Retail in the Digital World.
Since the rapid rise of technology in the last decade or two, the retail industry has changed immensely and this comes with both huge benefits but also disadvantages. With the growth of social media, especially Instagram, brands use social media to their advantage as it increases their revenue and brand recognition. This is shown by the fact that the average fashion brand posts on instagram almost every single day to try and reach their target market constantly. Our world has become an almost entirely digital place which means almost every brand has a responsibility to acknowledge this, whether this benefits or hinders their business.
Social Media Addicts
In recent times with the rise of smartphones, people are digitally engaged pretty much 24/7. This gives brands scope to linger on peoples thoughts as customers are exposed to advertising all of the time. With the help of algorithms, if a brand suits a customer and enough funds are dedicated to advertisement then this will increase inbound traffic to your brand. The fact that 130 million instagram users click on shopping posts every month, highlights the amount of people who are constantly engaged with shopping while scrolling through their social media.
With the growth of the online world, shopping has never been more convenient. Just by clicking through a few pages you can have any item at your doorstep in under 24 hours. This means that the likelihood of purchase is much higher than ever as it doesn’t rely on people physically visiting shops anymore. This means if brands get their online presence right they can expect sales to be huge. According to Smart Insights, 97% of consumers have backed out of an online purchase due to inconvenience highlighting how vital consumers see it as. People are no longer patient with shopping partly because of competition, if one brand is inconvenient they will simply go elsewhere. This is why customer convenience can often be a double-edged sword for brands.
With the advancement of technology, analysing customer behaviour is much easier as all the statistics can be easily observed digitally. Brands can monitor a range of issues in real time such as social media conversations about the customer, the level of engagement with people across social media, which items are selling most etc. The analytic capabilities of technology are endless. With this ability, brands can find what trends have people talking and the type of person that their brand is mainly appealing to. Therefore brands can be better prepared when releasing their latest range to cater towards what they believe will sell best.
E-commerce is going through a clear evolution from online stores to social selling. Although brand advertising can be incredibly powerful, one thing that can take advertisement to the next level is by using well known people with a large social media following, also known as ‘influencers’, to promote a brand. This will come at a financial cost; however customers often trust people more than big brands and find them more relatable therefore promotion from individuals can lead to more sales. According to Adweek, the influencer industry was projected to hit $10 billion this year which highlights how predominant it has become.
One drawback of this huge growth of the digital world on brands is the power shift towards customers who are able to easily give their opinion. The fact that customers can publish reviews or post about their customer experience can mean it only takes one simple mistake to damage a company’s reputation. Therefore the margin for error becomes incredibly small. Furthermore because of such high competition customers can switch to alternative brands with one bad experience. Due to this fashion brands must appear to be perfect or risk losing customers. This shift in power can also help buyers to drive prices down which comes at the detriment to brands.
Digital by Force
As shopping has shifted so much towards being online it means that this has to be at the forefront of the minds of all brands. Without a good enough online presence it is highly unlikely a brand will thrive. Keeping this in mind brands are forced to put time and money into their online appearance, which can be costly. It is quite clear that the biggest brands will be able to pay for the bigger ‘influencers’ to advertise their products therefore this may hinder smaller brands from growing as quickly as they may have previously. Furthermore smaller brands have less employees and therefore less time can be spent on creating the best online image.
As our lives have become increasingly digital, the scope for things to go viral quickly is huge. Therefore the potential for embarrassment has increased. An example of this was when Pepsi appropriated the black lives matter protests very insensitively for an advert which was axed only 24 hours later. This demonstrates how brands must tread very carefully with their image as anything they do wrong will be magnified online. Although large brands may survive a few online embarrassments, smaller brands can be incredibly damaged by one negative viral video or experience.
Having an online presence comes with clear risks, the bigger your online brand the more enticing it will be for people who want to breach your security. An example of this was the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 where cyber criminals damaged companies using Windows computer systems to try and extort them for money. Furthermore Phishing can be used where criminals pose as well known brands and aim to trick potential customers into giving over banking details. This means a brand can be hugely damaged if they lack online security, which adds to more costs of the online world in retail.
Overall, the huge technological growth in our modern world has had a range benefits to the retail industry. The room for growth of brands has been taken to a new level with social media in terms of the ability to reach people all over the world. However these do not come without their drawbacks. Brands are on thin ice constantly and have to tread lightly when deciding on their online brand image, since every small decision can have a lasting effect.