The Future of Shopping – Insights From Elias Guerra

Raydiant’s new series, the Future of Shopping, interviews experts and thought leaders with a goal of better understanding what organizations can do to prepare themselves for what lies ahead. 

The following is an interview we recently had with  Elias Guerra, Founder and CEO of Popwallet.

How has consumer shopping behavior evolved over the past 5 years?

Consumer behavior has changed a lot in recent years, but those changes have never compared to what we’ve seen over the past year.

Largely due to safety reasons, over the past 16 months, the shift to online shopping has dramatically increased. This shift extends beyond eCommerce into shopping experiences found on mobile devices–especially through mobile apps.

However, while eCommerce has resolved many consumer demands, it’s not a one size fits all approach. In fact, there are various aspects of the in-store experience that cannot be replaced.

For example, while online shopping experiences have been amplified over the past year through personalization tools to boost buyer purchasing decisions, online shopping still bars consumers from physically examining products before making the purchase, can call for extended wait times, and can lead to additional shipping and handling fees at checkout.

That said, with ever-evolving consumer demands, brands and retailers have been forced to rethink the in-store experiences they provide, with safety and convenience at top of mind. Over the past year alone, services such as buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) and digital coupons, gift cards, and loyalty programs have all witnessed an uptick in demand.

Over the past 16 months, brands and retailers that never considered or were slow to adopting such offerings, are doing it now. And the ones that fast-tracked their experiences to consumers were the ones that thrived during the pandemic.

Take it from retailers like David’s Bridal who looked to create a mobile-first loyalty program around a category that is more or less known for one-time purchases. Not only was the timing of their solution impeccable, but it was also brilliant in the sense that it encouraged brides and their bridal parties to share promotions and perks while accumulating rewards points.

Then there was MARS, who got crafty and rewarded front-line healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic with a free SNICKERS® bar through a mobile wallet gift card. The offering was innovative in that not only was it timely, but it also created more awareness around the brand and created increased foot traffic for Walmart, in which they partnered with so consumers could redeem their free SNICKERS®.

What are the top 3 trends shaping the ways consumers shop?

Omnichannel is a big one. A lot of the time, we think of online and in-store shopping as competing with each other, but really, everyone wants both. Online shopping is easy and convenient, and in-store shopping really lets you see the product before you buy it. Plus, you don’t have to worry about shipping fees and delays. Omnichannel options give you the best of both worlds.

Contactless shopping isn’t so much of a trend as it is a safety precaution. Still, it has taken off this last year because people are more health-conscious than ever. When people shop in-store, they don’t want to touch anything more than necessary. Especially when paying or interacting with store associates, the less contact, the better. That’s why contactless payment methods are so important. But aside from just payment, things like mobile coupons, digital loyalty programs, and mobile gift cards are preferred to physical paper and plastic that have to be handled.

People are loyal to brands who share their values. That’s why eco-friendly practices and caring for the environment is so important. We’ve seen brands become more sustainable in the way they package their products, in opting to use digital receipts instead of paper, and in digitizing experiences like coupon redemption, loyalty programs, and mobile checkout options. All of this reduces their carbon footprint by lessening the need for paper and plastic.

What's the future of shopping?

The future of shopping is mobile. We do literally everything on our mobile devices, and shopping is no different. I think this trend has become so popular because of how easy and convenient it is. We take our phones with us everywhere, so we now have access to making purchases with only a few taps.

That being said, brick-and-mortar stores are far from going extinct. The experience of holding and touching an item before purchasing it is irreplaceable. That’s why brands and retailers would do well to combine the two elements into one through mobile, in-store experiences.

What are the 3 actionable steps an organization can take to prepare for the future?

First, enable mobile solutions that meet consumer needs. The mobile-first society that exists today will only continue this trajectory. Digital Millennials and Gen Z generations will soon have the most purchasing power, so it’s important that brands know how to reach and engage with them.

Second, prioritize safety in this “new normal.” With consumer safety being the highest priority, brands and retailers should be doing what they can to keep shopping experiences as socially distanced and contactless as possible. Some key ways to do this are by enabling contactless payment options and digitizing traditional marketing and engagement tactics.

Third, implement sustainable practices. Reduce paper and plastic waste wherever possible. This includes paper coupons, tickets, and plastic loyalty and gift cards. With the technology of today, brands have options to make these experiences mobile. As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, so should brands’ operational and engagement strategies.