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Retail trend insights

The rapid expansion of digital technology, especially the evolution of convenient mobile devices such as tablets, has radically changed the way we shop and our relationship with brands. This technology is also shaping the consumers of tomorrow.

Image of an eyeTeenagers of today are already convenient and creative co-creators, well informed by digital transparency, equipped with disloyal brand attitudes. Even young children, raised in the digital age, are already brand aware and showing strong preferences. These future consumers will expect new ways of accessing to retail brands.

These pressures from technological development and increasingly sophisticated consumer demand are forcing retailers to sharpen and expand their offer. It has become vital to work with a multi-channel mixed platform that engages and reaches out to consumers. The future of retail will be a fluid, exciting mix of online, offline and mobile commerce. As a result, the actual retail space will be about so much more than just shopping. Retailers need to rethink their relationship with products, because retail won’t be just about products in the future. Instead, brands will be about relationships, filtering, learning, fun and customer engagement. We believe it is now, more than ever, important to really use the physical store as a brand carrying platform and invite customers to a remarkable and well-planned “show” - even if it is a subtle one or a ravishing spectacle.

Flexible and dynamic settings - the decline of uniform retail blueprints

As the pace of communication and lifestyles accelerates, the hyper-local store experience will become increasingly important to a generation of consumers nurtured on the Internet – global in their outlook yet determined to feel a sense of community in an increasingly fragmented society.

To claim the attention and interest of these consumers, living in a world of constant change and choice, the retail interior and brand strategy will be crucial. Convenience is another key factor. Ten thousand square metres take too long to get around. Retailers are offering small boxes rather than big-box spaces – we are moving from the superstore to the super-convenience store. Many larger retail chains are now working to create different formats and expressions in stores. Often these are adapted according to the specific locale in which they are sited, so that product selection, interior and concept are appropriate for the location and local culture. Consumers are turning away from globalised, uniform retail blueprints to locally authentic offerings, which are in touch with communities. And the retailers are responding. Several larger chains have dared to break their incorporated pattern of having identical shops to gain stronger brand recognition. They rather adapt concepts along with the local settings. 

But the community change and so do trends, products and consumer behaviours. Consequently, retailers must meet these changes in terms of creating adapted offerings and campaigns that appeal and attract the consumers. Now, more than ever, it is important to be able to transform the shop over the year, especially since the changeable e-commerce have made consumers used to constant updates.

Several larger chains have dared to break their incorporated pattern of having identical shops to gain stronger brand recognition.

Experience is the new commodity - seeing and experience amazing things

As digital technology makes it easier for consumers to compare, create, interact and purchase, retailers need to intensify their offer. Why bother going all the way to an actual store when you can get the same merchandise more easily and more conveniently online? The answer is a well-planned multi-channel mix in which the physical store still plays an important part. Shopping will not only be about transactions, it will be about seeing and experiencing amazing things.

The new generation expects to be entertained and to visit retail spaces that encompass both the offline and online worlds. Fused retail shops are now appearing, featuring commercial areas but also music scenes, spas, galleries, barbers and coffee shops all in the same space. And this is a perfect way to give the shopper an appealing 360-degree experience. Increasingly, the retail space is being viewed as a theatrical scene, taking brands and retail concepts to new startling heights. Clever retailers engage customers with stimulating scenery and intriguing stories thoroughly narrated around the brand – they surprise visitors and dare to be unusual and push our emotional buttons. It is therefore important to consider every part of the store and the total retail experience, from interior to lighting, service and marketing. 

Over the coming decade, ‘more than a store’ experiences like this will redefine and evolve the convenience store by layering different elements of a retail proposition based on the needs of the local community, new consumers and advanced digital technology. 

Increasingly, the retail space is being viewed as a theatrical scene, taking brands and retail concepts to new startling heights.

The pop-up trend - instant, raw and honest

As consumers’ lives have become busier, shopping patterns have shifted away from the weekly shop to the ‘what I need now’ shop. Consequently shops need to be where the consumers are. That is just one reason why the pop-up concept has been so successful. Retailers also want to attract attention and to create a buzz so that the experience, and the brand, are talked about.

The pop-up principle involves creating a temporary shop in all kinds of places and in all kinds of ways. A crucial factor is often to pop up in places that are totally unexpected – the underground station, on the beach or in the middle of a city park. There is also a raw and industrial-looking feel to many of the concepts – even luxury brands experiment with basic materials such as wooden crates, concrete and steel to create the feeling of a spontaneous and disordered environment, a contrast to their otherwise clean and controlled brand. But the pop-up trend has emerged beneath the portable format – many brands also embrace the type of style in terms of interior and setting that is created in pop-up stores even if the store itself is permanent. 

Zalando’s pop-up store (pictured left), created by the Danish-born architect Sigurd Larsen, is a great example of the concept. Inspired by the large wooden crates used in the shipping industry, the shop features three freestanding boxes, each revealing a separate collection. The boxes are placed at angles to the concrete walls, guiding the visitor through the space. Concrete stools echo the materiality of the walls, and act as counterweights for the hangers of a fourth collection. Prior to the opening of the store, stacks of white boxes were used to cover the windows. Over time, the facade of white boxes disintegrated, revealing the content of the shop day by day.

Retailers also want to attract attention and to create a buzz so that the experience, and the brand, are talked about.

Rural and authentic - longing for a countryside lifestyle

Flooding cities, the stress of the streets, the rush of life and the consequence of constantly being connected are making inhabitants inspired by the ideals of the good life - as well as rural and authentic settings providing an escape from the urban concrete jungle. This is also a consequence of weariness of the anonymity of globalisation and multinational corporations that have expanded over the last decade. Global is turning ”glocal”. 

People are starting to question where the things they consume are coming from; where are the product produced, of whom, of what. Instead of buying something from an anonymous company, they want to know their farmer and their merchant. Also two in three people around the world say they want to simplify their daily routine, and two in five plan to adopt a slower lifestyle (EuroRSCG). Some try living hyper-locally, growing their own food, keeping rooftop bees and back-yard chickens and in the process, reconnecting with their communities. Ethical consumption and transparent supply chains are matters close to the heart of these consumers.

Consequently, this is a perfect position for the authentic convenience store of the future. One of the biggest trends to note for the coming decade is the return and rise of the urban shopkeeper and the corner shop. In fact retail brands are already tapping into the austere character and visual signals of the local, small-scale micro-brands creating new conversations and relationships between the retailers and their customers.

One of the biggest trends to note for the coming decade is the return and rise of the urban shopkeeper and the corner shop.


Source: The Future Laboratory, The Futures Report - Retail, 2010, The Future Laboratory, The Futures Report - Tech, 2011, LS:N Global, Retail trends 2012