NRF: Digital Touchpoints Impacting Retail Sales

Digital touchpoints such as mobile phones and tablets impacted nearly half of U.S. sales during the past year, according to a report from the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org and Forrester.

According to the NRF, Forrester forecasted that in 2016 direct online sales totaled 11.6% of total U.S. retail sales ($394 billion), but digital touchpoints actually impacted an estimated 49% of total sales.

In response, retailers this year are focusing on several key areas to enhance customer experiences across all touchpoints. For example, 54% of retailers note that mobile is one of their top initiatives in 2017, as are marketing (46%), site merchandising (42%) and omnichannel efforts (22%).

“Smartphones are driving retail sales more than ever, and retailers have found that even modest investments in mobile initiatives can result in huge returns,” said Artemis Berry, NRF vp/digital retail. “This is no longer a new way to reach customers, but it has certainly become a highly effective method and one that boosts the level of customer engagement across the brand.”

Among retailers surveyed, smartphones on average made up 30% of online sales and 47% of online traffic, and sales made on smartphones were up an average of 65% year-over-year.

The study found that most retailers are foregoing flashy emerging technology such as virtual and augmented reality, and instead are investing in customer experience. Forty-five percent of retailers surveyed by the NRF said mobile initiatives transformed their overall digital customer experience, and customer service topped the list of new initiatives retailers will invest in over the next year, with features like live chat offering them an opportunity to connect with their customers.

“Today’s customers are empowered with information and technology,” said Fiona Swerdlow, Forrester vp/research director. “To grow, retailers know they have to operate with a customer-obsessed mindset to deliver the experiences that consumers now expect at every touchpoint. It’s about having all aspects of the business— stores, mobile, merchandising, customer service, fulfillment and more— work together to deliver total value to your customers wherever they are, at any time.”