20-Plus Things to Watch in Retail, Part 2
In the final part of this two-part series on the "20-Plus Things to Watch in Retail” section of JWT's Retail Rebooted report, I discuss 12 of these 20-plus things, including the mobile-powered consumer, shopping hotels and variable pricing. In part one, I discussed 10 trends contained in the report, including 3-D printing, alternative brand currencies and click-and-collect shopping.
1. Guys in the aisles. As men get more involved in running the household, brands will widen their singular focus on moms and women in general. Retailers, the report said, are rethinking store layouts and signage, improving their digital tools for shoppers, and adjusting messaging to acknowledge the man’s changing role — or at least to become more gender-neutral.
2. Individual attention. More mass-market retailers will cater to a growing expectation of superior service, the report said. Target, for example, plans to expand its "beauty concierges" to approximately 200 U.S. stores this year, while J.Crew offers a free personal shopper program, Very Personal Stylist, at all its stores.
3. The mobile-powered consumer. With mobile devices officially an integral part of the consumer purchasing cycle — most retailers are aware of this now and are catering to mobile consumers — retailers will invest in unique mobile technologies like geolocation, augmented reality and NFC to help further integrate mobile into each step of the buying process, according to the report.
4. Online groceries. Online grocery shopping is slowly going mainstream as more consumers adopt an e-commerce mind-set and as more retailers get into the logistically complex game, the report said. Brick-and-mortar chains will also vie with e-commerce rivals. For example, Amazon.com, which has rolled out AmazonFresh in Seattle and Los Angeles, is reportedly considering a wide range of urban locales for 2014.
5. Retailers enable recycling. In a bid to be more green, apparel retailers are ramping up efforts to keep clothing out of landfills, the report noted. In 2012, Puma introduced Bring Me Back, an initiative that added in-store bins into which shoppers can deposit used clothing and shoes of any brand. The goods are then reused, upcycled for industrial use or recycled into new raw materials. And Marks & Spencer offers "shwopping" (shopping + swapping), collecting used garments in collaboration with Oxfam.
6. Self-service. Self-checkout is becoming more common, and the advent of “smart carts” and mobile “scan and go” apps will put a new spin on the idea, the report said. Meanwhile, in-store tablets and touch screens are serving as digital sales associates. While the benefits of face-to-face interactions are sacrificed, self-service is often more efficient. Furthermore, today’s consumers frequently prefer to take the reins.
7. Serving the image-conscious man. Men are more aware of trends than ever and becoming open to less conventional fashion choices, while men’s grooming products are one of the cosmetics industry’s fastest-growing segments, the report found. Online retailers in particular will benefit from this trend, since many men prefer quick online forays to brick-and-mortar expeditions. Online retailers like Bonobos, Frank & Oak and JackThreads offer on-trend menswear, expanding the horizons of customers, while subscription services like Trunk Club, Five Four and Bombfell employ stylists to compile personalized selections.
8. Shopping hotels. In Middle Eastern countries such as the U.A.E., Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, megamalls with hotels adjacent are fueling a tourism recovery after the Arab Spring of 2011 took a toll, the report said. A Sheraton opened in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates in 2013, and Yas Island in Abu Dhabi is home to seven hotels and a megamall.
9. Speedier delivery. The downside of online ordering has always been the inevitable delayed gratification. That delay is getting increasingly brief, however, putting even more pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers. Amazon and eBay are both working to expand their same-day delivery options (eBay Now enables shoppers in a few markets to receive products from local merchants within hours thanks to a network of couriers), while Google is testing a same-day Shopping Express service with retail partners. Several startups are pushing into the space too, connecting online shoppers with nearby couriers. U.K.-based Shutl recently launched in the U.S., and Postmates offers a similar service.
10. Stores as living websites. The idea of turning stores into “living, breathing websites" (i.e., places where consumers have access to a huge inventory from a relatively small space) is a trend to watch, the report said. Bonobos’ Guideshops, for example, lacks both cash registers and inventory. The online men’s clothing seller is using its six locations as physical portals into its e-commerce site. Consumers try on samples and check out colors and patterns, then order from in-store computers. Meanwhile, Staples recently opened two omnichannel stores that are significantly smaller than the brand's typical stores. The omnichannel stores feature several kiosks where customers can order items for next business-day delivery free of charge.
11. Tablet shopping. As more consumers adopt tablets and more retailers embrace the channel's opportunities, look for tablet commerce to take off, the report forecasted. eMarketer estimates that by 2017 nearly three-quarters of mobile retail sales in the U.S. will come from tablets. Watch for more creative tablet-based offerings from online retailers as shopaholics develop a new guilty pleasure.
12. Variable pricing. Airlines and hotels have long charged different prices for the same seat or room, a practice that’s expanding into more categories with a big boost from technology, the report found. Prices are shifting based on time of day, competitors’ pricing, fluctuating demand and individual consumer profiles. Some Amazon vendors rely on software that constantly adjusts their prices, for example. And grocers are starting to use loyalty card data to personalize offers. What's more, demand-based pricing is being tested everywhere from parking spaces to restaurants. With the middle market still squeezed, brands will use variable pricing to cater to both spenders and savers.
Melissa Campanelli is Editor-in-Chief of Total Retail. She is an industry veteran, having covered all aspects of retail, tech, digital, e-commerce, and marketing over the past 20 years. Melissa is also the co-founder of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.