by Steve Feldman
How bad is it out there? Two of my fantasy football leagues are about to disband because we couldn’t replace the two teams that dropped out. The cost? $400. That’s enough to eliminate many people in this economy. These are people who had no problem forking over the cash in each of the last 10 years. It’s a microcosm of what’s going on out there.
But despite the sluggish landscape that has enveloped us for what now seems like an eternity, e-commerce reported record sales last year and growth could still be double digits in 2011. This is good news for retailers who quickly adopt such changing sales and marketing strategies.
The retail industry is expanding in directions it would have been difficult to predict even five years ago. I was reading the other day about five trends that have changed the way consumers are shopping these days. Some may not be appropriate for floor covering retailers, but they may spark variations or give birth to completely new ideas.
Here are the five trends:
1. Daily deals. With the explosion of limited-time daily deals and flash-sale sites like jetsetter.com, it’s no surprise other retailers have adopted this successful sales strategy. In fact, online retailers like Target and Overstock now offer “deal of the day” sales that bode well for business. Even Amazon has added daily deal services. Floor covering retailers have always staged one-day sales; now these deals can be delivered via Twitter feeds.
2. Name your own price. The Priceline concept has expanded in a big way. The Gap recently took the daily deal concept a step further with the launch of its Gap My Price program, which allows customers to bid for clothing and accessories. You extend a sales offer for a particular item; The Gap then accepts your offer or makes a final offer you can either accept or reject. The consumer is always negotiating; why not embrace this as a marketing hook for a limited-time sale?
3. Free shipping. It’s not what you think. Originating in Australia, some apparel retailers are talking about charging shoppers for use of their changing rooms. The move is designed to prevent consumers from trying on items in-store, then buying them online at a discount. Sound familiar? What they’ve done has shifted marketing efforts to target online shoppers by creating a more accessible e-shopping experience and offering free shipping both ways as well as site-to-store free shipping.
4. Body scanners in malls. This was designed to help shoppers deal with increasingly different sizing charts. MyBestFit addresses this problem with mall kiosks offering free 20-second, full-body scans. How it works: You step fully dressed into a 360-degree booth and a wand rotates around you, emitting low-power radio waves that record roughly 200,000 body measurements to assess areas like bicep circumference. The system then matches these measurements to sizes in its database for roughly 50 stores, including Talbots, Old Navy and Eddie Bauer.
5. Social media sales. As Gen X-ers move into their peak spending years and become entranced by social media shop- ping, more retailers are jumping on the bandwagon to engage their customers via Twitter and Facebook. In fact, the Facebook store, referred to as “F-commerce,” is an increasingly popular outlet for retailers to target social media shoppers. Also known as social shopping, the process allows consumers and retailers to share information in real time about special offers, products, prices and purchases. The big advantage to consumers is they do not have to leave a social media site to shop and can immediately share their purchase with friends and other fans. This helps reduce the solitary feeling of online shopping. Via social media, retailers also provide information about special offers and, increasingly, coupon codes and downloadable coupons.