Five trends that point to a new era for retail

Stores that double as classrooms, sensory-rich environments and a rental versus a buy retail model.  These are three of the five trends that shopping center developer Westfield believes will shape the future of retailing.   

The trends are highlighted in a new report from Westfield, "How We Shop Now: What's Next?," for which the developer interviewed 13,000 shoppers across the United States and United Kingdom along with leading industry experts and trend-spotters.

The five key trends are:

• Rental Retail: With consumers already accustomed to the 'sharing economy' by tapping into Uber for rides, and Airbnb for places to stay, there is a growing appetite for “rental retail.” The trend is particularly strong among millennials, with 35% of 25-34 years olds interested in renting.

In addition, 15% of all U.S. respondents are interested in renting from their favorite stores. And 0ne-fifth of U.S. and U.K. shoppers are willing to spend $200 or more a month on unlimited clothing rental subscriptions.

Ads to what type of goods people most want to rent, exercise equipment topped the list (17%), followed by consumer electronics (15%), furniture (11%) and cars (10%).

• Enhanced Reality Retail: The report predicts that virtual reality will become ubiquitous as shoppers increasingly want this technology to understand how products will work for them specifically.

Forty-two percent of U.S. shoppers said they would like to use new technologies, such as virtual reality headsets, to see how products will look in their home. And a third said they would be interested in using virtual assistance to “try on” clothes at home.  

• Classroom Retail: Shoppers are increasingly seeing retail spaces not only as places to purchase goods, but as classrooms where they can learn new skills and build social networks. Thirty-two percent of shoppers are interested in attending a lifestyle lesson at their favorite store.

Shoppers in the U.S. want health or fitness sessions most (29%), followed by inspiring learning sessions such as creative cookery (27%), expert sessions (20%) and then clubs (17%).

Over a fifth of U.S. shoppers in New York (22%), Los Angeles (23%), San Francisco (22%) and San Diego (21%) are interested in sessions involving skills development such as music making.

• Sensory Retail: Shoppers want to overload their senses with extraordinary experiences that re-awaken all of their senses, all at once, according to the report, which is something that Westfield calls “inside-out retail.”

While all five senses were seen as enhancing the shopper experience, vision and touch came out top. But just under a third of shoppers also identified smell and sound.

• Loyalty Programs that Recognize Good Choices: According to the report, there is a growing demand for loyalty programs that not only reward customers for transactions, but also for lifestyle choices. More than a fifth (21%) of U.S. shoppers said they would like to also be rewarded for good choices, including recycling (23%), exercising (23%), spending time with family (20%) eating healthier (16%), and even charity volunteering (11%).

The youngest, 16-24 year olds, were most interested in getting rewards for non-transactional behaviors.

The report is available to download here.

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