By Nathalie Gaveau, Founder And CEO Of Shopcade

A wealth of retail forecasts have been published for 2012, with many different themes ranging from the importance of m-commerce to social search. However, the key point that stands out for me is the growing acceptance that consumers will shape the future of e-commerce – and that these consumers are being more demanding than ever.

To maintain the love of their consumers, brands must provide quality products at reasonable prices, ensure their service level is at the standard of the consumer’s expectations, and also keep up with technological advancements. The future could be prosperous for many, but the ride won’t be an easy one. The key to success is to understand consumer behaviour - and to provide customers with an enjoyable shopping experience.

Here I have outlined three types of post-recession consumer. I believe brands should cater to them for a successful 2012. Of course those three profiles are not exhaustive, and there are many overlaps between them.

The Early Adopter

- The Early Adopter is primarily looking for a flawless web experience. Content relevancy - as well as a disruptive experience and entertainment - are the key features that the Early Adopter will be looking for.

- From mobile commerce and tablet commerce (where the virtual store experience is becoming an almost tactile experience) to in-store 3-D technology that allow shoppers to try on clothes in a simulated way, the Early Adopter is looking for exciting and entertaining ways to be enticed into buying.

- Early Adopters are attracted to technologies which influence retail sales and shopping experiences. These include location based offers, QR codes and Near Field Communications (NFC). They also look for barcode scanning services to find the best deals on the products they want.

- For a brand to attract the Early Adopter, they should treat their customers to technological extras, new buying experiences and entertaining interfaces to make shopping easier, more exciting or even cheaper.

The Bargain Hunter

- Deals and bargains continue to be top priority as consumers continue to struggle financially in the current economic climate. Retailers are aware of this and considerably reduce their prices in the hope of reaching new customers. Electricals, clothing and footwear are generally cheaper than they were this time last year.

- The Bargain Hunter scouts for daily deals and limited-time offers alongside discount codes, online vouchers and coupons.

- An all-new pricing eco-system is growing with bargains and best prices the top priority of a large number of consumers. As part of this eco-system we find coupons, dynamic pricing (decreasing wonder prices), blind auctions or micro-flash sales heavily influencing shoppers.

The Recommendation Movement

- The online social environment is a world of micro-critics; the pervasiveness of reviews and comments is largely influencing the reputation of brands. Whether consumers Tweet, Like or now +1 a product, they are effectively passing on a recommendation to their personal network of friends and ultimately affecting the brands’ reputation. Buyers and communities are part of a cultural movement – and they can either choose to shamelessly embrace a brand or reject it.

- It’s now clear that social media will influence shopping habits and retailers’ strategies more and more. Brands need to directly trade from their social profiles and gain transparency. Yet only multi-brand applications in Facebook, like Shopcade, are adopted by the mainstream and will allow the consumers to enter a genuine discovery and sharing environment with an authentic shopping feeling.

- Social shopping - where consumers can literally take hundreds of friends shopping with them and ask their opinion - is on the rise and retailers are recognising that the immense power of the fan will be a fundamental part of the future of brands’ reputations and therefore their success in e-commerce. Current data could give invaluable new insight into consumer behaviours and reflect bright prospects for the industry.

It’s easy to see how these three areas, or types of consumer, underpin each other and why retailers will have to shape their business and approach with this in mind in order to be successful in 2012.

Nathalie Gaveau is the founder of Shopcade.com. Shopcade is a first-of-its-kind shopping experience in Facebook that lets users to browse, shop and create their own personal storefronts they can share with friends, allowing them to shop and earn together. Prior to creating Shopcade.com in 2010, Nathalie spent six years in Asia Pacific working in the digital, e-business and sales and marketing sectors. She was the E-Commerce & CRM Manager for Club Med APAC. Subsequently, she managed the digital division of the global communications group TBWA. Earlier in her career, she co-founded and managed the French e-commerce website PriceMinister.com which sold to Rakuten in June 2010 for €200 million. For further information visit www.shopcade.com and follow Nathalie Gaveau on Twitter @NathGaveau

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