Key global retail trends, with a particular focus on how retailers can integrate various channels into the physical store environment, are outlined by SELMA MEHMEDOVIC, an Australian Centre for Retail Studies research consultant.
While the growth of emerging non-store channels outpaces that of traditional channels, bricks and mortar stores will continue to hold their place as the hub of the retail value proposition and the core of the shopper experience. Retail stores will, however, evolve in new and innovative ways to connect shoppers to virtual shopping alternatives and the opportunity exists to create this source of competitive advantage. To further its understanding of the store of the future, the Australian Centre for Retail Studies surveyed 1000 Australian consumers to explore shopper preferences for store initiatives such as mobile, social media, technology and experiences.
INCREASING INTEREST USING MOBILE DEVICES
Maps and coupons were rated as the most useful mobile technologies. Mobile payment was found to have the third highest proportion of Enthusiasts (16 percent), but also the second highest proportion of Reluctants (41 percent), highlighting the somewhat polarising nature of this technology.
As expected, Generation Y rated the usefulness of each mobile feature higher than Generation X and Boomers. While Generation Y demonstrated a preference for mobile coupons, with 87 percent being either Potentials or Enthusiasts, Boomers rated maps as the most useful mobile feature, with 53 percent being either Potentials or Enthusiasts.
Korean shopping centre Emart implemented QR (quick response) codes that were only visible between noon and 1pm each day in an attempt to attract shoppers during the quietest time of the day. In doing so, Emart used the midday sun to create a QR code with shadows, which was then scanned by consumers using a QR code reader. Successfully scanning a code took consumers to a dedicated home page with special offers. Purchases could then be made via a smartphone for delivery directly to a customer’s home. As a result, Emart saw membership increase by 58 percent in February over the previous month, a 25 percent increase in sales during lunch hours and the sale of 12,000 SunnySale coupons.
INCORPORATING SOCIAL MEDIA
Access to see what others are saying about brands or products was rated the most useful potential social media feature, while the ability to involve friends in shopping decisions was seen as the least useful, suggesting shoppers were more interested in the views of the wider society than those of their friendship group. Receiving coupons via social media was particularly important for Generation Y, with 36 percent being Enthusiasts for social media coupons.
Brazilian fashion retailer C&A launched a clothing hanger system entitled Fashion Like that is networked to display how many ‘likes’ a particular clothing item has received on Facebook. This means that customers can get crowd sourced opinions before making a buying decision. Likes are collected from the C&A Facebook fan page and are then displayed on a digital screen that is built into store hangers to show real-time votes.
The hangers are currently being tested at the brand’s flagship store in Sao Paulo, which also features a champagne bar, a light-up staircase and a boutique with Brazilian designers. After the installation of the hangers, C&A saw 8.8 million brand impressions and 1000 new Facebook fans per hour, and sold out of part of the collection in one day.
THE MOST USEFUL IN-STORE TECHNOLOGY
Overall, shoppers saw the ability to access informational content and make purchases via in-store kiosks as the most useful in-store technologies, closely followed by virtual try-ons. On the other hand, making purchases and accessing informational content via iPads was considered to be the least useful. Generation Y perceived technology to be more useful than the older generations did, with a very small percentage being Reluctants, suggesting a very strong uptake among this generation.
As part of the relaunch of the eighth floor co-op at its flagship store in New York, Barneys launched genes@co-op, an interactive café featuring a 10-metre long digital banquet table. The table can be used both as one giant screen or 28 individual screens, allowing users to seamlessly order food, dine and browse Barneys New York articles, products and videos.
All the content displayed is repurposed from existing advertising, photography and postings from The Window online blog, fully immersing consumers in the world of Barneys. Touching an item pulls up a content overlay and allows the user to interact with it further, as well giving them the option to purchase products.
THE MOST USEFUL STORE EXPERIENCE ASPECTS
Interactive maps to assist with locating products and the ability to order online and pick up in-store were rated the most useful store experience aspects by far. In contrast, events were seen as the least useful aspects. Educational events were rated more useful than entertaining, and both were rated more useful in a shopping centre context than in a specific retail store.
Interestingly, interactive maps assisting in locating products had the same high proportion of Enthusiasts for Boomers and Generation Y, further demonstrating the importance Boomers place on functional aspects that assist in the shopping process.
The new Burberry flagship store on Regent Street in London has been designed as a physical manifestation of the Burberry website, known as Burberry World Live. Taking over two years to complete, the 4090-square metre space blurs the line between the physical and digital space, effectively creating a virtually enhanced experience in-store.
Clothing in the store is embedded with chips that can be read by screens and mirrors using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. For example, when a customer walks into a changing room holding a jacket, one of the mirrors will respond by turning into a screen showing images of how it was worn on the catwalk, or details of how it was made. The new store also has 420 speakers concealed around the main room and a hydraulic stage for live music. At the end of the shopping trip, customers can check out through a mobile system similar to the one used at Apple stores, or go to a regular cashier.
STORES’ CHANGING ROLE
While the store remains an integral part of multichannel retailing, it is evident that its role is changing to incorporate new and emerging channels. A great example is the recent opening of Piperlime’s first stand-alone store in SoHo, New York. The store design and merchandising replicate the brands ecommerce shopping experience. The 370-square metre store is modelled after an eco theme, making the shopper feel as if they are in a manicured garden. Potted plants are scattered about, while mannequins sitting on a garden bench are featured at the centre of the space.
Interestingly, the store carries only 10 to 15 percent of the website’s inventory, with three digital touchscreen kiosks allowing customers to shop for the entire range online. The range is also grouped in the same categories as the ecommerce site, with clear signage showing trends such as Girl on a Budget, Colour Clash and Celebrity Stylists’ Picks.
Increasingly savvy shoppers now expect additional store features that assist in the effort involved in decision-making, and help to make the shopping experience both engaging and enjoyable. As such, the store remains an integral part of the omni-channel retailing mix, with an emphasis on consistency and seamless integration across all channels.