Retailers should prepare for the mobile, social purchasing era


describe the imageConsumer trends are constantly shifting and this coming year will be no different.

In fact, 2012 will be a major year for mobile and online purchasing, forcing retailers to adhere to the evolving demands or lose customers to companies that are adjusting their tactics.

These trends affect the entire retail industry, all the way down to the supply chains, according to a report by Manhattan Associates. 

"Increasing costs of raw materials, fuel and transport coupled with wage stagnation, the threat of rising inflation and continued insecurity due to the global financial turbulence, will make 2012 a challenging year for the retail industry," said Manhattan Associates' U.K. managing director Craig Sears-Black.

Nevertheless, businesses can take steps to prepare for these evolving trends, including:

1. Be ready for different purchasing habits

New technologies have driven the increased use of mobile devices among consumers. As a result, organizations should prepare with mobile commerce platforms, as well as up-and-coming channels. Retail consumer trends will force businesses to also create social commerce sites, using social networks like Facebook or blogs, as well as video-enabled shopping resources, Manhattan Associates noted.

Retail stores should still focus on maintaining a strong brick-and-mortar store, but without these other platforms, they will likely become irrelevant in the mobile and social era.

2. Social media will need to be used for customer service

While this trend is still coming to fruition, it will be more important in the future. According to a study by Sitel, 15 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds interact with social media for customer service before any other method. This habit will extend beyond the reach of the physical store and even become necessary concerns for supply chain managers to tackle, Manhattan Associates stated.

"The supply chain will have to support social media initiatives. If a customer is on a Facebook fan page and sees a special promotion running, then the product needs to be available online and in store," said Sears-Black. "The retailer will need to know the inventory levels in real-time and have the ability to take an order form anywhere and fulfill that order via the channel requested by the customer."

3. Businesses should be ready for impulse purchases

With the varying purchasing habits of today's consumers, real-time communication will be an integral part of supply chain management. Having the ability to see what's available in the store, what consumer trends are emerging and how the supply chain can readjust processes to account for these changes will determine which organizations float and which companies sink in the coming year.

Consumer behavior is constantly changing, are you ready?: