The rise of omnichannel retailing is well-documented. Shoppers buy from whatever channel they want with cheap, quick delivery for instant gratification. Larger retailers not offering this choice may struggle. Amazon Prime now offer delivery in one to two hours in major cities in the world. While transport networks and population size may inhibit this here, it will be interesting to see which of our more enlightened New Zealand retailers will offer a version of this service.
Online shopping enables us to purchase limitless goods at low cost. The purchase is sometimes so frictionless that we can even forget we ordered it until a product turns up, resulting in a lack of emotional connection to goods that end up unloved.
This is where physical retail can fight back.
Smart retailers will create more immersive experiences for bigger emotional connection. Take fitting rooms - previously small cubicles squeezed into dead corners - they are becoming brand theatre. At Rebecca Minkoff in New York mirrors come to life on touch offering personalised product options. At a finger swipe, staff bring additional colours or sizes, raising try-ons 30 percent. The experience adds value and builds loyalty the online world can’t compete with.
Similarly, heat mapping could be a game-changer for NZ retailers. It enables us to understand where people linger, get rid of bottle necks and open up areas that don't see as much foot traffic as they should. It’s like having a cheat code in gaming!
Innovations like these, and others like large digital screens that create impact and narrative, will enable retailers to connect more dramatically and deeply with customers. I predict in-store hospitality will flourish, more bespoke and better tailored towards the brand and customers.
More expressive and unique concepts will find space, and our clients will become braver as they seek to create uniqueness. We see more clients strive to build a community within their offer, making consumers feel part of, and influencers in a developing story.
The role of the store will evolve by decreasing product density to allow flexibility and present hero and niche products. Apple are already doing this with new concept stores in San Francisco and London, where much of the retail space is given over to community and brand building events.
In the next three years, Generation Z will be the dominant customer group worldwide. Tim Greenhalgh of Fitch argues that they are “shoppers in a partial state of attention”, but in fact, they are fully engaged in the hunt. They post, share and scrapbook items, broadcasting their experience. They are shoppers armed with knowledge and the know-how to use it and we shouldn’t overlook the power of the ‘share’ in NZ.
Amazon Go is a new concept from the web giant, now trialling a grocery supermarket with a twist. There is no check-out. You grab your goods and walk out! Shoppers load an Amazon Go app onto their phone which tracks the goods you have selected and charges your account when you leave. The tech eliminates much of the staffing costs and creates immediacy. It is a format that would be well-applied here in NZ with our propensity to be early tech adopters.
Finally, I will be following the progress of brands such as Topshop, Zara, H&M and Dune in NZ, as the markets in the UK and Europe become more uncertain with Brexit and the Trump effect. We may find more overseas brands forging a bridgehead both here and across the ditch as they look for more brand exposure and development opportunities. This will be great news for Kiwi shoppers as it adds further choice and range into the market place.
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 748 February / March 2017