The 3 Crucial Digital Retail Trends of 2014

Facebook's Head of Retail Global Vertical Strategy shares his predictions for the evolution of online retail.

Retailers have refined the science of merchandising for hundreds of years, but the disruption of the Internet and ecommerce has been an enormous catalyst of change for the industry—and there are no signs of this slowing.

The art and science of ‘click and mortar’ is just beginning to take shape. In fact, according to eMarketer, more than 80 percent of shoppers who visit an ecommerce site do not know what they want to buy. Which means that in a $15 trillion global retail industry, there is a lot of opportunity.

In 2014, merchandising continues to reshape itself with three important trends: Discovery, Seasonality and Compression.

1. Using News Feeds For Discovery

In the early days of the Internet, we surfed the web in attempt to find products we’d seen in magazines or on TV. Web search then helped to organize our curiosity for new products. Today, we continue to navigate in an era of web discovery. Whether it’s Facebook, Flickr or YouTube, the evolution of the web has created “feeds.”

The core technology of a feed helps people discover things that matter in simple, organized fluid environments. News Feed is essential to consumer discovery and businesses leverage it as a digital shopping aisle to showcase products and drive customers to purchase. Retailers will begin investing more in the art of digital discovery.

2.The Evolution of Seasonality

Traditionally, the holidays were tent poles for retailers’ marketing campaigns. While holidays are important retail moments, digital technology gives businesses more flexibility on how and when to approach customers. During the recent cold front that affected much of the U.S., many retailers’ quickly engaged people to deliver timely digital content.

Whether humorous, insightful or empathetic, this kind of timeliness is core to retailers—customers need a reason to shop and timeliness is a key motivator. Digital technology will allow savvy retailers the opportunity for a ‘holiday’ every day or week of the year.

3. Compression Forces Marketers to be More Thoughtful

Imagine you have the same amount of items to sell but your storefront is now smaller. What was once a display wall of fifteen purses is now a page that fits only seven bags above the fold. And on mobile? Just one. With the evolution towards smaller, mobile devices, compression forces marketers to be more thoughtful in terms of how to target customers. In the age of compression, the key to successful merchandising means selling exactly the right product to the right person at the right time. As more businesses leverage Facebook's Custom Audiences, we believe targeting will become the future creative canvas for retail marketers.

Every year, I spend thousands of hours speaking with retailers big and small around the world. While each one has its own unique set of goals and challenges, one singular thing unites them all; a common mission to connect customers to its products or services. And never before has there been a more exciting time to make that happen.

Nicolas Franchet is the Global Head of Vertical Strategy for Retail at Facebook. Nicolas is responsible for developing category-level marketing strategies that benefit both pure-play and multi-channel retail businesses of all sizes around the world. He also sits on the Board of Directors of Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association.

[Image: Flickr user Jon]

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