Trends with Tension: Retail

Jan 07, 2016

Over the years, much has changed in the retail landscape. The details that mattered most in retail used to be things you could see and touch. 
Today, we want high tech to feel simple and we want simple to feel advanced to improve efficiencies with technology while still offering the seamless experience of basic retail. 
Retail is filled with contradictory realities, leaving marketers unclear as to where to focus their energies, resources and talent. 
Every year, planners at Y&R share a roundup of today’s most interesting trends and their inherent tension. For our EMEA report, Director of Content Lianna Wolfson looked at the retail trends in this region. 
For this report, you specifically focused on Retail. Was there a reason for that? Does retail have more trend/counter-trends than other industries? 
We were looking for an angle, and one that would be relevant across a number of different verticals. Given that the report was done for EMEA, we felt a specific vertical focus would allow us to be relevant across many different cultures and economies, countries are all experiencing technological change at different paces. And of course retail insights can be extended to Automotive, Banking, Travel, CPG, Electronics…and so much more. 
Was there any trend/counter-trend that surprised you? 
The Deliver Anything/Pick Up Only trend. In this fast, immediate-access world, I am surprised that brands are refusing to deliver for the sake of avoiding unnecessary packaging — clearly a stance on environmental awareness, which is great. But I also think it is driven by a desire to protect their in-store experience as unique and sensational, and one that cannot be transported to your home, or anywhere else. 
How can brands meet the consumer desire to “slow things down” (in terms of giving the consumer time to meditate, relax, etc.) while still providing a seamless and fast experience when needed? 
Deliver as if there is no luxury of time, but entertain as if there is. Brands need to pay better attention to what they learn about consumers’ interests online and implement those insights into the physical store experience. This will help drive the efficiency and access that we have become accustomed to online. A supermarket chain in Brazil has employees wearing roller-skates — so they can get a product into a consumer’s hand as quickly as a click on a computer would add an item into an online basket. Or, well, almost… 
But also consider how else to use the space beyond another sales channel: offer a scarf to put on when shopping in the frozen section in the grocery store, a fashion store might ask you to bring in a staple piece of clothing from your closet on which to base your shopping, or consider Samsung’s New York City store that doesn’t sell Samsung devices, only encourages play. Starbucks opened two NYC shops — one optimized for speed and another that will be its largest store in the world and will focus on “coffee as theater.” 
How can brands better understand and provide what consumers value virtually and physically? 
Surround them with options. Physical space is for physical touch. Trying on. Getting a recommendation based on something you said, asked for, or a glance you gave. Retailers need to harness this. But the in-store experience cannot be more limiting than their mobile phone experience. And the digital experience can lose out on the discovery experience of in-store. 
What will be more important over time – convenience or quality? 
I think they are both the basic expectations brands need to meet — and to continue to be improved and updated. 
How can brands keep up with these trends that are constantly changing? How should companies react or align themselves to these trends? Or should they at all? 
Consumers don’t appreciate, they expect. So turn their expectation on its head. 
That’s why I think brands like Jo Malone are succeeding in staying true to their brand DNA but not being afraid to add a bit of Tensity. In the report, we included Jo Malone as “Premium/DIY” —two attributes not often associated with each other. Malone, which is known for its assortment of clean bottled perfume, offered its consumers a chance to mix their own, to touch the products and engage with the scents in ways never before available — but the packaging and experience did not lose the premium quality of the brand. 
Challenge your DNA to be more multidimensional — to bring a “Tensity” moment to the experience. Customers won’t want to see you giving up on what they know you for, but they will be pleased to engage with your products in exciting and unexpected ways that resonate with their interest to personalize, craft and then share the entire experience with their networks.