If a consumer had three wishes for the perfect shopping experience, speed, personalization and the ability to have a say in the design process would likely top the list. As with any industry, consumer behavior and demand drives change. Retailers are striving to adapt to changing consumer mentalities by implementing innovative and creative concepts that reinvent the shopping experience and provide the consumer with everything they could ever hope for. The key to implementing these emerging ideas is to avoid gimmicks, and ensure the products you provide are high quality, on-trend items that consumers will want even without the shining, shimmering splendor of a Fifth Avenue flagship.
More than ever, consumers want an immersive yet efficient shopping experience that allows them to buy exactly what they want, when they want it and maybe even allows them to play a role in the process. But without a genie to bring consumers the whole new world that they want, how can retailers take these dreams and make them reality?
Abracadabra, I want it now
With 80 percent of shoppers wanting same-day shipping, the “I want it now” mentality of consumers has led retailers to test tactics that speed the purchasing process and appease demand. Order and collection points are increasing as consumers purchase online, but pickup in-store to ensure they get what they want without having to wait for it to ship. This has the added benefit of getting the consumer into the store so they can discover new products. Click+Collect at Tesco’s, for instance. Many chain stores are also turning to self-service options like automated shopping carts or self-checkout, some going as far as having no checkout, all in the name of making the buying process easier for the consumer.
Temporary retail spaces, pop-up shops, have become common in an era of traditional brick-and-mortar store decline because they allow online retailers to connect with consumers in person or provide retailers with an opportunity to test new markets and hype upcoming products. In some instances, independent online retailers are holding pop-ups inside a large chain, a theoretically mutual arrangement that brings new audiences to both stores.
Alakazam, make it for me
Consumers have heightened expectations as technology has led them to expect a personalized experience no matter where they go. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) have made it possible for retailers to provide a more tailored experience than ever before. Online chat bots make recommendations based on user history and shop floor robots do the same in-store. Micro-localization and real-time tracking keep tabs on what works for not just a specific community, but even an individual. However, despite the expectation of personalization, consumers are wary of the information they provide and retailers need to find a balance between providing a tailored experience and overstepping their boundaries.
Perhaps the best approach to personalization is allowing consumers to take the design and production process into their own hands. Experience programs allow consumers to get hands-on exposure to products and some trendy stores take it a step further, letting consumers design their perfect lipstick, create a 3-D printed sweater, or build shoes with help from a professional cobbler. E-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores are engaging consumers by gamifying the shopping experience – whether encouraging them to play tic-tac-toe and win a gift card or sending them on a scavenger hunt for an item of a new collection.
With the advent of virtual reality and rise of other retail trends and technology, retailers can bring consumers into a whole new world for a fully immersive shopping experience. But these new retail concepts mean very little if the retailer isn’t also taking the same approach on the backend to get quality, on-trend products to market as quickly as the consumer expects. Without a valuable product to back up the hype, these retail concepts are simply magic tricks intended to lure the consumer to a purchase he may not want, rather than giving him the tools to let his heart decide.
Retailers should encourage co-creation and collaboration not just amongst their consumer base, but also within their supply chain. Suppliers, manufacturers and logistics professionals have valuable insight into the design to production process and can increase a retailer’s competitive advantage if they are brought into a more inclusive partnership.
To learn more about how retailers can succeed by mimicking the consumer experience on the backend, read our white paper: The retail revolution: Rethinking how brands create and shop for products.