Blog Post - Patrick Munden, Feb 7 2019

​Do you need to be an early adopter to thrive?

​Do you need to be an early adopter to thrive?

The answer is not necessarily – but it helps!

A debate I participated in with Retail Week in January – alongside commercetools and Vodafone – asked this exact question.

If you’re searching for early adopters to prove the point, you don’t really need to look much further than Amazon. It is both a) the earliest of early adopters and b) thriving.

It was the first major player to develop next-day delivery (Prime), the first to revolutionise voice assistants in shopping (Echo) and the first big eCommerce company to move into grocery (WholeFoods).

There is good reason why Amazon and other retailers are looking to increase their digital transformation initiatives and capitalise on being the first in the market to implement new digital technology. But the pressure is on. According to Retail Week, 87% of retail execs said the need to digitally transform has increased over the past three years, and 75% are planning these transformation initiatives no more than three years ahead.

This pressure is coming from the need to cater for consumers’ increasing desire for innovation in the shopping experience. In fact, 65% of consumers from our Future Shopper survey last year told us they are more likely to buy from a store like Amazon Go, where facial recognition and other technologies have replaced the cashier. Clearly, people are happy to move away from the typical retail environment, towards something new.

This is true of all ages, but none more so than millennials (that’s roughly somewhere between 23 and 38 years old), the early adopters of much of modern technology.

The survey also showed that 50% of all online spend is made by millennials, and 87% say they would be more likely to shop at a retailer that is digitally innovative. It’s no longer a question about whether brands need to innovate and digitally transform; the proof is in the pudding.

One thing I’m also really interested in seeing this year is social commerce, and how brands and retailers are investing in this space.

One of the biggest platforms, Instagram, has already tapped into consumers’ growing expectations of convenience and speed through their ‘tagging’ of posts; users can quickly purchase items by clicking on desired clothes on Instagram.

The company has recently updated the app to allow consumers to save products tagged in stories or posts, giving shoppers an Amazon-like wish list so they don’t miss out on any items through expired stories or refreshed feeds. It’s hugely beneficial and taps into plenty more markets – expect other eCommerce companies to follow suit.

Away from social media, it’s important for brands and retailers to adopt clear strategies around voice, programmatic and customer experience. Clearly, you can’t be a prime mover in all of those, but investments should at least be made to compete in these spaces.

Take programmatic as one example: in 2016, only 10% of consumers were prepared to use a fully automated system to make their purchases. Then, in 2017, it was 46%. And last year it was 57%. There’s a clear trend pointing towards consumers wanting to engage digitally and programmatically, and willing to try out new methods of purchasing.

It helps to be an early adopter, of course. But those that are playing catch up need not hit the panic button just yet.

Careful thought must be given to developing a balanced strategy, following the audience and investing in innovative technologies. Ultimately, this will keep a brand or retailer relevant.

How to create a balanced strategy