Mary Meeker’s 2017 Trends: What Retail Leaders Should Keep An Eye On

Kleiner Perkins VC Mary Meeker’s annual reveal of the year’s biggest internet trends never fails to cause a stir, especially here in Silicon Valley, where everyone is always clamoring for the next big thing. The Narvar team combed through all 350 pages of Meeker’s Slideshare (so you don’t have to!) to distill her predictions for what’s next for ecommerce and the retail industry as a whole.

We narrowed the list down to four major themes that we think retailers should keep an eye on this year:

Community and content allow online brands to forge an emotional connection with customers.

Meeker highlighted pet supply retailer Chewy.com as an example of how a strong user community can help drive revenue growth by keeping customers engaged with the brand. Through its brand-centric community platform, shoppers can share their experiences and consume content that’s relevant to them. This customer-centric strategy helped Chewy.com grow its revenue by over $4M in a single year and led to their recent record-setting acquisition by PetSmart. 

Beauty retailer Glossier has seen success with its content marketing and community strategies as well. By sharing user-generated content on social media, and publishing interesting, educational content on their brand-launching beauty blog “Into the Gloss,” they’re able to interact with customers in a variety of channels. And it’s working—Glossier grew its active customer base last year. Connecting with buyers through community and curated content pays off!

Bridging online and offline is opening up a lot of doors for innovative retailers.

The digital age has opened up several new ways for brands to market and sell to their customers. According to Meeker, the lines between online ads, content, products, and transactions are blurring—and quickly. Whether it’s through product ads on a Facebook feed, a curated email that mimics a traditional storefront, or an Instagram post that takes shoppers directly to the product page on the website, the number of online channels available to retailers is only growing.

And the opportunity isn’t only online, as exemplified by Lowe’s partnership with Google. Customers shopping in the store can use their mobile devices to find the exact location of items, all thanks to augmented reality technology that merges Lowe’s online and offline channels. Walmart has become much more aggressive in ramping up their omnichannel efforts, buying up several ecommerce brands in order to beef up their presence in the online marketplace. On the flip side, online retailers like Warby Parker and Bonobos are investing in brick-and-mortar shops that let them offer more shopping experiences for consumers. By investing in an omnichannel retail strategy that creatively spans both online and offline channels, retailers can expand their reach and cater to customers no matter how or where they want to shop.

Online shoppers certainly love getting packages delivered.

Along with the convenience, it’s hard to deny the excitement that goes along with receiving an order you placed online. It’s a little like opening a gift, except you already know what’s inside, and you’ve been anticipating its arrival for days. A few of Meeker’s trends focused on how this consumer love for deliveries seems to be fueling an uptick in online purchases—between 2010 and 2016, parcel volume has grown at a rate of +9% year-over-year. Even apartment buildings are having to adapt to this increase, expanding their parcel storage areas to accommodate their tenants’ online ordering habits. And beyond the higher volume, the excitement of unwrapping a package has some people watching others as they open their deliveries. With online channels such as YouTube and Facebook Live, anyone who shops online can unlock the entertainment potential of ‘unboxing’ videos.

Access to customer data can help brands elevate the retail experience.

Meeker also spoke about how mining available data is helping businesses deliver more relevant and delightful experiences for their customers. She gives the example of Stitch Fix, which is using technology to look at desired product attributes and customer feedback, and then applying data science in order to send more personalized boxes to subscribers. There’s no shortage of data for retailers to dig into if they want to gain more insights about how their customers are shopping, and the amount of information is only growing as customers use more channels to make more purchases.

And while gaining the permissions to access that data isn’t always easy due to oft-cited privacy concerns, the trends seem to suggest that customers are getting more comfortable with sharing their information. As the digital health industry continues to grow, for example, an incredible 60 percent of consumers were willing to share their personal health data with Google, 56 percent were willing to share with Microsoft, and 50 percent were willing to share with Apple. If sharing information about how they shop means they can get a better shopping experience, more and more consumers will probably be willing to share that data with retailers as well.