The changes happening right now on the retail landscape are by far the most sweeping changes retailers have ever experienced; and the end is nowhere in sight. The question is: Are you ready? And ready for what?
Our changing world has revolutionized the consumer; gone are the days of unrewarded loyalty and little competition. Shopping choices are endless, and those choices will force you to change the way you do business. In today’s hyper-competitive market you must utilize every tool available to you. And then some.
In 1969 Zager and Evans wrote a song called In the Year 2525. (If you’re old enough to remember it you’ll be humming it for days. You’re welcome. ツ )
The lyrics included, “In the year 5555, Your arms hangin' limp at your sides, Your legs got nothin' to do, Some machine's doin' that for you...”
We’re not there yet (whew!) but we could be on that track. Easy access to technology has created opportunities for all sorts of retailers. And it’s made it easier for shoppers. For example:
q You don’t even have to get off the couch to shop at HSN. That’s right, the Home Shopping Network lets you order product using only your TV remote control. Or you can kick it old school and place your order via telephone, on-line, or mobile app.
q Leave your wallet at home on your next visit to Starbucks. Simply download the Starbucks app, set up an account, buy a Starbucks gift card, enter the number on the back of the card into your smartphone, and load the card with cash from your credit or debit card. When you’re ready to pay, initiate the app and your phone will display a barcode the barista will scan. Simple, easy, in and out.
q Hate sales people? Then you’ll love shopping at Apple, because with Apple’s Easy Pay app you never have to interact with a real person again. The Easy Pay app jumps to attention whenever you enter an Apple store. Simply choose the accessory piece you wish to purchase (it doesn’t work with computers or tablets), open the app, scan the barcode, log-in with your Apple ID and you’re good to go. The app thanks you for your purchase and sends you a receipt via e-mail.
q On-line grocer Peapod has made it easy for tired commuters waiting for their trains to arrive at Chicago “L” stations to do their marketing. Instead of gray walls dotted with graffiti and lined with advertisements, the “L” stations have been transformed into life size virtual supermarket aisles. Need milk, eggs, and laundry detergent? Easy. Scan the barcode on the virtual store shelf and the items will be delivered to your home within a day of placing the order. Next up: product pick-up stations where you can pick up your order instead of waiting for home delivery.
This future technology is easier than you might think. Start off with QR Codes, those funny little black and white boxes that hold a wealth of information. We’re seeing QR codes all over the place these days: in magazines, on ads, billboards, store windows. Everywhere, including an airplane pulling a sign with a King Kong sized QR code behind it. Good luck trying to scan that baby…
The best use of QR codes is right on out sales floor. HomeDepot, Best Buy, and Macy’s are committed to QR codes. You‘ll find them in-store on signing, POP materials, as shelf talkers, and on the hang-tags that go home with the customers after purchase. Want to teach customers how to use your product? Use QR codes, they’re free and easy to make. Google QR codes and hundreds of free sites will pop up. You’ll be in the information sharing business in no time flat.
Your customers are changing, too. There’s a new kid in town, a consumer who likes to share the cool things they find. Trendwatching.com, a company that scans the globe for emerging consumer trends, insights and innovations calls them Socialites.
Socialites are shoppers who have moved from “I gotta have it” to I gotta share it”. They’re curators who enjoy telling the world via social medias about their favorite products, places, and experiences. Imagine the impact this could have on your business!
Socialites play into what Trendswatching.com calls the F-Factor, a trend that is critically important to retailers. If your customers interact about your product and/or store with their networks of friends, fans, and followers, your store better be worth the trip. The F-Factor helps customers determine where to go to buy.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Search Alone
You need to book a hotel, but you aren’t familiar with the city, so you go to a site like TripAdvisor.com and read the reviews. The thing is you have absolutely no idea who wrote them. Those nasty comments could have been written by a cheesed off competitor. Enter Bing and Decide Search with friends, the search engine that allows you to interact with Facebook and Twitter friends to get the inside scoop on all sorts of things.
Good, Old-fashioned Retail Ingenuity
Not every new trend has to do with technology. More and more we’re hearing about independent retailers looking for new ways to reach customers. Mobile stores are huge, just ask Amy Chase, owner of Haberdash Vintage in Boston, Massachusetts. Amy’s mobile shop is a truck that moves to a new area each day, using social medias to help shoppers find her. But Amy isn’t alone, mobile shops are popping up all over the U.S.; even big names like designer Cynthia Rowley, and the chain store Madewell, are using mobile shops to increase visibility and sales. Think of what this could mean to your business.
Fine dining at the grocery store
Most people go to the super market, grab a cart, and start to peruse the aisles. Shoppers do that at Wegmans Food Markets, a family-owned regional supermarket chain headquartered near Rochester, New York too, but they also go there to be entertained.
Wegmans understands Shoppertainment, that unique combination of shopping and entertainment that keeps customers close. On a typical Friday night at Wegmans you might find people enjoying a wine tasting in the store’s Pub – an honest to goodness, in-store full service restaurant that’s located right in the store. You might meet a family taking enjoying free movie night, couples ballroom dancing, or rocking out to a live band. Wegmans cult following is so strong that earlier this year a high school honored the chain with a full on production of “Wegmans…The Musical!” How cool is that?
So, what does this mean to me?
We could fill this entire magazine with retail trends that will ultimately change how you do business. Early adoption is critical because customers today expect you to have all the answers. We’ve created this exercise to give you a starting point and to get your creative juices flowing:
q Draw three columns on a sheet of paper.
q In the left column, list new trends you’ve seen or enjoyed in other businesses that you think would work well for your business.
q In the center column, list ways you can spin each idea to make it easy-to-implement and unique to your store.
q Keep this worksheet in a convenient place, but don’t look at it for a day or two. You need some time to move away from your initial thoughts.
q In a few days, review the ideas in the center column. Then use right column to expand on them, adding ways you can get the word out about your new services, conveniences, events, product, technologies, etc.
q Ask your team to do the same exercise. Let them know that it’s okay to think outside the box and that no idea is a bad idea. You’ll be surprised at how many ideas they’ll generate – things you may never have thought up by yourself.
Retail trends will come and go, what excites shoppers today will bore them to tears tomorrow. Keep up with what’s new, hot, and happening. And when you see a trend with potential, don’t be afraid to use it to your advantage!
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