The Technology Trends That Disrupt Consumer Behavior

Lynn Bizri, May 24 2017

Developments and innovations in technology are quickly changing the way consumers purchase products and services, and, as technology continues to rapidly advance, consumer behavior will keep on evolving faster. The rise of the smartphone and non-stop Internet connectivity have already altered people’s habits drastically. Today’s consumers not only have access to vast amounts of information that influence their every purchase, they can also instantaneously buy whatever they want with a click of a button.

Econsultancy reports that 74% of businesses say improving their ability to meet customer expectations is more important than reducing IT costs (54%) or reducing the costs of doing business (62%). Retailers have started to recognize the shifts in consumer behavior and are focusing their strategies on their consumers’ needs, desires and expectations. In order to keep up, these businesses will have to recognize and embrace four key technological trends that are gaining momentum and disrupting the industry.

Smartphones and Mobility
Today, smartphones are consumers’ most trusted device, with 96% using theirs to get things done according to a study by research firm Purchased. In addition to looking for information, accessing social media platforms, chatting and playing games, one of the most common uses for mobile phones is actually shopping. It is no surprise then that 2016 saw a significant increase in mobile-optimized sites and mobile marketing.

Smartphones allow consumers to make purchases wherever they are, as well as search for and read reviews about a product or service prior to buying it. For retailers, perhaps the biggest advantage of a mobile-first strategy and technology is how it strengthens relationships with shoppers, builds loyalty and fosters the tendency for people to continuously return to businesses they trust. Even in the cases where phones are being used to make small purchases, the act of regularly engaging with a retailer has shown a powerful effect on consumers’ behavior and has led to more frequent and larger purchases.

However, consumer mobility goes beyond simply having a mobile-responsive site. To profit from the rapid rise in mobile technology, retailers will have to consistently deliver a positive mobile-first experience, as mobile design is more vital than ever to consumer satisfaction.

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Wearables
The market value for wearables is forecast to hit US$12.1 billion this year, up 41% from last year, according to a GfK Trends and Forecasting report. The wearables market is growing quickly with new companies jumping on the bandwagon, improvements in available products and rising customer adoption. This is creating opportunities for retailers to improve their consumer experience. The Apple Watch and Fitbit are only the beginning of an era where wearables connect users to the Internet through their smartphone, extend their reach and give them access to all the relevant data they need. They even enable them to pay for goods and services, like Bank Audi’s Tap2Pay watch. Wearables also provide a more refined tracking of employees, examining food or monitoring one’s heart rate or blood pressure.

Wearable technology based on delivering consumer information provides increased efficiency and makes people’s daily lives easier. For marketers, wearable technology connects consumers with personalized marketing and real-time offers that are relevant to consumers’ lives but also their immediate surroundings, based on actionable insights derived from data collected by devices.

Retailers are discovering the key role wearables are starting to play in improving consumer experiences and transforming retail operations. We may soon see hands-free shopping where the entire consumer journey takes place through a wearable device. Retailers will also be able to use line-of-sight wearables to provide consumers with an enhanced visual in-store experience, with applications such as looking for a product in-store with navigation abilities. Wearables are also set to transform retail operations by streamlining communications among employees and revolutionize store layout by aiding planners to visualize merchandise set-up and optimize space utilization.

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On-Demand Economy
Today’s consumers expect to have their needs and wants instantly fulfilled, with their products being delivered faster than ever. With more and more connected consumers, simplified and secure purchase journeys and location-based services, it is no surprise that the ‘on-demand’ economy is on the rise, revolutionizing both commercial and consumer behavior.

The on-demand economy is the instant, real-time provision of goods and services by companies using smart technologies. Despite its relative novelty, the trend and the resulting changes in consumer behavior have unlocked a variety of on-demand services allowing consumers to buy anything they want, anytime and anywhere at a click of a button.  The on-demand economy has also forged a new relationship between suppliers and consumers: as the latter make use of on-demand services, they are rated by the suppliers and vice versa.

Uber and AirBnB, which have made the on-demand economy extremely popular, have now been joined by an immense variety of on-demand services that cover almost every human requirement. Current market leaders in this field are creating successful business models that combine a multitude of services and goods in one simplified platform. This constantly connected revolution has not only added proficiency, convenience and ease to the list of crucial ingredients in consumers’ purchasing decisions, but is also impacting consumer dynamics, dramatically changing the way business is being done.

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Augmented and Virtual Reality
The digital retail scene is continuously evolving and in order to keep up, retailers will have to adopt new and innovative ways to engage and interact with their consumers. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two technological trends set to disrupt consumer behavior, transforming shopping into an all-inclusive and enjoyable experience for consumers, while allowing the retail and e-commerce industries to save on costs. With AR and VR, consumers can now experience and immerse themselves in the full retail ‘brick and mortar’ environment from the comfort of their own homes, trying out and buying products in a virtual store. 

Several brands have already jumped on the VR/AR bandwagon and started to embrace the technological trends. For example, ASOS, the British online fashion retailer, merged and partnered with 3D and VR retail specialist Trillenium to bring their products to virtual stores that are accessed through VR headsets. The outdoor gear brand Merrell created a VR experience called Trailscape to support the launch of their new hiking boots. The motion capture feature allowed participants to explore a mountainside with tactile elements, making it the first commercial use of ‘walk around’ VR.

By using VR and AR within the retail space, brands not only transform the process of buying, but also the level of consumer enjoyment in the shopping experience. They also benefit from improved retail design, shelf optimization and fewer returned items. By embracing these technological trends, retailers capitalize on consumer needs, enrich consumer experience and increase their brand awareness.

By embracing these technological developments in their operations, businesses stand to gain stronger consumer relationships as they deliver cutting edge and highly immersive shopping experiences.

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