Retail has been in a state of flux for some time now and it’s taken a global pandemic to accelerate digital adoption that will shape the future landscape. As a result, on and offline channels are experiencing an evolution that’s being influenced by technology and shifting consumer expectations. Challenging as this may be, these changes offer considerable opportunity to build a stronger framework for the future as customers choose to spend less money on items and more money on experiences.
The important thing to focus on are the behaviors that influence the purchase through search, shop and share to support consumers as they discover, validate, experience and adopt products and services. Stores will become experience hubs; a space to embrace the brand, trial the products and so much more and this will be key in differentiating from online channels. Whether it be testing a demo golf club, shooting a football at a virtual goal whilst trying new boots or trying on the latest outfit whilst looking in an interactive mirror all these experiences will need to be considered to support shoppers in-store.
Product selection, try-on and trial are all top of the list for health and fitness consumers, but first it’s a question of identifying the drivers that are influencing these consumers:
Community is more important than ever in times when everyone has felt divided in so many ways, especially amongst Gen Z and Millennials who have missed the social aspect of working out and being part of a team. So gathering around a brand, or even an app like Strava, feels like a way of re-establishing those bonds.
Immediacy comes as a result of the “see it, want it, buy it” philosophy that has seen some 72% of Instagram users admitting to buying something they’ve come across on the platform. Amazon has also fueled the need for immediacy with 42% of consumers purchasing sportswear from the retail giant in the past 12 months.
Personalization and unique experiences are what today’s consumers look for in all areas of their lives, whether it’s a workout tailored to achieve particular goals or a regime to fit in with a lifestyle. Apple has recently released Apple Fitness, providing studio-style workouts delivered by world class trainers and offering personalized recommendations based on your previous activity and health.
Competition has always been at the heart of health and fitness, whether it’s a challenge to train harder and longer or to take on peers and win. Zwift is a great example of a brand that combines the fun element of video games with the intensity of serious training that motivates users to be faster, fitter and stronger as they race against each other in the virtual Zwift community. Adding an element of competition encourages healthy behaviour and workouts.
While these are the four main pillars influencing the retail experience, there are other considerations too. 56% of people want stores to follow all current guidelines to keep shoppers and employees safe and many have specific ideas about how this can be enhanced. Examples include mobile checkouts – favored by 67%, with 43% wanting voice activation to receive store assistance and product information. These technology solutions are great ways of engaging safely with customers in-store and improving the overall shopping experience.
So there are many influences that are having an increasing bearing on the retail experience, with many brands and retailers already taking great strides into the future. For example. Peloton has brought a new lease of life to the term “showrooming”, where potential shoppers are invited to trial the product in a retail environment and then make the purchase online. This combination of the “show” element of the sales process being kept distinctly separate from the “shop” has proved to be such a success that we can expect it to become popular with many other retailers.
With device-led shopping being used by 85% of people, this sort of innovation is open to even more sophisticated development which also has the added advantage of allowing retailers to get a more complete data-set about where, how and why certain decisions are made in the buying process. It is also starting to lend itself to far greater use of AR, which is essential to trying on anything from trainers to athleisure, while also creating a more fun and immersive experience in the COVID-19 world.
As we plan for the future one thing is for sure, physical stores will evolve into experiential showcases with technology becoming the enabler to bringing the brand story and products to life. The traditional methods of transacting and browsing in-store will be replaced with touchless, fast payments and retail solutions such as AR try-on, gesture control and voice activation that will deliver convenience, value and choice direct to consumers. This means we will need to measure the success differently to truly understand consumer engagement and the role of the store in the final sale.