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'Convalescent' retail set to evolve, soar higher in 2011 - expert

Currently undergoing a process of recovery after severely affected by the recession, analysts predict that in 2011 retail will be taken to higher levels and sail into peaceful waters, thanks to factors such as new technological trends, collaborative consumption and "f-commerce", among others.

As technology allows consumers to become increasingly savvy, skilled and sophisticated shoppers, it also makes them susceptible to impulse purchases, according to Brand Activation's Jason Knight.

"Trigger impulse buying"

"Flash sales, or time-limited offers via text or Twitter, will continue to trigger impulse buying and give shoppers the smart feeling of having scored a great deal," he says. "Increasingly, consumers will be part of exclusive networks or groups to either receive special deals or demand them. Mobile enables consumers to find or receive deals right at the point of sale, or to compare prices online."

Despite receiving a major boost during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and still leaping forward, some believe retail, which is still nursing its wounds, has some way to go before it reaches its levels of the pre-recession. Industry watchers have cited stagnant labour market, sharp increases in administered prices and high household debt levels as prime obstacles that are still hampering its growth rate.

But, as technology continues to evolve, spelling the death of traditional buying methods (such as the decline of cash registers) and reinforcing the consumers' role as 'kings for life', the 'Third Space' - as Knight put it - is set to score major surprises in 2011, thanks to a diversity of factors.

Location-based advertising

Knight prophetises: "This year will see a rapid increase in location-based advertising businesses that will increase their use of Foursquare, Twitter and live feeds to provide consumers with rich experiences, instant gratification and rewards."

Furthermore, Knight speaks about the culture of non-commitment, which he says will make consumers more reluctant to commit to discretionary or big-ticket purchases: "Instead, they will go for more temporary choices, renting goods rather than buying, buying one year selling the next and sharing more with friends."

On collaborative consumption, he says: "Watch for an increase of 'we-commerce' where 'crowd brand' is king. Group-think, herd mentality, wisdom-of-the-crowds and other psycho-social variables often drive we-commerce activity."


What about "f-commerce"? "There are only a few brands that sell directly through Facebook... for now. By allowing Facebook visitors to shop without leaving the site, brands add a social influence to the transaction, and bring a concrete return on investment to social media."

He adds: "As retailers reinvent themselves for an electronic age, consumers expect more of all retail spaces. Both on- and offline. Brick and mortar retail will need to function as a third space, which will only be partly about shopping."

Finally, he touches the point every retailer has been striving to strengthen amid the higher costs involved in the process: interactive. "Interactive shopping bags and iPad menus are all examples of how retail stores are differentiating in a social-media savvy world. These brands have turned positive in-store experiences into loyal customer relationships," he says.

Unpacking the 'brands making my day' trend, he says: "Random acts of kindness by brands will create a digital echo-chamber of engagement. Consumers' cravings for realness, for the human touch, ensure that everything from brands randomly picking up the tab to sending a surprise gift will be one of the most effective ways to connect with [potential] customers in 2011."

About Issa Sikiti da Silva

Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to as a senior news writer.

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