17 December 2016
-By Carolyn White, Managing Director: Y&R’s Labstore South Africa
Set against the backdrop of the melting pot of cultures in South Beach Miami, the 2016 , hosted by WPP’s global retail practice, The Store, provided an insightful look into shopper and retail trends, and sought to highlight the behaviours that are shaping the experiential and immersive shopper landscape across the globe.
An understanding of these trends and observations and their implications for the South African shopper and retail environment can help inform, shape and predict how we embrace new experiences in FMCG, in addition to broader categories. Four key themes of note emerged; these aspects serve as a valuable tool in defining and considering how retail spaces should be approached on local soil in the near future.
- Truly Living The Experience Culture
According to Grey Goose Vodka Global Vice President and Managing Director, Tom Swift, the millennial segment has an influence that is so great that the broader population is adopting many of their attitudes and behaviours, demanding experiences and forfeiting material ownership for a chance to experience a moment, food, places and environments. This trend is likely to gain momentum and will result in a general audience expectation for non-traditional experiences beyond just Millennials and Generation Z consumers.
Back home, this trend is evident in the rise in the popularity and acceleration of artisanal slow food and bespoke craft markets. Before, they were the best-kept secret of niche and trendy spaces that only “in the know” shoppers would frequent, but there has been maturation and a more mainstream adoption in recent years.
- Welcoming The Beta Store
Marketing is moving faster than the speed of comprehension – spaces and employed technology developed today, might not necessarily be relevant tomorrow. Globally, marketers and retailers are embracing the notion of a beta store – a store that is not fully finished and completed, but has room and flexibility to evolve and add new thinking and new dimensions of experience.
The beta store connects a trio of core components for true fluidity – the human, physical and digital. The human role in the beta store is to deliver empathetic, approachable and kind service, the physical realm includes the aspects of the store that is immediate, immersive and tactile, and digital connects these worlds by providing a platform for constant interaction and storytelling.
Locally, we have not yet truly embraced the notion of the beta store. According to Tim Bishop, Director at Deloitte Digital Africa, the in-store expectations of consumers are evolving faster than retailers are delivering on those expectations, a gap referred to as the ‘digital divide’. “South African retailers seem set on doing all the clever stuff as quickly as possible, such as creating special apps, but forget that the crucial factor is reshaping their relationship with their consumers. We may be in the era of digital, but we have never left the age of human beings,” he says. As local retailers slowly warm to the idea of the beta store that is based on a test-and-learn principle, it will have a profound impact on FMCG and other categories.
- Visiting Stores When There Are No Obvious Reasons
Megan Cheesbrough, Director of Global In-Store Excellence at outdoor clothing and sporting goods company, Arc’Teryx, presented on the topic ‘Why visit a store when you have no reason to?’ at the WPP Retail Forum with Alasdair Lloyed-Jones, President and Chief Strategy Officer at brand experience agency, SET Creative. According to Cheesbrough, consumers used to go shopping, while today, they are always shopping – even if it’s not in physical stores (although 90% of global retail is still in-store).
Cheesbrough and Lloyed-Jones attribute the global consumer’s love of shopping to two ingrained human behaviours. The first is a hunter-gatherer sense of purpose sprouting from times of food scarcity, and the second is the therapeutic effect that a sense of control and the satisfaction associated with finding that ‘special something’ fosters.
South Africans’ love of brick and mortar shopping is evident when considering the continued large-scale retail developments, including the Mall of Africa earlier in 2016. Zandile Makhoba, an analyst at real estate services firm, Jones Lang LaSalle in Johannesburg, expressed to the media that retail in the country is actually doing better than it should. Although concerning from an economic point of view, it underlines Cheesbrough’s notion that ‘touch still equates ownership’. As retailers refocus their energies towards bridging the digital divide however, we will see an increase of purchasing beyond the physical store through the linking of digital technologies that broaden physical and digital store mindsets into a seamless, exploratory shopping experience for all.
- The Evolution Of Physical Stores Into Exhibition Art Spaces
In the world of shopper marketing, storytelling has evolved. There might be no better case study than that of Glade’s Museum of Feelings, erected in New York City – an interactive experience built to showcase the beautiful connection between scent and emotion. Visitors to the space were taken on a sensory journey through the museum, where Glade fragrances acted as the muse to inspire visitors to explore their emotions. The brand deviated from its unique selling point and leveraged a non-traditional space to play in, which clearly illustrates the intention of owning new spaces in the minds of the consumers. Alex Moore, contributor to the online digital publication The Spaces agrees: “In some of the best concept stores, ‘shopping’ is merely incidental. Browsing an exhibition, sitting down for a coffee and putting on a record might seem like a distraction from the task at hand, but they’re part of what keeps us hooked. A true brand immersion will also fuel our digital loyalty, encouraging us to part with our cash (if the store has an online counterpart).”
One of the essential truths that the Global Retail Forum sought to equip some of the world’s best marketers with, was articulated by David Roth, CEO of The Store: only the paranoid survive. This advice, although universally applicable, may be of utmost importance for South African FMCG brands and retailers in the aftermath of El Niño and constant food inflation. Paranoia, coupled with an intense desire to apply our unique South African flavour to global learnings in terms of our retail spaces, might signal a future that goes beyond survival – it may actually allow brands to thrive.