In this fast paced retail world we live it is worth considering what the future will look like and what is required to be successful in this increasingly changing technological society.
This was the aim of the Futures event held by WGSN in London last month, which saw leaders across various industries offer insights and deliver their verdicts on what the retail landscape will look like by 2030.
Never before has there been such responsibility on retailers with the scrutiny and vast options that come in the digital age for consumers. Standing out from the crowd is far from easy but innovating and differentiating your business is seen as vital elements of progress in moving forward into the new realm of retail.
Peter Jeun Ho Tsang, the co-founder of London-based experimental store laboratory The Dandy Lab, laid bare the situation after revealing findings from a seven month study that showed an astonishing 83 per cent of retailers are failing to come up with new ideas.
So what does work? Peter said that RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) cards were proving fruitful as businesses were able to tap into the preferences of their customers and deliver relevant products and services to them, which strengthened the relationship and encouraged future engagement.
Such possibilities were enhanced by the fact that an overwhelming majority of customers – 85 per cent – were happy to give up information on their likes because they believed it meant they would benefit from a better shopping experience. It was also found that mobile payments were on the rise with 42 per cent signing up and using the app to make purchases.
Perhaps more worryingly, according to Saul Betmead, chief strategy officer at Young & Rubicam, 66 per cent of brands are stagnating or going backwards. With consumer expectations increasing the importance of developing relationships is now critical. “Consumer expectations are no longer being defined by category. When you go into a bank and you have an online experience with a bank, you are comparing it with Amazon or with Apple,” he said.
He added: “A brand purpose is useful, and a short cut to an emotional relationship. What matters is that you care about something that they care about.”
The transformation that is underway will eventually see many bricks and mortar stores as places that do not actually sell products but places consumers will go for enjoyable and stimulating experiences, with much of the transactions taking place online, according to Dr Marc Schumacher, managing director of retail design firm Liganova.
“The experience economy is a very complex model of things, where brands need to create experiences that people are willing to pay for,” he said.
Marc argued that money is being thrown away with the industry still persisting in using outdated business models that he brutally described as “already dead”. He said that offering a seamless and unified approach to retail via an omnichannel approach will be the way forward.
While Marc believes that many stores won’t sell products in 20 years’ time they will remain vital in terms of the brand experience and will be measured by criteria such as customer experience per square metre, active participation, social interaction and how well retailers deliver the product not sales.
The importance of catering for the differing needs of employees is also something that must not be overlooked as retail heads into the future, especially with it predicted there will be five generations in the workforce by 2030 with varying needs and expectations.
WGSN Think Tank Director and Americas Executive Editor, Andrea Bell said: “As an employer you need to think about your long-term strategy to appeal to all of these generations – how can you keep employees happy and satisfied?”
Furthermore, employers will begin to shoulder the burden of looking after employees rather than governments as people live and work longer, Andrea argued.
What is clear is that there is greater responsibility on retailers to deliver for consumers and employees if they want to thrive. But not only that there must be a hunger to continually improve and innovate in order to stand out from the crowd. After all, things are moving quickly and it is easy to get left behind but by sticking relentlessly to your purpose then great things can be achieved.