The way we shop is always changing. From years of austerity and rationing during the Second World War, to the economic boom of the 1950s when consumerism took off and brands like Marks and Spencer led the way with a mixture of quality, value and customer service.
Then came the dot com explosion of the 2000’s – the internet opened up a whole new way of shopping and has changed the face of our high street forever.
Death of the high street
Online sales have been steadily rising over the last 10 years, with internet sales making up 16.3% of all retail sales in Britain in 2017. And the effect on the high street has been clear. So far this year, we’ve seen retailers like Toys ‘R’ Us and Maplin go into administration plus stores like New Look, Mothercare and now House of Fraser, close in dozens of locations.
This is a huge contrast to the success that online retailers are seeing at the moment. Sales at the top 20 online-only retailers, including Asos, Feelunique and Ocado, have grown by nearly a quarter (23%) in the last year.
It’s not just being able to purchase new clothes or groceries with the click of a mouse – online retailers are able to provide excellent service with perks like free shipping and try-before-you-buy options.
Mobile first use
But even the way we shop online is changing. Sales made on smartphones in the UK have increased from 19% in Q4 2017 to 32% to Q1 2018 according to Criteo – which analysed browsing and purchasing data from more than 5,000 retailers.
This is a big increase in such a short time frame, and it signals how consumers are adapting to the connectivity that their smartphone offers them. We don’t need to be at a computer to access the internet, now we can purchase whatever we want from just about anywhere.
Plus, with Google’s mobile first index, there’s a shift to search engines favouring mobile websites, proving how popular it is.
…And now there’s voice search
In addition to smartphones, smart speakers are becoming the must-have gadget. Nearly 25 million smart speakers were sold in 2017, and they’re conditioning consumers to only use their voice to make searches.
Predictions by ComScore say that more than 50% of all searches will be voice-based by 2020. And considering Amazon Echo owners increase spending on Amazon by 6% after purchasing the speaker, it gives us an idea of how consumers are using the devices – they’re shopping more.
Voice search is becoming popular for a number of reasons, when asked why they use voice search, 61% of people said it’s useful when their hands or vision is occupied. 30% said they get faster results and 24% said it’s down to certain devices being too difficult to type on.
What do these changes in shopping habits mean for retailers?
Shopping habits are all about convenience.
So, you need to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to shop – and that means being accessible online in order to remain relevant to customers.
That doesn’t mean it’s enough just to have a functioning website though. To stay relevant, retailers also need to think about:
Can consumers purchase online? If your website is hidden on page 5 of Google’s search results, customers might not even realise they can buy from you. A fully-optimised website that ranks for related searches is essential.
And are they going to get the service they expect? As a brand or retailer, you should be providing a fully joined-up service wherever and whenever customers choose to interact with you.
Purchases made on mobile
If it isn’t already, your site should be optimised for mobile to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy products with the tap of a smartphone. Every page and navigation feature should be designed with mobile in mind.
Site speed plays a huge part in Google’s ranking factors. Key things like image dimensions, file sizes and site code scripts can really slow down websites, so it’s worth doing a mobile audit.
The rise of voice search
This will see a growth in longer, more conversational searches. So webpages need to be relevant, work seamlessly on mobile and be easily readable to be picked as a voice search result.
Voice search may also come in useful for driving footfall to any physical stores. Optimising your Google My Business Listing for things like location and opening hours answers commonly searched queries like ‘where is the nearest bar?’ and will help direct customers to you.
Retailers need to stay ahead of the curve and get ready for the new shopping habits that are emerging.
Because failing to keep up with changes in shopping habits has already caused well-loved brands to go bust.