The retail ecosystem is in the middle of a huge and unprecedented transformation.
Almost every stage of the entire retail process, from the moment a product is created until it is bought, is quickly evolving. Shopping experiences, both online and in-store, are going multi-channel, consumer preferences are relentlessly changing and worldwide retailers are trying to adapt their strategies to the latest demands.
The key factor in this new purchasing dynamic is going to be all about the consumer and their changing expectations: on demand services, seamless shopping experiences, great cost-quality balance, personalised products, quick and hassle-free purchasing processes, to name but a few.
For these reasons, retailers are trying to understand their “new” audience and, at the same time, searching for new tools to engage with them.
The omnichannel experience in the retail industry might sound like an overrated buzzword, but it perfectly describes the new way customers are now shopping: using every kind of option available, from apps to smart TVs to social media. Millennials, especially, like to take advantage of the variety of online tools and they have started to bringing to the retailers’ attention new shopping channels, such as voice search, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). According to Euclid’s report*, “as the most connected generation ever, Millennials are savvy, skeptical, and filled with information about almost everything. They want authenticity and engaging experiences. So, if you want to catch their attention, immersive experiences that blend technology, personalization, and price is the way to do it”. Whether online or in-store, the Millennial market is set to greatly transform retail dynamics, connecting the physical and digital to create a new, all-in-one immersive experience.
The changing retail landscape does not end with Millennials, the “mobile pioneers”. Gen Z, currently in their early/mid teens, are set to change things further. As “mobile natives”, they are the first generation not to have lived without technology including, smartphones and social media. They are practical and quick shoppers, they trust influencers more than traditional advertising, love to be part of the product development rather than simply getting personalised items and, of course, tend to go digital when it comes to payment. Although they have just started to enter the retail market, this consumer group already have huge purchasing power and they will certainly reshape the future retail experience.
Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods clearly shows that brick and mortar stores are not dying, but transforming. A PushON study reveals that “over 52% of shoppers in the UK believe that retailers need to offer a more seamless experience between online and offline commerce to retain their custom.” Physical and digital stores can no longer be approached as two separated entities: the convergence between the two is inevitable and will create a positive outcome for both online and physical retailers. Consumers will continue to shift between online and offline solutions, where the lines are now blurred, whilst retailers can maximise their knowledge of their audience.
Data and personalisation
Consumers are becoming “hyper-informed”, they often know more about a product than the sales assistants do, have clear expectations and demand tailored experiences, based on their needs and preferences. This is why personalisation is becoming crucial for retailers and will become more advanced than ever in the next years. Which begs the question: how will this trend move forward? The answer is simple – personalisation will be bolstered and driven by the development of Big Data, Machine Learning and AI. Data-driven retail solutions are set to be the future: data allows retailers to create customised products and unique shopping experiences to perfectly suit each customer.
Social media is about to become the shopping mall of the future. In fact, social channels are already generating new audiences for retailers that need to adapt their sales strategies, ways of communicating and tone of voice to meet and engage with consumers. This is a huge challenge, but also a great opportunity for both retailers and consumers. sCommerce can be a powerful tool for retailers that embrace social media as an opportunity to generate a conversation with consumers, in order to know more about each other and inspire a wide range of new potential consumers.
Retailers are aware that the future will depend on whether they can transform themselves, by adapting to changing consumer demands or remaining the same. New companies certainly have more time to tailor and experiment with new concepts, without having to change the core of the brand. In any case, reinvention will be the key.
About Isabelle Ohnemus
Isabelle’s career started in investment banking. She worked for more than ten years in a well-known global investment bank, as a broker in stocks and derivatives. As fashion was always part of her life, she decided to turn this passion into something more concrete. Isabelle started organising private sales at her home for her busy girlfriends who wanted to access the world of fashion in an easy way. The sales included new and groundbreaking designers from Italy, Denmark and France who had no physical stores in Zurich. Isabelle’s own place became their exclusive store and in this trendy and alternative environment she realised the inconsistency in sizing. Four years ago she founded EyeFitU, the platform and app that provides sizing recommendations to consumers for all major brands around the world. Isabelle is fluent in six languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.