Digitize The Physical To Win At Business

Digitize The Physical To Win At Business

Should we even call anything “digital” anymore?

Senior marketing professionals love writing op-ed pieces calling for the death of using the word “digital” in front of anything. “Let’s not call it Digital Marketing anymore.” The sentiment is a pragmatic one: “everything is digital!” The sentiment is a romantic one: “we’re not doing it, but if we kill that saying, we can claim that we do it all.” It’s a smart play. Brands do believe that a strong marketing agency should have strong digital marketing chops. As much as specialized shops continue to grow and be acquired, clients would much prefer one centralized agency (full-service much?). And, the battle rages on between specialized shops and full-service agencies. It’s clear where my heart lies: I believe in digital. I believe that full-service is a hard promise to deliver on. The battle rages on.

But what about brands? How should brands think about their physical products and services as digital channels persist?

For years (and this ideology was a cornerstone of the thinking in my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, from 2013), I have been saying that one of the biggest missed opportunity for brands today is the shift away from an advertising-driven marketing mindset to a digital product/service-driven marketing mindset. Instead of advertising to consumers, create digital products, services, applications and tools that can add value to your consumer’s experiences. An app that is so valuable that a consumer would download it, use it (with frequency), have it on their smartphone homescreen and tell others about it. It’s a tall order. It’s not obvious. It’s an opportunity. This thinking can be extended. Let’s say that you’re a retail brand. Why just sell physical goods online? Why not create digital assets that you can sell as well? Why would a major department store not sell digital goods and digital subscription services online as well?

Every move Amazon makes.

There is no doubt that Amazon does a lot of this right. They are digital, but will launch physical stores. They are digital, but will launch a POS system to bridge that and remove friction at the retail level. With that, have you seen their Dash buttons? When launched, everyone thought it was some kind of April Fool’s joke. Amazon Dash Buttons are physical buttons (hardware) that consumers can place all over their home/office. Dash buttons allow customers to reorder an individual product that they are running out of (Laundry detergent woes? Place a Tide button next to your machine. No more condoms? Place a Trojan button in the top drawer of your night-table. Need more snacks? Place a Slim Jim button in the kitchen pantry). Since launching in 2015, over 200 brands are available, and consumer are using it.

Digitize the physical.

While it may seem obvious, Amazon is now testing a digital version of the Dash button. The buttons are customizable. They can be re-arranged. They can appear in both the Web and mobile versions of Amazon. They can be created automatically by Amazon, based on what the consumer orders on a more frequent basis, and added to the customization view. These virtual Dash buttons could be created for millions of products on the fly. Dash buttons could even be created as an option during the check-out phase. Think about a dedicated Amazon Dash button dashboard — as a homescreen default. In theory, these could prove to be so successful that it might force them to stop developing the physical Dash button program. Amazon is thinking — deeply — about how to digitize physical products and services to increase their business, loyalty and service to their customers.

What this does?

  • They make it easier to buy from Amazon.
  • They make it easier for repurchases.
  • They remove all friction.
  • They remove the need for shopping lists or stressing over the day-to-day items to run our households and offices.
  • They encourage impulse buys.
  • They make it work through customization and merging both consumer behavior with their own knowledge of purchases.
  • They will use this to encourage more usage of their Subscribe & Save model.
  • They grab a consumer’s attention.
  • They are an engine of branding for the brands that are taking part (they look like little action-oriented banner ads).

It’s not just for Amazon. It’s for your brand too. Digitize your physical goods to win more at marketing.

This article was originally published on https://medium.com/@mitchjoel/digitize-the-physical-to-win-at-business-7fe1b493d2ec#.1x4fdm3w7

Why Developing a ‘Near Me’ Strategy Has Become Critical for Local Marketers

If marketers have anything to learn from 2016, it’s this: Mobile is no longer just an important or necessary element of a marketing strategy, it’s vital for the livelihood and existence of a brand. It has led to a critical shift in shopper behavior that brand marketers are rushing to understand and adapt their digital marketing strategies to.

In many ways, mobile has revolutionized how today’s shoppers research products, differentiate pricing and promotions and ultimately, where they make a purchase. Due to the rise in shoppers’ adoption and use of mobile devices, one trend that has exploded in the past two years is the local-first thinking of high-intent shoppers. In particular, use of “near me” in search queries and the integration of ads with mobile map services is changing the way brands market their products and build their digital marketing campaigns.

Shoppers increasingly use “near me” as a way to locate products or services in their neighborhood. In fact, by the end of last year, use of “near me” in search increased 130 percent. So it’s not just a trend; it’s a part of the modern customer journey. It’s up to brand marketers now to address the “near me” opportunity by building a robust omnichannel strategy that drives high-intent shoppers towards local stores.

Local Becomes New Again
Historically, shoppers have turned to traditional advertising – like print ads or circulars – to learn which local store(s) were offering promotions on the products they wanted to purchase. Although some have predicted the demise of the local store due to the rise in e-commerce transactions, research shows that high-intent shoppers still favor their brick-and-mortar store.

Pew Research recently found that 64 percent of Americans prefer buying from brick-and-mortar stores because a majority says it’s important for them to try a product in-person. While shoppers’ local intent is exceptionally high, the challenge for marketers in 2017 is building connected marketing campaigns that incite a shopper to visit a local store after seeing an ad online — better known as “click to brick.” To accommodate for this, marketers must work more closely with their local partners. Today, more than half of “near me” searches result in a store visit, but alarmingly research reveals that nearly all brand relationships with their local counterparts is “hit or miss.”

Marketers must modify their strategies to keep pace with the burgeoning opportunity in local markets that has stemmed from the advent of mobile devices and search. The importance of driving high-intent shoppers from online to in-store has never been greater and will be essential for meeting sales goals. This starts by building an impactful omnichannel marketing strategy that includes and addresses the local-intent of modern shoppers.

The Rise in “Near Me”
The rise in “near me” searches is an evolution in the customer journey and one brands need to pay attention to as it signals the enduring importance of local marketing. In fact, research shows that four out of five U.S. shoppers now want advertising or search results to be tailored to their local market.

To help address this market demand, advertising giants Google and Facebook have optimized their platform for local marketing integration. To start, Google Search now autocompletes the phrase “near me” on both mobile and desktop devices, making it easier than ever to find a product or service in a shopper’s local neighborhood. The marketing world was introduced to promoted pins and ads in map services from Google and Facebook in mid-2016, further evidence that the industry is working feverishly to address the burgeoning local marketing opportunity. As these tools are designed to point shoppers to local stores, brands need to do their part in strengthening their relationships with local partners to ensure messages and promotions are consistent for shoppers who increasingly are being driven from click to brick.

How to Make Local a Priority (Again)
With local searches growing 50 percent faster than all mobile searches, it’s time for brands to wake up and embrace local as not just any channel, but the lifeblood of their sales cycle. While $70 billion is invested annually in marketing efforts to help improve local execution, nearly $15 billion goes wasted, suggesting that issues still remain.

One of the more alarming statistics to see in 2017 is that more than one-third of businesses admit that they still don’t have a mobile-friendly website. Due to changes in Google’s search universe, websites that are not mobile-friendly are deprioritized and become harder to find in search. This is a death knell for local businesses that rely on “near me” searches as a way to drive traffic, and sales, to their store.

Underscoring the complexities of the brand-local relationship is an inherent mistrust by brand marketers in their local partners, particularly as it relates to mobile. In fact, 97% say they don’t think their local partners are ready to market to mobile shoppers. However, by not working closely with their local partners, brands are cannibalizing their resources by creating one-size-fits-all campaigns that lack personalization and regional-specific messages.

One of the ways brands can support their local partners and ensure they’re being found in critical local searches is by ensuring the business name, address and phone number (NAP) are displayed prominently on each website in an easy-to-index format. This is a critical adjustment all businesses must make to ensure they’re being found in local searches – particularly “near me” searches which scan and identify NAP to help return relevant results.

Brand marketers should begin learning about and perhaps even experimenting with tools from Facebook and Google that enable promoted pins or ads in map services. In some cases, a marketer may even be able to include local product inventory or promotions as part of this content, which helps drive in-store foot traffic and conversions. Embracing these tools at their advent will put marketers in a more advantageous position to outpace their competition and win over critical local sales in the future.

Despite all the hype about e-commerce and the shifting retail landscape, more than 90 percent of sales in 2016 occurred in a brick-and-mortar store, evidence that marketers cannot afford to pour their budgets into solutions that solely address digital channels. Neglecting local – or the behaviors that drive local purchases – will doom brands. Instead, it’s time to think critically about connecting diverse channels and delivering high-intent shoppers seamless, cross-channel experiences that match their increasingly complex path to purchase.

This article was originally published on http://streetfightmag.com/2017/01/25/why-developing-a-near-me-strategy-has-become-critical-for-local-marketers/

Shoppers now expect personalisation to extend to the store: study

Shoppers getting used to convenience and personalisation online now expect those qualities to extend to the store, a new study suggests.

Research for the iVend Retail report, Omni Progress: Are stores getting better at delivering connected retail experiences?, was carried out last year. It found that twice as many consumers (27%) expected online personalisation to be mirrored in the physical environment in 2016 than did the previous year (13%).

National Retail Federation Influencer On 6 Things Retail Is Doing Right (And Wrong)

Ask global retail consultant Wendy Liebmann to name the retail industry’s person of the year, and she’ll say it’s the one holding the credit card.

Retail is shifting to a shopper-based model, the way she sees it. And those merchants that cling to the retail-based model of operations and efficiencies not only fail to view their stores from the eyes of their customers; they risk not seeing any customers at all.

“The reality is when people have so many places to shop, retailers cannot afford to just look at themselves in the mirror,” said Liebmann, founder and CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, a global retail consultancy. “They really have to build their proposition around: ‘What does that person who buys from me want from me?’”

She provided a familiar example — the placement of milk at the supermarket. By tradition, it sits in the farthest corner of the store so shoppers are forced to pass through several product-laden aisles. “The last thing the mother wants to do with two kids, one screaming, is walk to the back of the store,” said Liebmann, who was named one of the five retail influencers of 2017 by the National Retail Federation.

Fortunately for that mother, there are other options. She can quickly grab milk at the gas station or drugstore. Translation: Retailers can no longer get away with the model upon which they built their empires.

Those Who Put Shoppers First Win

Headlines about store closings and operational changes make this evident. In many ways, what will separate the retail victors from the others comes down to a few key practices. Liebmann categorizes them under three activities retailers are doing right, and three they are still doing wrong.

3 Things Retailers Are Doing Right Today

  1. Putting away the operational mirror: Retailers that stop examining their own needs and instead view their business through the lens of their shoppers will pull ahead, Liebmann said. They do so by determining how their retail proposition is meeting the needs of the shopper, rather than how it fulfills their own operational needs. In short: They think about the shopper’s life first and foremost, and then apply that to the operational model.
  2. Removing the seams: This means connecting with shoppers in every way shoppers want. The known term is omnichannel, and it requires a great deal of agility. Good retailers cater to the consumer, whether she wants to visit the store, shop online or order first and pick up curbside. “If you don’t allow her to shop at 11 o’clock at night when the kids have gone to bed, that can be the point at which she chooses another merchant,” Liebmann said. “Before there were all these choices, this didn’t matter. The power was in the hands of the retailers and the brands.”
  3. Investing in people: A key to retail success is ensuring the best-suited staff is appointed for each customer touch point — physically, by chat or online. “That personal connection … that’s the hidden juice that makes [retail brands] really successful,” Liebmann said. For example, Costco supports the notion that even in a big-box store with cement floors, the power of personal interactions resonates, from the way the shelves are stocked to checkout.

3 Things Retailers Are (Still) Doing Wrong

  1. Store-ied history: Many retailers still make the mistake of thinking retail is a real estate game, when new stores are no longer necessary for growth. The fact is there are too many stores, as The Limited made clear by recently announcing it would shutter all 250 locations and operate online only. “I remember when we were talking about the ‘Gapification’ of America,” Liebmann said. “All of a sudden it was like the commodification of retail. Obviously digital is a great way to reach people without having to open more real estate.”
  2. Placing efficiency above necessity: While retail does require efficient operations, merchants should not focus solely on being efficient operators. “If all I’m doing is saying my [profit and loss statement] is about putting the merchandise where it is most efficient for me so it can be restocked and rehung, and having so many registers open or so many staff [members] on the floor at some times of the day because it is more efficient to me, then I lose today,” she said. Thanksgiving Day sales are a good example, because they don’t actually address an expressed customer need.
  3. Not breathing humanity into digital: Online interactions should be as human as those that occur in the store. Unfortunately, Liebmann said, some retailers still think they can get digital right with far too few people. But why? Online employees are still expected to answer questions and fulfill orders. She pointed to the Zappos.com model of giving its staff the training and freedom necessary to talk to customers as long as needed. In return, it gets a lot of unconditional loyalty. “You are investing in happiness, but really you are investing in the people you have,” she said.

And when it comes down to what shoppers really want in these post-recession years, it is happiness, Liebmann said.

“We’re seeing this very different kind of yearning — for stability, less stress, greater well-being,” she said. “The competitive environment has changed. It’s not just about the other guy selling things against you; it’s about the other guy selling this set of values.”

This article was originally posted on http://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanpearson/2017/01/18/national-retail-federation-influencer-on-6-things-retail-is-doing-right-and-wrong/#537e48ec5657

Is It Time to Redefine ‘Local’ Marketing?

It has been exactly a year since I penned my last column. At the time I was suffering from exactly the issues facing our industry; vendor companies and marketers had simplified “local” to mean the Google Map Pack. I was simply tired of spinning what has become a commoditized approach to a monolithic product. While I sat on the sidelines this past year, I took the opportunity to dig back into my study of brands, locality, mobile and consumers.

Local marketing communication has always fascinated me.  The fact that consumers of discrete geographies use differing approaches based on locality, media dynamics and linguistics when shopping for products and services. For example, if you are selling a device that protects your home from theft in the North or West, you call it a “Security System.” However if you are selling that same device down South, you refer to it as “Burglar Alarm.” Layer on simple findings like the above with the differences in mobile vs. desktop usage by region with preferred purchase mode (e-commerce vs. bricks and mortar stores) and startling findings begin to paint a picture of opportunity to rethink a local go-to-market strategy.

Yet as I survey most major brands, I see little or no differentiation of strategy or execution across local markets. In fact, we now have examples of how a single national approach has damaged brands like Macy’s.  Macy’s was a once leading retailer that was highly differentiated by individual market. Lee Peterson in a recent article that was published on RetailDive.com pretty much sums up what led to the decline and the missed opportunity:

“Decades of distinct market knowledge ended up devalued and then simply disappeared, rolled up into a singular corporate branding and buying approach. But the forces of finance pushed for chain-wide savings ahead of doing something that might have helped the category: Staying closer than ever to shoppers. In effect, Macy’s stopped doing the one thing it was good at doing better than anyone else — something that might have saved it from obsolescence during tough times, from recessions to Amazon’s looming dominance in e-commerce.”

This is a pattern that has developed in many industries based on the mistaken belief that a singular approach is more cost effective and will deliver the same or even increasing sales results. In the incomparable words of a newly elected world leader: “WRONG.” Local targeting requires a local focus.

What Was Old is New Again
We have reached a pivot point where local market nuances and differences can create definable opportunity. I am not saying that the age of the big box retail or e-commerce portal are over, but if a brand does a better job at leveraging local marketing it can create a competitive advantage and differentiation point. The key is to separate traditional thinking from single strategy tactics and channels into integrated and tailored market specific plans based on defined or researched consumer behavior. A great integrated local strategy looks sort of like “Intent Based” marketing on steroids.

Required key points of understanding of ‘individual market’ dynamics:

  • Keyword/phrase lexicons
  • Media consumption of awareness media
  • Mode of directional media consumption (mobile vs. desktop vs. voice based searching)
  • Selection criteria (attributes vs. location)
  • Preferred purchase venue (e-com vs. in-store)

Armed with these types of insights the brand can then develop local/regionally tailored campaigns that leverage local market nuances and yield higher conversion rates.

Is Geo-Targeted Media the Local Approach?
Geo-targeting ads on Google’s network, Facebook, et cetera, can certainly be a start of a local approach, but they should not be the only focus. One reason: geo-targeting is not always 100% accurate. For example a desktop search for “Plumber Redding” returns geo-targeted results for both Redding, Connnecticut, and Redding, California, even though my location information is known to Google (Connecticut):

Gregg

Additionally, highly localized media properties that are hyperlocal in focus can in some cases offer more cost-effective and efficient (less competition) advertising options.

I often hear of complaints that brands are being priced out of Google and other top portal sites. A good hedging strategy against escalating ad cost is to expand the venues that a brand considers in their ad plan. Interestingly, my firm has researched in excess of 20,000 locally focused hyperlocal websites that often provide ad placements that can generate sales leads at a fraction of the cost of trying to geo-target larger portal sites. Many of these hyperlocal sites’ advertisers are limited to local ‘mom and pop’ type businesses sold locally by a media rep. This absence of brand advertising can provide a distinct opportunity to stand out as a branded option away from other brand competitors.

The Bad News
A true local approach is harder work than simply geo-targeting ad placements. It requires specialized tools that can research media options and conduct ROI comparisons in near real-time. Programmatic platforms that focus solely on hyperlocal media options are just beginning to emerge. So today it takes a balance of manual and automated effort to tap the full potential of an integrated local media strategy/plan.

The good news is that employing an integrated local approach pays dividends in the cost effectiveness of lead generation. Also, if a brand markets via franchises or local dealer/agent networks, the relationship with the field organization improves as they begin to feel and experience localized ad support in their specific markets on the media venues they are most familiar with.

Finally, by tuning media venues and ad messaging to local market nuances a brand can sell more by being better in tune with the specific marketplace.

This article was originally published on http://streetfightmag.com/2017/01/19/is-it-time-to-redefine-local-marketing/

 

Ten reasons why Consumers are more demanding

Cape Town – Consumers are now more demanding of products, services and brands than ever before, according to a new report by Euromonitor International.

Consumers are using digital tools to articulate and fulfil their needs, the research found. Consumers have become harder to characterise, for instance. This means shoppers are more likely to have a hand in defining themselves and their needs.

Omni-Channel Marketing Meets Consumer Engagement

Omni-channel marketing seeks to provide the consumer a seamless shopper experience whether in-store, online, desktop or mobile. Retail marketers like Starbucks, Sephora, and Crate & Barrel have made moving towards this goal a priority, investing in processes and platforms to ensure consumers enjoy a familiar and consistent interaction whether brick, click, swipe or scan. As this continues to become the norm, consumers will expect frictionless interactions with all brands.

This sets the bar high for CPG marketers, where a seamless experience remains a challenge. Some marketers are making strides because they’ve adopted an integrated approach to consumer engagement. Others who keep their marketing teams siloed and focused on short-term reactive programs will struggle. Social Engagement, Shopper, Influencer, CRM, Loyalty and other touchpoints aren’t united around the customer, decreasing efficiencies and sending multiple, conflicting, or inappropriately timed messages.

The silos that companies insist on organizing around are meaningless to the consumer. Omnichannel? Touchpoints? Consumers don’t think that way. To them, there are no channels; there are no boundaries. Just one brand experience. And often it’s not a good one.

What could be conduits for personalized messaging are being used as broadcast channels sending one-way messages to everyone. This does not bode well for the future of CPG brands, as younger consumers prefer personalized interactions. American Express’ research found that 48% of Millennials expect brands to customize offers to suit their needs, and 39% will go out of their way to use a customized offer.

More and more, consumers expect brands to recognize who they are. Better targeting online has taught them that in-the-moment relevance is possible: research area rugs, see ads for area rugs, get promotions for area rugs. A recent study by Virtual Incentives found that 56% of consumers said that receiving a personalized incentive would improve their consideration of the brand. Sixty-three percent wanted to be rewarded for their purchase loyalty. The vast majority also indicated that use of personalization made a brand seem smart, unique and caring.

The good news for CPG brands is that consumers are more open than ever to share their details, attitudes, interests and behavior to get at a meaningful brand experience. A study from Magnetic/MyBuys reports a majority of consumers willing to be tracked by companies if it means a more personalized experience through messages and offers that are for the right thing at the right time.

So if digital media can do it, then brand engagement efforts should do it as well.

A Place to Call “Home”

One way CPG brands can begin moving towards an omnichannel experience is to provide consumers with a brand-owned home base. Through this community of actual brand users, marketers can recognize who their most loyal customers are and begin personalizing engagement as the consumer moves from discovery to post-purchase usage to relevant advocacy. This improved consumer/brand interaction drives meaningful, two-way communication, leading to increased loyalty and sales.

Rally Around One Customer, One Journey

Rather than separating marketing teams by touch point with programmatic goals, a brand-owned home base unites marketers around the consumer and their journey. The shared goal becomes delivering a consistent experience, with the right messages delivered at the right time, one consumer at a time, over the long term. This requires abandoning the short-term, quick-hit thinking that lacks a plan for building a lasting relationship beyond the promotion.

Continually Improve the Brand Experience through Real-Time Insights

The community also becomes the brand’s consumer insights engine, offering real-time access to the attitudes, behaviors, opinions and ideas of their actual purchasers — not a panel of likely users arranged via a third-party vendor. These insights enable continual improvement of the brand experience — from product development, line extension, messaging, packaging, promotions, channel mix and more.

The days of consumers tolerating fractured, one-way interactions with CPG brands are numbered. Marketers should consider a platform that enables a fluid brand experience whether the customer is online, on their phone, on social, through email or in store.

Originally published by , Columnist, January 16, 2017, 11:00 AM

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/292955/omni-channel-marketing-meets-consumer-engagement.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+search-marketing-daily+(MediaPost+%7C+Search+Marketing+Daily)

5 Trends That Will Change The Way Your Customers Will Shop In 2017

At first glance, the queues for 2016’s hot-ticket holiday item, Snapchat Spectacles, might not have looked all that different from the round-the-block lines that formed for the Tickle Me Elmo craze of 20 years ago. But a closer inspection reveals how the simple act of shopping has been quietly transformed during that time.

Rather than waiting at the mall to make their purchase, Snapchat’s hopeful customers were lining up to buy specs at Snapbot vending machines in exotic locales such as the Grand Canyon, the Rose Bowl and Big Sur.

From limited releases of hot products sold in the unlikeliest of places to personalized shopping experiences that meld the online and offline world, the world of retail is poised to get even more interesting in the year ahead. Here’s a look at what’s in store:

Stores are out, experiences are in

Ten years ago, walking into a cool boutique to see a DJ spinning was novel. Today, it’s about the least a store can do to keep up with the times. Brands that are standing out are pulling out the stops to turn shopping into a rich and immersive experience.

Back to Snapchat, for example: selling those specs via vending machines was a quirky touch, but the real genius was in putting them in oddball locations. By doing that, Snapchat turned the simple act of shopping into a treasure hunt and adventure — even for those who didn’t manage to snag a pair before they sold out.

Similarly, brick-and-mortar outlets are also upping their game. Now that anyone can buy anything online, stores that are staying relevant are offering highly curated and immersive experiences. Whether it’s yoga classes and running clinics at Lululemon or grabbing a haircut and an espresso at Frank + Oak’s flagship Toronto store, we’ll see stores become less about being a place to consummate a transaction than a place to immerse yourself in a lifestyle.

Forget faceless brands, connection is key

Back in the day, you had a personal connection with the shops on Main Street. Malls and big-box stores changed all that. These days, however, we’re no longer content to buy from faceless — even if well-known — brands, and smart retailers are using creative tools to build a personal relationship with would-be buyers.

Currently, nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in the world of celebrity. Last year, for example, the likes of Drake and the Weeknd extended their personas into popup shops and full-scale brand lines that give fans more of what they want: direct ways to connect with their favourite personalities.

Meanwhile, Kith NYC designer Ronnie Fieg recently used Instagram to create a real-time window into a product launch event in Aspen. What we’re seeing in all of these cases is online sellers leveraging technology to humanize and personalize a transaction — emphasizing the link between maker and user — which is a far cry from the kind of shopping experience you get in a big-box store.

Evolution — and democratization — of the flash sale

Flash Sales are a time-honored tradition in the world of retail. But enter the Internet and things get a lot more interesting.

These days, putting a time limit on a product or price isn’t just a means to unload overstock, it’s become standard practice for product launches. Celeb cosmetics queen Kylie Jenner has expertly employed this technique, with her limited edition birthday and holiday collections flying off the virtual shelf.

But, of course, bots and resellers have also infiltrated the online sales space, with everything from Kanye West’s Yeezy sneakers to Hatchimals winding up on eBay for several times the retail price. In the year ahead, you can expect smart companies to come up with ways to ensure the right people — actual customers and fans with a history with the brand — are being ushered to the front of the queue. (Shopify launched one product aimed at solving this problem this year, which allows buyers to check out with one tap and sellers to handle thousands of orders per minute.)

Direct-to-Consumer takes a bigger piece of the retail pie

This holiday season, US shoppers spent as much online as they did in actual stores. But behind that headline is an even more interesting story: the direct-to-consumer revolution. From Michael Kors to Oreo, more companies are sidestepping the middleman. Ditching department stores in favour of selling directly to consumers will continue to be a powerful force transforming the way we shop in 2017.

Why? Selling straight to customers creates an intimate and immediate feedback loop that leads to a better customer experience. Companies like AYR, Bonobos and DSTLD jeans are pioneering a highly responsive approach: using sales data and customer feedback to adjust their styles, cuts and size runs in real time. A reality where your favourite store is never out of your size or preferred style is right around the corner.

Shopping gets more social

Imagine browsing your social media feed and buying any product that catches your eye with the swipe of your thumb. In 2017 this will become a widespread reality. Social media platforms like Pinterest, Houzz, Twitter and Instagram are already breaking the browse/buy barrier with options for in-app impulse buying. Now add to that streamlined pay systems like Apple Pay, which is poised to go from a niche payment option to a mainstream expectation, and ordering that eye candy will become almost dangerously easy.

Meanwhile, online sellers are also teaming up with services like UberRUSH and Postmates to solve the delayed gratification problem posed by buying online. Teaming up with innovative services gets products into the hands of customers on the day they buy and contributes to a shopping experience that’s faster and more convenient.

With the retail world in the midst of a reinvention powered by technology, one thing’s for sure: the only limitation today’s merchants face is their own creativity. The bar for retail was raised in 2016 and it’s set to go higher in the year ahead. The good news for consumers: there’s never been a better time to be a shopper.

This articles was originally published on http://www.forbes.com/sites/harleyfinkelstein/2017/01/16/5-trends-that-will-change-the-way-you-shop-in-2017/#9334305387f0