocery share has begun to change shape.
These trends are exciting for consumer goods brands and supermarkets alike, and now is absolutely the time for brands to refine their ecommerce strategies.
However, it is important to note that whilst online grocery sales are on the up, the channel’s share of the market rose last year by 1% to just 6.4% overall. Still a marginal proportion of all grocery sales. So, despite the attention given to online and it’s ability to influence shopping behaviour, the reality is still a little different. In truth, online shopping in grocery is generally a ‘complementary’ offering, with people adding it to their repertoire. Online shopping tends to be a big shop or stock up mission, whilst the top-up shops we’re making take place in-store.
Empowered by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, consumers today are increasingly defining where, when and how they engage with brands. They are running a balancing act between being critics and creators, expecting to be given the opportunity to shape the brands they buy. They are also ever more willing to share their opinions and experiences with others, and in some categories are reluctant to buy without independent recommendations. This is a trend that is undeniably disrupting the traditional path to purchase.
But where ten years ago shoppers would look to expert opinion for credibility and neutrality, they’re now looking for ‘people like us’ to provide reviews and critiques of products they’re looking to purchase. Family & friends and online consumer reviews are becoming the most trusted sources of information for consumers. Initiatives like Asos’ #AsSeenOnMe hashtags and Mothercare’s product testing programmes are using this shift in behaviour to their advantage.
So now, for brands and retailers alike, it’s about finding relevant endorsements from relatable sources to drive trust from shoppers.
A decade ago, we shopped through an ecommerce site’s homepage. We chose the retailer we were interested in, landed on their e-commerce site and we used this as our navigation point.
In reality, shoppers rarely vaguely browse the internet. Can you ever recall a time when you landed on Google and said: “I don’t know what to search for. Just give me a word!” As internet usage develops and becomes an ever-entrenched part of our lives, the way we are using it becomes more specific.
The reality is that homepage will never disappear completely acting much like a shop window that is the face of the retailer online, but it’s certainly been pushed off centre stage. As more people enter shopping sites ‘sideways’ (via search engines, links they see in emails, through social media and more), retailers are finding their homepage aren’t the starting points they once were. And the explosive growth of mobile devices has pushed retailers into presenting multiple faces to their digital audiences, through a mix of mobile optimised sites, owned-apps and responsive creative. Where we once designed for desktop, it’s almost now an after-thought to mobile-first development.
Where the homepage used to be an incredibly valuable advertising billboard for brands, it’s not quite as useful as it once was. Ultimately, retailers no longer want to direct customers solely to the homepage – at best it is a series of signposts that help shoppers head in the right direction. Instead, we need to refocus on understanding the shopping journey and putting the right content, in the right place, for the right customers.