Trends versus fads
Despite common misunderstandings trends and fads are not synonymous. The difference is in their longevity: whereas fads come and go quickly, trends are longer-lasting phenomena around which businesses can be built.
When it comes to retail, consumers are increasingly demanding technological-driven enhancements to their shopping experience. Forward-thinking companies have already responded creatively to these bottom-up demands, and are reaping the fruits of their innovative policies. But what do customers want?
1. Customers want pre-tail access
The neologism “pre-tail” means that people want to start shopping before they even enter the store. Retailers have responded to this demand in original ways by using technology.
For example, “shoppable windows” have popped up in New York, which allow customers to purchase products even when the shop is closed through a touch screen in the shop window. The customers are then offered fast home delivery.
IKEA, the furniture giant, has implemented new technology which lets customers see how a piece of furniture would look in their home while they are still at the store, before purchase.
Starbucks, the coffeehouse chain, now offers the possibility to make an order at customer’s convenience, before arriving at the café; the order will then be ready when the customer arrives. Tesco in South Korea pushed the pre-tail demands even further: customers can use their phone to scan and buy food and beverages from a video screen simulating a supermarket shelf. The purchases can then be picked up in store, or be delivered straight to one’s home.
How can we react? Take full advantage of technology advancements and offer your customers original and inventive ways to shop outside of the traditional retail space.
2. Consumers want next-generation environments
Consumers are now used to the totalizing shopping and entertainment environments offered online, and increasingly look for the same kind of experience also in traditional stores. Retailers are being pressured to change their game, and shops are transforming into entertainment centers.
The increasing demand for Omni-channel shopping means that retailers need to offer an integrated shopping experience which spans across the physical, online and mobile space.
Fashion brand Burberry led the transformation by turning its flagship store in London into a website-like environment. Customers can now interact with the store as if it were a website; the environment is very tactile, and when items are touched they react just as if they were “clicked” online. The shop is equipped with over 100 video screens and 500 audio speakers which react to touch, providing customers with a 360° shopping experience.
LS, the Left Shoe company, unites traditional shoe manufacturing with state-of-the-art technology by offering their customers to have their foot measured precisely with a 3D foot scanner. The digital model of the foot is then sent to the shoe maker, who will create custom-made yet affordable shoes, tailored on the customer’s feet.
Some forward-thinking stores have, also, started offering indoor GPS systems. Customers can use the GPS to search for products inside the store, and the GPS guides them to the right aisle.
How can we react? Wow your customers with a totalizing in-store experience, using technology to enhance the ways shoppers can interact with the store environment.
3. Consumers want retail/ hospitality mash-ups
The era of brands is over. Increasingly, customers enter stores looking for an integrated lifestyle experience, one which unites retail and hospitality.
A few brands have taken on the challenges of combining hospitality services and a retail environment.
The luxury goods Alfred Dunhill stores have opened stylish bars inside their clothing shop in London and Tokyo.
Other brands have entered partnerships with the aim of creating special experiences to offer their guests. Uniqlo, the casual wear brand, has renovated its store environments by partnering up with both Starbucks cafés and MoMA. Uniqlo customers can now shop for clothes while sipping a coffee and enjoying a work of modern art.
How can we react? Partner up with like-minded businesses that offer different yet compatible services to surprise your customers with an original, multisensory shopping space.
4. Consumers want social shopping
The constant growth in use of social media has made them an integral part of every facet of our lives – including the shopping experience. While shopping, customers use social media to look for validation of their purchases; retailers are starting to realize that this social media validation can be used to increase sales.
More and more stores now do not just allow, but actively encourage their customers to take pictures of the clothes they are trying on, and then share their snapshots on social media. Topshop in London went one step further by setting up the “Helmut Newton machine”: shoppers are encouraged to take a picture in the clothes they are trying on as if they were modelling for the famous photographer, and then upload their star-moment snapshot straight to social media.
The proliferation of food pictures in social media has led some forward-thinking hospitality operators to realize the advertising possibilities. Some restaurants are now purposely creating so-called “Instagram moments” by plating up attractive-looking dishes which encourage picture-taking and sharing.
How can we react? Capitalize on the spread of social media by encouraging controlled customer-generated content – you will gain free advertisement with an authentic feel.
5. Consumers want net-tech customer service
Increasing customer demands for technological innovations have set the bar very high for companies. The most forward-thinking businesses now use technology to provide around-the-clock, high-quality customer service.
Kindle, Amazon’s own e-reader, now includes a “may day button”. By pressing it users can enter a video conference with Amazon’s customer service; Amazon claims that the customer service will respond in an average of 9-10 seconds after a customer has clicked the “may day button”.
Fiat, the car manufacturer, allows its Brazilian customers to videoconference with experts at a Fiat dealership. In case of problems or doubts about the car’s functions customers can chat with an expert, who will be sitting in the same car make at the dealership, and will be able to show the customer easy and fast what they need to do to effectively use the car.
How can we react? When you offer 24/7, Omni-channel retail, you need to provide matching after-sales services – available and easy to access around the clock, and through different touchpoints. Use technology to make your customer service more interactive and approachable.
Just like the pace of technological advancement is rapidly increasing, customer demands change more and more quickly, too. Companies need to stay dynamic and innovative and react swiftly to changing expectations if they wish to have a place at the forefront.
To paraphrase Darwin, those who will survive are not the largest or the strongest, but the quickest to adapt.
Article inspired by Daniel Levine’s keynote during conneXion Rome.