2024 presents a canvas of opportunities for researchers and retailers to seamlessly integrate advanced technologies, respond to consumer feedback, and stay agile in their strategies. But retail marketers and insights professionals shouldn’t just embrace technological advancements but also understand and respond to consumer expectations. Balancing innovation with authenticity and staying connected with the pulse of consumer expectations will be key to success in this transformative year.
Here are 5 preliminary qualitative retail marketing research trends defining 2024, drawn from KNow’s research-on-research participant feedback and insights from industry experts at the Retail Marketing Society (RMS) and Retail Dive.
1. Embrace Advanced Technologies
Industry experts – and recent KNow Research digital pop-up Booth® participants agree – the adoption of advanced technologies remains a cornerstone of retail strategies. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) will redefine the retail shopping experience, trickling down into qualitative research methodologies as new tools and platforms develop. According to Dani James at Retail Dive, “Direct-to-consumer brands are embracing technologies like AR and AI to enhance the online shopping experience.” This aligns with participants’ preferences for immersive experiences and reflects the industry’s commitment to leveraging advanced tools for consumer engagement.
2. Consumers Value Quality and Intentionality
In our retail-focused digital Booth® project this January, our participants underscored the continuing importance of trust and authenticity. As consumer dollars are increasingly spent on quality items and intentional purchases, they plan to buy fewer goods less often, but when they do, they’ll be looking for quality over quantity. To build that trust and claim those quality purchases, retailers plan to delve into deeper dimensions of personalized experiences to better understand their consumers’ emotions and values. One parent in our recent Booth Insights® pop up mentioned, “Clothes for myself is the easiest area to economize…but my daughter’s volleyball gear, we can’t compromise on that!”
Some participants told us that they want to reduce their spending in 2024 overall, due to inflation and dollars not stretching as far as they used to; “there’s so much over-consumption and we’re always selling or being sold. I want to be more intentional about what I’m buying.” Our clients agree. “The point around emphasis on quality is something we’ve been thinking about with our vertical brands a lot recently, and what that balance between ‘value’ and quality looks like from both a marketing and product standpoint,” agreed a Senior Manager of Marketing Insights at a retail brand when hearing our findings around quality.
3. Agile Research is Still King
“DTC brands are leveraging agile methodologies for quick adaptations,” James highlights. At KNow, we do this by utilizing our trademarked Booth® Insights method for in-person or digital intercepts, to help our clients “check the pulse” of their consumers. This nimble approach lets brands respond swiftly to market changes and consumer feedback, ensures that their strategies remain relevant in the fast-paced retail landscape, and provides a continuous feedback loop so they can adjust based on consumer insights. Researchers can help brands utilize data like this to understand consumer emotions and behaviors. These insights will become integral to building authentic connections and tailoring offerings to individual consumers’ needs, providing retailers with invaluable insights into the customer-brand relationship.
4. Personalized Communication
Shoppers want targeted communication. To help achieve that, industry experts emphasize the role of social listening and big data analytics in DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) strategies.
- “Brands are using social listening tools to tap into consumer conversations,” notes Retail Dive. Our participants emphasized the significance of effective communication channels, and while emails remain a powerful tool, the bombardment of messages can be overwhelming. Timing is crucial, and receiving relevant information when actively looking for products enhances the effectiveness of retail marketing.
- Patrick McKeever, President of The Daily on Retail, and Deborah Weinswig, CEO & Founder of Coresight Research, in their RMS webinar titled “What’s in Store for ’24?” emphasize the need for brands to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.
- Our study participants highlighted the importance of communication that feels personal and intentional. Thoughtful emails, especially those related to product availability and curated social media content, resonated positively with consumers.
Social media – especially platforms like Instagram and TikTok – play a pivotal role in new product launches and creating visually appealing content. Meanwhile, shoppers find social media ads “more spontaneous and memorable” than targeted emails. Understanding these communication preferences and improving these delivery gaps, can be done through analysis of social media conversations and consumer feedback to improve communication strategies.
5. Inclusivity & Authenticity
“DTC brands are reimagining retail in 2024, focusing on health, sustainability, and consumer empowerment.”- Retail Dive. The continued shift toward consumer health after the pandemic and what Weinswig jokes is the “Ozempic Economy,” brings a continued need for inclusivity that extends beyond demographics. As one participant pointed out, the activewear industry often falls short in providing supportive and versatile options for individuals with different body types. The demand for inclusivity and authenticity is echoed in their preference for brands like American Eagle and Aerie, which showcase true diversity in their marketing.
As we embark on the retail journey of 2024, the industry is at a crossroads of innovation, consumer dynamics, and market trends. The retail landscape is ever-evolving, and staying ahead in the game requires a deep understanding of consumer behavior, preferences, and market dynamics.