Retail is dead, long live to Useful Retail.
This forced confinement may have accelerated the transformation of Retail. This transformation, which was supposed to take 20 years, taking its innovative building blocks from Silicon Valley and China, is going to have to move faster to survive. By inventing a new European model, in line with our values ‑ respect for the individual, the right to privacy and freedom of expression ‑ the transformation of Retail is well underway.
A transformation towards a meaningful Retail, a useful Retail.
RETAIL - Jul 07, 2020
The quest for meaning and usefullness brings with it a lot of change; especially for brands that had chosen omnichannel. Signs that retailers that only have physical outlets risk losing consumers along the way. The same is true for Digital Natives brands which only have a virtual relationship with their customers.
Why? Simply because Retail is a means more than a finality; it must be thought of as an entire ecosystem and each brick has its importance when it comes to usefullness.
Today's technologies are not the enemies of Retail. On the contrary, they make it possible to improve relationships, to facilitate advice, personalisation and listening, and to manage inventories and the supply chain in real time, thus making it possible to better adapt to market expectations. The new digital tools also give every consumer a voice, creating more opportunities for brands to understand and respond to consumers and to create unique relationships on a large scale. On the other hand, physical locations are tangible proof of a brand's seriousness and credibility. Physical locations appeal to the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell), allowing consumers to immerse themselves in the brand's universe, and thus to retain a stronger emotional memory of the brand. Consumers don't close the door of a store as quickly as a browser window.
This is why it's important for the future of Retail to take both of these aspects into account in the quest for reinvention: digital access combined with the physical experience in-store.
Moreover, the newest consumers, Gen Z, are curious, engaged, actors in their (virtual and real) lives, in search of adventure and highlights. They like to perform on stage, and for them, social life is like being in a play. These "consum'actors" like to be part of a tribe and to think collectively: they like carpooling, co-working, co-living, etc.
They carefully consider their relationship to the brand, which must be true, intimate, surprising, unique and diverse. Only multidimensional and useful Retail will be able to respond to this.
Therefore, if I had to invent a new brand today, as a designer, I would start by asking myself about the target audience and what their personality, tastes, habits, lifestyle and values are. Then, I would try to define a meaning and purpose that responds to a lack, or to a need for change. And I would finish by building an ecosystem for the relationship, making sure that each building block is at the right place at the right time. This could be done seamlessly by:
- Being able to test, touch and try, when you want to talk about quality, R&D, innovation;
- Being in a tasting/restaurant when you want to enhance the concept of made on the premises, gourmet dining and pleasure;
- Designing a virtual meeting place outside the walls when we want to talk about mutual aid, support and when we want to build a community;
- Creating a place for sharing and demonstration when we want to talk about teaching and when we want to empower people.
- Offering a phygital experience via the smartphone when we want to talk about transparency, localisation and traceability of the product;
- Designing a bulk, self-service product without packaging, but which is reassuring in terms of health, when we want to talk about ecology and the environment;
- Offering a repair and/or second-hand service when we want to talk about sustainability;
- Selling unique products, in limited series or in collaboration, when we want to talk about exclusivity;
- Designing a hybrid point of sale, a neighbourhood truck that comes to me when I want it, that I can track on my App... when I want to be nomadic;
- Offering fluid navigation between the online store (when I know what I want but don't have time) and the point of sale in town (when I want to be inspired and have time to wander around). Selecting online, but trying it in-store, changing my mind, changing the size, coming back tomorrow, getting it delivered... in two steps (or two clicks). Adding a product that I have just seen in the store to my online wishlist, or instead, viewing yesterday's wishlist already displayed in the booth when I go on my lunch break. Paying contactlessly with my smartphone in the store without waiting in the checkout line, etc. All of these are examples of enhancing cross-channel relationships.
Tomorrow's Retail is ultimately a tool for fully experiencing the brand with your head and your heart. Experiencing the brand before, during and after the act of buying, because customer loyalty is the best proof of success.
The retail we once knew is dead; let's invent the retail of tomorrow by developing an ecosystem of physical and virtual experiences.