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The Future of Retail – How Technology Will Change the Way We Shop

Throughout history changes in technology have changed the way consumers interact with and buy products. New advancements bring easier access to products and easier advertising from brands. Early on, advancements that were not specific to the retail sector perhaps had the largest effect on the industry.

There have been many innovations throughout the years that we overlook or take for granted. The first mall opened in Lake Forest, Illinois in 1918. In 1952, barcodes were invented, allowing for better organization and faster checkout. 1978 marked the debut of the first point-of-sale system. These are excellent examples of game-changing technology that changed the face of retail forever. In the last three decades, that slow crawl of advancement has become a dead sprint that is still picking up speed.

Whether consumers realize it or not, we are seeing an extremely fast evolution in the market even today. Starting with the rise of the internet, the entire landscape of retail markets looks completely different to how it did just a few years previous.

Let’s take a look at the principles and trends that will shape the future of technology and the retail industry as a whole.

Customers are More Informed than Ever

Without a doubt, customers have access to more information than ever before. While some might see this as a boon to competition, companies that create great products can only benefit from this fact. In seconds customers can check the price of the item in stores around the world, read reviews from other customers that have purchased the item, and learn about the company that they are purchasing from.

Ad platforms like Google Shopping, even do the majority of work for the consumer by aggregating similar products from multiple retailers and surfacing them in a simple interface for consumers to choose from.

81% of shoppers research online before making a purchase. Those customers are becoming increasingly wary of the marketing that they interact with. According to Nielsen, confidence is declining rapidly in television ads (down 24%), magazines (down 20%), and newspapers (down 25%). Increasingly, consumers are relying on a variety of sources and their own research and intuition to decide what to buy.


On the whole, this leads to better, more effective research and higher expectations among your average consumer. To meet these increased consumer demands, retailers have been forced to adopt new technologies to fill in the gaps. In addition, retailers need to be increasingly aware of what their competition is doing so as not to be caught off guard by promotions or discounts that may affect sales.

Consumer Expectations and Instant Retail Gratification

Consumer expectations in retail are changing rapidly. The Internet has given rise to a culture of instant gratification. Information and entertainment are available to anyone within seconds. In the U.S., 21% of consumers are interacting with the internet “almost constantly.” According to ChartBeat, 55% of page views last 15-seconds or less.

Source: ChartBeat

As eCommerce deliveries become faster, using programs like Amazon’s free same-day delivery program, consumer expectations shift. With the FAA slowly crawling toward regulations to allow drone deliveries, delivery times could shrink to a few short hours in the coming decade. Companies will be forced to open more distribution centers and infrastructure to meet these demands. As such, being able to accurately manage inventory turnover rates becomes even more important.

It’s important that eCommerce companies are able to recognize these trends and shape their services around them. Customers have come to expect a faster, more responsive service from companies. These expectations don’t change online either, where retailers are located around the world.

Automated Purchasing

Another huge shift in retail and eCommerce has come from automated purchases. In the future, consumers will likely have certain items automatically shipped to their house on a monthly or weekly basis. This removes the need to go to the local grocery store (or order online) to secure their essentials. Anything that is an essential home product has the potential for automated replenishment.


The Amazon Dash button is one recent example of automated purchasing. Solutions like this may well be the future of eCommerce and online shopping. Every button is assigned to a specific product. When the customer is running low, a simple press of the button automatically orders the product for delivery. The customer doesn’t even have to give the purchase a second thought.

Moving forward, the smart bet is on automated purchasing becoming a much larger part of retail shopping. This is particularly true for items that need to be regularly replenished within the home. Soon we may see smart appliances that detect shortages. Imagine a refrigerator that detects when you are low on milk, and automatically adds it to your next delivery.

Another form of automated purchasing of essentials that we have seen recently comes in the form of subscription services, which have become increasingly popular over the last five years.

Subscription Shopping


In many categories, monthly subscriptions are disrupting industries. In some cases, subscription services have the potential for completely supplanting traditional retail. The subscription model is ideal for retailers because it locks customers into purchasing a particular product from them. The model gained popularity online, with companies like Dollar Shave Club offering an essential product for a low monthly price. Gillette quickly followed suit with their own similar service, giving credence to a change in industry norms.

Following these examples, we’ve seen subscription services rise in popularity in other categories. Categories like makeup and beauty (BirchBox), food (Blue Apron), and clothes (Trunk Club) have all seen subscription products pop up.

Retailers and eCommerce companies should prepare for a future where monthly subscriptions for essential items become the norm. We could soon see many other categories disrupted by subscription services. Consumers favor options that take the work out of shopping for items that they will need to purchase.

A New Retail Frontier

Retail companies have always had to adapt to changing technologies to stay with the times. However, we have never seen the rapid innovations that we have in the last three decades. The speed of these changes will accelerate, leaving inflexible companies scrambling to adapt. Customers have more access to information than ever before. They are increasingly looking for ways to automate their shopping. With shoppers favoring instant gratification, it is important for eCommerce companies to adapt to stand out from their competition.

This week in search

This week in search: Black Friday success, Snapchat ads and Google’s product carousel

The world of search marketing moves fast! To keep you up-to-date with the latest news, product releases, and industry updates, we’ve collected the most interesting articles from the past week. Consider this your cheat sheet to current events.

December 3 – 9

Google Shopping Carousel Adds Category Filters

Google is rolling out a new carousel feature. When you search for specific retail or shopping queries, Google may show you a carousel that lets you refine and filter your search results. While this is not technically an ad feature, it does contain Shopping Ad results in the carousel, so it might be in the future. One to watch for sure.

Read the full article

Are Snapchat ads working?

Many brands have been increasing their investment in Snapchat advertising recently. But is it working? Maybe not. Turns out that Snapchat video ads generate less than 3 seconds of view time on average.

Read the full article

Black Friday 2016 sets record for mobile conversions

The National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics released a report on sales from Black Friday 2016. Here are the most interesting stats…

  • > 154 million shoppers over the weekend
  • $289.19 average spend per person
  • 44% shopped online
  • Only 9% have completed their holiday shopping
  • $1.2 billion in mobile sales

Read the full report

This week in search

This week in search: Voice Search advertising, Google’s antitrust suite, and new Ad Customizer features

The world of search marketing moves fast! To keep you up-to-date with the latest news, product releases, and industry updates, we’ve collected the most interesting articles from the past week. Consider this your cheat sheet to current events.

November 25 – December 2

Voice search has created a huge vulnerability at the heart of Google’s business

As voice assistants gain popularity (and the technology improves), what will happen to Google’s advertising model which is built on showing visual ads? One side effect experts predict is that all of this is that in the short term, the available real estate for ads will shrink. You could insert sponsored suggestions into a voice assistant’s answers, but it would never offer as many ads as a Google search results page.

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Siri Gains First Official Movie Tie-In, Sets Precedent For Paid Answers

Apple this week set an interesting precedent for sponsored Siri answers as Siri gains its first official movie tie-in with answers for the Universal Pictures-produced The Secret Life of Pets. As voice-activated personal assistant services like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant continue to gain momentum and infiltrate consumer’s daily lives, it is laying the groundwork for an emerging media channel that allows brands to talk to consumers directly, creating a new paradigm for human-computer interaction thanks to its efficiency and convenience.

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Google formally rebuts EU antitrust charges against Shopping, AdSense

Google has now formally responded to two antitrust charges brought against it by Europe’s Competition Commission, rebutting charges of exploiting the popularity of its search engine to boost its price comparison service, Google Shopping, and its ad placement service, AdSense. A Google spokesperson said: “We remain confident that these claims lack evidence and are wrong on the facts, the law, and the economics. The surest signs of dynamic competition in any market are low prices, abundant choices, and constant innovation — and that’s a great description of shopping on the internet today.”

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Ad customizers just got a whole lot more powerful

Google has released some brand-new customizer capabilities which use simple functions and code to customize the text. For example, there is a function to show a countdown timer, as well as a brand-new IF function (not yet available in all accounts). These IF statements can be used to do different things depending on certain conditions, like the device a user is on or an audience list the user is a member of.

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How voice search will change PPC

Should Voice Search really change your retail Digital Marketing strategy?

Talking is easier than typing.

Which is why all the big technology providers have invested so much time and research into developing the perfect digital personal assistant. Cortana, Siri, Google Now and now the Amazon Echo have all made major strides when it comes to voice recognition.

And, people are finally starting to take notice. According to Timothy Tuttle, a voice interface specialist at MindMeld, “at the end of 2015 41% of smartphone users had begun using voice search in the last 6 months.” That’s an estimated 50 billion searches per month.

These voice searches aren’t confined to the mobile space anymore either, they’re increasingly integrated into other devices such as laptops, tablets, smart home hubs and game consoles.

Being able to use natural language for a search is certainly convenient for the user, but what should it mean for the Digital Marketer?

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Loads of fake retail apps flood Apple's App store

Fake iPhone apps could be impersonating your brand

The NY Times reported yesterday that the Apple App Store has been infiltrated with “hundreds of fake retail and product apps”.

With the holidays right around the corner, this could spell big trouble for brands.

The counterfeiters have already created apps as retail chains like Dollar Tree and Foot Locker, big department stores like Dillard’s and Nordstrom, online product bazaars like and Polyvore, and luxury-goods makers like Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior and Salvatore Ferragamo.


According to a report by criteo, apps account for 54% of all mobile transactions.

As apps become a more popular way to shop, it’s essential that shoppers are able to find the right brand when they need it. A bad experience with a fake app could be potentially devastating.

What you can do

It’s essential that you monitor how your brand is being used both in the app store and across the web. If you see a fake app, report it to the relevant app store.

“We strive to offer customers the best experience possible, and we take their security very seriously,” said an Apple spokesman, Tom Neumayr. “We’ve set up ways for customers and developers to flag fraudulent or suspicious apps, which we promptly investigate to ensure the App Store is safe and secure. We’ve removed these offending apps and will continue to be vigilant about looking for apps that might put our users at risk.”

Report an Apple app

This Week in Search: a $32B industry, the effect of Google Possum and New Ad formats for Instagram & Pinterest

The world of search marketing moves fast! To keep you up-to-date with the latest news, product releases, and industry updates, we’ve collected the most interesting articles from the past week. Consider this your cheat sheet to current events.

October 29 – November 4

Study shows Google’s Possum update changed 64% of local SERPs

Search Engine Land’s Joy Hawkins spent some time analyzing Google’s recent Possum update which came out on September 1. Turns out this latest algorithm change has a massive impact on a company’s Local Finder rankings. 64% saw some kind of change (either positive or negative) in their ranking. More testing is needed before we can say for sure what it is that’s making the rankings change.

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Instagram tests shopping outside of ads with 20 US retailers

This is exciting news for anyone in the retail business. Instagram is already a popular way to drive brand awareness, but up until now, it’s been tough to prove a real ROI. That may be changing as Instagram begins testing with a way to allow it;s users to see a product in a post and buy it on that brand’s website.


Read the full article

Digital Advertising grew to a $32 Billion industry in the first half of 2016

The Interactive Advertising Bureau just published a report which found that revenue from digital advertising (mostly search and mobile) reached $32.7 billion in Q1 2016. That’s a 19% increase from the $27.5 billion of last year. The growth in mobile advertising is largely responsible, accounting for 47% of internet revenue – an 89% jump from the same time last year! It comes as no surprise, of course, that retailers were the biggest spenders – generating 21% of total spending.

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Pinterest announces new advertising options, including one-tap pins

Pinterest announced three new ad products for retailers to consider, adding to the growing list of brand and marketing features on the platform. There’s a lot going on at Pinterest and they’re iterating quickly – buyable pins, advanced image search, remarketing and custom audience tools have all rolled out in the last 12 months. It might not have as much coverage as other major players, but Pinterest is certainly one to watch in the B2C marketplace!

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Online retailers are putting more stock in Google Shopping

BI Intelligence reports this week that online retailers are spending more on Google Shopping ads – a clear sign that they deliver better conversion rates. During Q1 2016, retail revenue from Google Shopping grew 52%. The increase in ad spend on Google Shopping reinforces the value that retailers place on the search engine when it comes to product research.

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This Week in Search: click-to-text, location ads and mobile prioritization

The world of search marketing moves fast! To keep you up-to-date with the latest news, product releases, and industry updates, we’ve collected the most interesting articles from the past week. Consider this your cheat sheet to current events.

October 14 – 21

Google AdWords click-to-text message extension is coming out of beta

AdWords brings in a conversational user interface into AdWords and takes a step towards dialogue-driven marketing . When will they bring bots into the game?

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For manufacturers selling in retail chains, Google launches affiliate location ad extensions

Google introduces a new way for manufacturers to connect with searchers.  Google not only opens up AdWords to an underserved market but also continues to aggressively insert itself into markets that Amazon has difficulty serving.

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Google is Splitting its Search Index, Prioritizing Mobile over Desktop

The split will see Google’s index broken into a rapidly updated mobile version, and a desktop version which will not be updated as frequently. This could lead to Google delivering better mobile-optimized content to people searching on smartphones.

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Google Shopping partners with e-commerce platforms to make selling online easier than ever this holiday season

Google announced partnerships with three major e-commerce platforms – BigCommerce, PrestaShop, and Magento – to make it easier for retailers to submit product information to Google Shopping.

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In conversation: What will Google’s new Shop the Look feature mean for retailers?

A Crealytics Discussion Picks Apart Google’s Shop The Look


Last week Google announced that it’s taking a new step into ecommerce with the addition of its Shop The Look via AdWords.  Aimed at fashionistas, it will now show a complete outfit of looks, provisioned from Google Shopping partners, where you could shop for each piece individually or as a complete set.  

As you might expect from a group of people who live and breathe Google Shopping there was a lot of discussion here at Crealytics HQ about it.  Some people thought it took direct aim at re-valuing generic queries, and others thought it had more to do with attribution.  Regardless, the discussion got interesting enough that we thought it relevant to share the Slack exchange.  

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The latest Fashion Trends aren’t just for the catwalk. They also belong in your Google Shopping campaigns.

While no one is saying that Google’s Search Query Reports are as prescient as Anna Wintour at spotting the latest styles, experienced search marketers know that they are often the best way to brainstorm new ideas and build out campaigns. Google have taken that a step further for the second year in a row with the publishing of its annual  Fashion Trends Report.

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Search, Analytics & Social Conference (look out for the unicorn keyword!)

What: Search, Analytics and Social Conference (SAScon)

Where: Manchester

When: 16 & 17 June

Ticket price: £295.00 +VAT

Last week I attended SAScon, a Search, Analytics and Social Media conference taking place for the 7th time and attracting over 350 digital marketing professionals (mainly senior). My aim was to get some insight into the relationship between PPC and SEO in the future and how it will be influenced by the technological innovations.

Topics covered:

  •   Creativity and data in different channels
  •   Creative retargeting
  •   Social commerce
  •   Success measurement with alternative metrics

Most interesting speaker:

Jim Banks from Groove – talked about how PPC has evolved since its beginning, gave examples of best practices and highlighted what the focus should be in the future; including cross device tracking, the growth of Bing, social and virtual reality.

Banks also spoke about finding the “unicorn” keyword – that keyword that no one else has found, but which can become the most profitable one. He used an example relating to the increased interest in credit ratings seen online a few years ago. The unicorn keyword was “teletrack” – a large volume of users were searching for it, but hardly any advertisers thought to bid on it. It cost only 10cent. Banks said that he built his summer house off the back of this keyword.

Top takeaways:

  • With Mobile continuing to grow (5.5 billion users predicted by 2020), there is increased interest in voice search. As such, the focus should be on long tail keywords – on predicting what users would ask search engines. Also, marketing efforts should be adapted to ongoing technological innovations such as virtual reality and augmented reality, which will influence customers’ online behaviour.
  • Invest more in Bing and don’t just import duplications of your Google campaigns. In particular Bing Shopping Ads are growing in popularity due to the adoption of Windows 10, so there is increasing opportunity here.

Was it worth the ticket?

From my point of view, the conference had a great mixture of search, analytics and social related talks. It was interesting to hear best practices for different channels from digital marketing experts, as well as to gain insights on what the future will bring and how the industry will be affected.