As we approach the midpoint of the year, it is time to take a look at some of the trends that have emerged over the past few months in retail.
There is no doubt that brick and mortar retail is facing unparalleled challenges at the moment as e-commerce makes its hefty presence felt. It is not all bad news for shop owners however, many innovative measures are already proving highly successful and businesses should see this as a challenge to their business acumen rather than a death knell for physical retail.
The e-commerce insurgence has opened the door for a new breed of agile, future-proof businesses, and with a bit of innovation, most businesses can move into this brave new world.
Three opportunities for the forward-looking business.
Shops with no stock are fast becoming the new kid on the high street. Sports and lifestyle giant Nike are leading the way. In 2019, the company opens a flagship store in New York, which will sell no products in its 69,000 square foot store. Instead, customers will enjoy access to unique, personalised products, experiences and one-to-one expert advice. The sale of a product is almost a spin-off. The service-driven or service-only store is a key way of connecting with customers in a new way.
Other ways of using a ‘no-prduct’ store include click-and-collect, returns and curb-side pick-ups.
A demand for goods that exceed their normal shelf life is fast becoming a market driver, particularly among millennials. Stores that perform strongly in this space help consumers preserve their products, known as care commerce. This complements a fast growing resales market that depends upon product perfection.
Answering this call, French luxury brand Hermes has started colour-specialists staffed laundrettes offering a free dry cleaning and dyeing service of owners of its iconic scarves.
This level of customer service appeals to customers who like to personalise their products and who see shopping as an investment, sometimes with a view to reselling.
The soft sell
With all the information at their fingertips, through smart phones and tablets, the store assistant will often be less well informed than the customer. This makes the days of ‘hard-selling’ a thing of the past.
A soft selling approach is more likely to appeal, particularly to the younger generation. A growing trend is for stores to offer ‘brand spaces’ where consumers can ‘hang out’ and meet up. These spaces allow consumers to learn about or test the product. This concept can take the form of a ‘pop-up’ or a long-term strategy but it creates great consumer loyalty.
One example is the use of virtual reality (VR) visuals used by Top Shop. The fashion retailer used a VR water slide, which consumers experienced through VR headsets. there was no link to a product but consumers queued to have a go.
Micro-pop-ups, ice-cream stalls, nail bars – all ways of creating a great buzz in-store, getting customers through the door and creating a connection between your brand and the individual.
The end goal may still be a sale – but not necessarily on the day or from the same physical space. Brands should explore selling tactics that build loyalty and deliver experiences, giving consumers reasons to stay with them for the long haul.
(This article drew on information reported in The Drum, an online business publication.)