We’ve been thinking a lot about trends which are naturally driven by consumers but what’s happening therefore in retail, how are brands and retailers responding.
Here are our top 10;
- Phygital – some shopper journeys are in-store, then online, and sometimes the other way round, or sometimes exclusively in just one channel; but how online is represented in a physical space is still taking on different forms and shapes. Famously Amazon’s ‘just walkout’ purchasing but now others are following suit. Big brand Nike are taking this a step further. They’re launching stores called their digital rise concept, using screens across their multi-layered stores to show local sports, city and athlete data; taking their Nike “Live” concept one step further. They’re also opening “Nike Live” across North America, South Korea and China; these are digitally-focused initiatives, which include content studies on their shop floor and augmented reality. Zara were also one of the first to launch ‘Store Mode’ which has now been picked up by a number of retailers such as H&M and M&S. It allows the customers to see the available inventory of items from the closest store which could be available fo collection in minutes. There’s also way-finding and a QR code receipt for every purchase.
- Format strategy– consumers spend online continues to grow but what stores are starting to realise more is how a physical store is not just someone to see and touch product, it’s a space to brand-build with your customers. Retailers are in some cases creating special in-person experiences that can’t be replicated in digital channels. Layering in more sensory aspects, making sure it’s an enjoyable shopping experience and allowing customers to connect with staff is how successful retailers are differentiating themselves. Waitrose is our favourite example here; their stores are driving positive imagery of food, their staff are always excellent and so attentive and their convenience stores are efficient and useful.
- Experience! Who would have thought 10 or 15 years ago that Burberry on Regent Street would have a restaurant? Gucci in Florence, Italy has a cafe, museum, art gallery and shop. Successfully TOMs Shoes have layered in their one-for-one giving campaign with VR experience that transports consumers to Peru. Instilling their brand values and beliefs to consumers who want to connect more deeply with them.
- AI – a major disruption for the retail sector with a lot of unknown elements around it. The key themes within AI as we see it; Personalisation, retailers personalising the customer’s retail experience based on their shopping patterns and social media behaviour. Inventory Management; this can be used to predict demand for products, track inventory levels in real-time and automate reordering. Automation of repetitive tasks AI can improve efficiencies across price checking, stock checking and re-ordering to name a few helpful tasks. Chatbots; as well as ‘support’ then can provide customers with recommendations and complete transaction without human assistance in some cases. Final topic within AI; Image recognition; photographing a product to enable a search – very helpful when knowing you’ve seen what you want but not where to get it.
- Planet and society; with regulatory requirements increasing around emissions to ingredients; retailers and producers have a legal duty to respond. This will in turn affect customer and who they choose to shop with. Consumers want transparency; they care about sustainability and are becoming more and more conscious of the impact of the products they’re buying. Labelling with detail on carbon emissions, sourcing information and such will become increasingly more common. Likewise insights into supply chains. Watch this space!
- Frictionless retail i.e. how retailers deliver products, services and brand engagement. When the shopping journey doesn’t work it can be frustrating. This can be across all omni-channel touch-points from an online shopping basket that doesn’t work or a website that is too slow, to poor in-store experiences such as receiving low levels of customer service or expecting a product to be in stock and it isn’t. Do we even need to waste time and queue up at a till now? Amazon doesn’t think so with their Fresh concept. Reducing the friction attached to the shopper experience is vital to ensure that the customer receives a positive experience that makes them want to return. Clients are looking at ways to autonomies services such as delivery and fulfilment or introduce subscription based services that save customers’ time. By introducing try-before-you-buy and 3D body scanning services to create avatars before you purchase or check out what a sofa might look like in your lounge saves on unwanted deliveries and the hassle of returns. Utilising existing and future technology will open up the ability to create fewer pain points when shopping across all channels and hopefully fewer returns for stores!
- The customer as the sales person. Within health, beauty and fashion retail sectors; the influencer is king. User generated content is the most powerful marketing tool in a consumer brand’s toolkit, getting your customers and team to snap original content means your brand is being talked about and it’s adding the most value in your customer’s eyes.
- Personal Service – whilst many shoppers do their research before going in-store, there’s a huge opportunity for retailers to innovate in the personal service space. While it still remains difficult to deliver a personal service through digital platforms, customers view sales advisors as a reliable source of information and through the recent pandemic, retailers have an opportunity now to embrace layering in customer or persona service into their physical shopping environments.
- Battle of the shelves – How to optimise shelf and display space will be a key battle in the physical retail world. Maximising the products visibility and owning the visual spaces enables the brand to engage and interact with the customer. Some ideas we’ve had; brand creating ways with their categories, improving visual merchandising and integrating digital customer journeys within the store to enhance the proposition and deliver important secondary product information.
- Be human-centric – amongst the brainstorming around supply chains, delivery schedules, inventory, store efficiencies, marketing strategies, re-thinking store formats and the like; often the brand forget to put the consumer at the heart of all operations. Thinking of customer experience and delving into improving all touch-points with the brand builds up the relationship and a ‘shopper first’ approach will enable your brand to stand-out and make huge shifts in terms of customer satisfaction.
We’re speaking to our retail clients about their brand value and level of customer satisfaction; are we all doing all we can to be human first, compete on our shelves, enabling our customers to be sales people, thinking about a more personal service and how to use technology in the smartest way possible?
Empathy, innovation, agility, flexibility and responsiveness is the new retail reality.
Get in touch to find out more.