Retail is dead, long live Meaningful Retail.
This recent lock down may have accelerated the transformation of Retail. We thought it would take 20 years for Europe to find its way between the Silicon Valley and China, now brands must move faster to survive. By inventing a new European model, in line with our values ‑ respect for the individual, rights for privacy and freedom of speech ‑ 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 usefulness brings a lot of changes; especially for brands that had chosen omnichannel. Signs that brick and mortar retailers are 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 tool, not a purpose. It must be thought as an ecosystem and each brick has its importance when it comes to usefulness.
Today's technologies are not the enemies of Retail. On the contrary, they make it possible to improve relationships, to facilitate advice, personalization 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, brick and mortar stores are tangible proofs of a brand's seriousness and credibility. Street stores 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 web page.
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 physical experience in-store.
Moreover, the newest consumers (Gen Z) are curious, engaged, actors of their (virtual and real) lives, in search of adventure and highlights. They like to perform on stage, 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 a 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 ‘freshly made’, gourmet dining and pleasure;
- Designing a virtual meeting place 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 empowering people.
- Offering a phygital experience via smartphone when we want to talk about transparency, localisation and trackability of the product;
- Designing bulks, self-service products without packaging, reassuring in terms of health, when we want to talk about ecology and 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 seamless 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 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 fitting room during my lunch break. Paying contactless 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 to fully experience 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.