I was thrilled with the insights I gained after attending a meet-up with one of the world’s innovators in the retail industry, Frank Rehme. Frank shared some of the real trends that affect each of us, and what I discovered is they are all about making the customer journey more experience-driven and reducing the ‘idle time’ as much as possible.

Frank is a longtime innovator in the retail sector, with over 35 years of experience in the industry, dealing with the ongoing change management, future scenarios, innovation and the development of new business scenarios to set global standards and solutions. He’s now founded an idea incubator, and also working on creating a city of the future.

In this article, I will be sharing some of the trends that most impressed me, where I believe marketing and technology play crucial roles.

Frank started by giving away some eye-opening insights, such as:

  • The fact that despite the hype, in Germany online shopping represents 12% of the total, while 88% of shopping is still done in brick & mortar shops, as the sensory experience matters the most;
  • Only 1% of fresh produce shopping is done online in Germany, and while the UK is slightly higher, it is still only at 5-6%;
  • Technology in retail can sometimes put people off. Fitting rooms with hidden cameras in intelligent mirrors felt like an invasion of people’s privacy, and that’s the reason they didn’t really take off.

A retailer’s main job is to make people buy things they might not really need. We all have enough T-Shirts, but if we see a cool one, we’d still buy it, right? One problem the industry needs to address is how to encourage shoppers to spend as much time as possible browsing the store, and not stuck at the check-out counter, putting products on the conveyor belt and paying. But let’s dive into the trends Frank shared, as the story will make much more sense after realizing how true they are.

Trend #1

It’s all about personalized products

If it’s made for us, tailored to our own taste and measurements, we’ll be more inclined to buy it, to keep it for longer, to cherish it more and remember and recommend the whole experience to others.

Retailers can start with small things like offering a potential client an exclusive branded pen with their name on it, but shops or brands that offer fully personalized products are in growing demand. Take a look at how Nike offers customized shoes: they provide the canvas and tools; you create your own shoes and get them delivered to you in a few weeks.

Another very nice example is a company called Function of Beauty, that offers fully customizable shampoo and conditioner. You get to fill in things like your hair type, structure and scalp moisture, as well as your hair goals and preferred fragrance, then receive the products that best fit your hair, personalized with your name on it.

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Trend #2

The store is a gallery. Of Experiences

To make people buy more of the things they don’t really need, and given the majority of consumers/customers look for sensory experiences before they buy, having a store which looks more like a gallery rather than displaying everything you stock is going to make all the difference, and soon.

Take a look at how @STORY describe their shops as a “narrative-driven retail concept” where their products are displayed through a “vibrant lens”. They organize in-store events that help people discover products they might not have heard of or thought they need, like attending a yoga class where you use and fall in love with a water bottle from a local producer you hadn’t heard of previously. Their store gallery is constantly changing, offering new experiences and products frequently enough to keep their customers engaged.

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Trend #3

In-store digital signage. Not for advertising, but for driving experiences

It’s a waste to use big digital displays for advertising your brand once the customer is already inside your shop. The trend now is to use digital signage as a way to lead the customer to an upper floor or to explore a new wing of your store. Basically, direct them to where you would like them to engage more with your shop, instead of leaving.

The shops on New York’s 5th Avenue are the perfect examples of how digital display are used to drive experience and engagement and lead customers through these journeys.

Image credit

Image credit

See how in the photos above, Victoria’s Secret flagship store in New York uses the digital display to lead customers to the upper floor, or how Adidas uses it to keep the customers engaged and therefore prolonging their time in the store.

Trend #4

Experiences, experiences & more experiences

People spend much more on experiences than they do on goods. That is why the ‘magic moments’ are the most important ones in a shopper’s journey. As opposed to the negative feelings associated with wasting time putting products on a conveyor belt, waiting in line to pay, scan your items and so on, retailers are looking into ways of eliminating these moments to replacing them with experiences that lead to more shopping, and making the client feel inspired to spend more time inside the shop.

One perfect example of how this could work is a technology and AI driven experience as the one Amazon Go created. No lines, no check-out. Wouldn’t that feel great?

Trend #5

Welcome to technology. The combination of the apps in the actual store

Retailers have been eager to use more and more technology to help save time in the fitting rooms or at check-out. One great example of how this could work is the new Bon Prix pilot store in Hamburg, Germany. Take a look at the video below to see how they’ve used an app to facilitate the whole shopping experience, from store check-in, shopping list, fitting room experiences, and check-out. More and more stores will look at using a mix of apps and technology to create more memorable experiences and reduce wasted times in stores.

In a recent article from Racounteur, a Riverbed study from 2019 showed what customers expect from technology, both in-store and online. Websites and apps that load in seconds, appealing designs and videos as well as online ordering for instant in-store pick-up are some of the most desired technology experiences expected by today’s consumers.

For the retailers, marketers, and technology enthusiasts, the new trends in the industry are a gold mine for creativity and re-mapping the entire shopping journey. My final advice is not to stop and wait but innovate on a constant basis, even if most of the innovations fail. Some ideas will work brilliantly, some will not pass the user testing, nor align with buyer psychology or meet expectations, but it’s only through relentless innovation that problems will be met with the right solutions.