New rules for retail

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Connected and discerning shoppers are driving transformation in the retail sector. They’re generating and consuming data with every swipe and tap on their digital devices. In this new, data rich environment, retail models based on stand-alone and often incompatible systems will soon become obsolete.

Here are the most important trends shaping retail and the new rules for customer engagement.

Mobile enabled retail

You’d be hard pressed to find a shopper in any physical store who isn’t also carrying an internet-connected mobile phone in their pocket or handbag.

While impulse buying will never grow old, savvy customers are more likely to be using their phones, comparing prices and availability across retailers and channels as they wander the aisles, weighing value and convenience before they buy.

The explosion of online shopping, offering constant and real-time product information and transactions, has bred customers who expect 24/7 engagement. This expectation extends to traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers, who can no longer switch the lights of at five, secure in the knowledge their competitors have done the same. Today’s retail world doesn’t sleep.

Social retail

Social media has created new shopping models, allowing in-app purchases and direct links from social channels to vendor platforms. It’s paved the way for new competitors, without the overheads of physical stores, to disrupt existing retail markets.

While social media has opened a new marketing landscape for all retailers, it’s a double-edged sword. It offers opportunities for highly targeted advertising, while forcing brands to adapt as customers take to social media to voice grievances, bypassing traditional customer care models.

Data and privacy in retail

If the reward is enticing enough, today’s shopper will forgo a degree of their privacy. They’re increasingly willing to share personal and location information, even for in-store purchases. Where a customer once handed over a credit card in exchange for goods and services, now they’re generally willing to hand over an email address as well, often for no additional benefit.

This wealth of consumer data can be used to for more targeted marketing and merchandising and more efficient inventory management. It also allows for a more personalised shopping experience as consumer habits and preferences are used to build personal profiles over time.

With data collection comes a responsibility for secure storage and management, putting more and different demands on digital systems.

The new rules for retail

These shifts in consumer behaviour are driving retailers to take a modern approach. Customers expect a true omni-channel experience which is cohesive, data-driven and supported by fully integrated point-of-sale, stock control and financial systems.

1. Ensure consistent omni-channel experience for customers

It’s not enough to simply have a presence on social media and provide an online transaction option. A customer’s purchasing journey could start anywhere and bounce across web, mobile, in-store and social media. It’s critical these engagements are consistent and inform each other, with past customer contacts carried forward from one point to the next. Each touchpoint should be designed from the user’s perspective, ensuring customer satisfaction at every stage.

2. Deliver better in-store experiences for digital shoppers

This could be as simple as providing Wi-Fi connectivity and signs with QR codes offering direct links to online product information, or taking a digital approach to reducing queues with mobile point-of-sale and self-check-out kiosks.

3. Engage with customers in-store and online using data insights

Data from in-store sensors, mobile phone interactions, social media, customer databases and even financial systems needs to be analysed and cross-referenced to produce insights that power customer engagement and efficient business operations.

4. Ensure operations behind the scenes meet customer “anytime, anywhere” expectations

A retail operation is only as good as its logistics. Systems that can support real-time product information in-store and online, fast shipping and flexible return options, will promote increased sales and customer loyalty.


Sonata Connected Retail specialises in platforms and frameworks for digital transformation in the retail sector. Contact us now or submit the form below for a no-obligation conversation about your retail goals and digital agenda.