By Ken Nisch, firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many trends — practical, psychographic and attitudinal — that are incubating during the retail “reboot” that’s taking place in the U.S. economy. This reboot is affecting all types and sizes of retail, brick-and-mortar and online. The key is putting these trends to work for you.
1. Cheap and cheerful: Some trends are consumer focused. From lipstick and nail polish (the original “cheap and cheerful” cues in the new economy) to home décor items and candles, items that are simply cheap and cheerful will make the consumer happy, pleased that she is taking home something fresh and new.
In addition, inexpensive seasonal reinvention can breathe an air of freshness into any consumer’s home (and your environment too).
2. Personal emancipation: One of the biggest trends has been termed “personal emancipation.” Think of separates in the fashion world, interest in personalization and customization, and a willingness to be “cast as the outcast” seems to be all part of this new consumer psychology.
3. Mix-and-match merchandising: This can play out in retail in many ways. It can come across in merchandising and assortment, with the willingness AND expectation of the customer to be innovative and low cost at the same time, while juxtaposed against the luxurious and the exclusive. Think rubber bracelets and Jimmy Choo.
This acceptability on the part of the customer creates a mix-and match statement about their both being democratic and sophisticated, and at the same time addresses their need for irony and humor. Translating this trend into the retail environment and finding the balance is one part aesthetics, one part humor, and third part cleverness.
4. Flash sales: Stores are beginning to see their retail environments not in terms of decades, or even years; but in terms of days, or even hours. The flash sale has gotten consumers to think in a much more nimble way, and likewise they seem less phased today than ever in the “here today, gone tomorrow” light-footedness of the pop-up store with brands, lab stores and retail experiments where the guinea pig may as well be the retailer as it is the consumer.
5. Technology: The ability to find resources that are “big enough to serve you” yet “small enough to know you” is key to executing this new face of retail. While the outcome is casual, the activities, input and resources it takes to “appear” casual should not be underestimated.
Nordstrom, Best Buy and others have publicly laid out ambitious goals to eliminate the conventional checkout, cashwrap and even in some cases the sales associate, by putting more of the accessibility to technology either in the hands of the consumer or in proximity to the point-of-purchase. Rather than seeing digital as a threat to brick-and-mortar, today’s retailer should embrace this and see it as a way of extending this proven purchase optimization through multichannel.
6. Evolving sales opportunities: With the freedom of mobile checkouts, sales associates can do what they do best: Help the consumer. Much of this change is taking place around mobile apps, but other technologies, such as tablets, enhance the efficiency of the shopping experience while expanding the diversity options to the consumer, becoming the perfect marriage between brick-and-mortar and digital.
7. Rethinking environments: The cashwrap has been ubiquitous in retail as both a branding point and as a stop on the consumer’s path. But the rapid spread of roaming digital checkouts has created a rethink and is increasingly changing the consumer’s view of “experience.”
8. Creative “sticky” space: What should a retailer do with the space that is freed up by removing the cashwrap and some of the other operational barriers that exist in traditional stores? Create a space that invites the customer to linger and socially interact. Design a “sticky” model that engages consumers to see the retail space as just not a transaction space, but as a “third place” where they stick around longer. These “sticky” spaces — comfortable, engaging and brand-right — act as silent, but effective ways to reinforce the retail brand image, to engage in a consumer conversation and introduce them to new ideas, services and products.
9. Permanent-temporary spaces: Consider creating permanent temporary space within your store. The brand halo of inviting key influencers within your consumer’s world is a way of creating buzz and newness within an existing merchandise range. These “influencers” might be a highly visible neighboring retailer, a brand or an author. A famous Paris department store does this on a monthly basis, inviting high profile celebrities of various walks of life — sport, fashion, art, literature — and then asks them to find and gather their “favorite things” from the store and then organize those into a mini department. This approach provides an opportunity for storytelling and ways to connect and identify with the personalities or muse of this internal pop-up.
10. Community spirit : Make a difference in your community. Certain categories offer opportunities for emotional triggers. Children, education, pets are all universal topics around which to connect your brand, your store and your consumers. The place previously occupied by the cashwrap provides an opportunity to create a shared interest between retailer and consumer and offers a way to give back to the community causes important to them.
11. Storytelling: The illustration of creativity and self-expression can be shaped through storytelling. You cannot help but visit a retail street or shopping center today without being drawn to retailers like Anthropologie whose displays and seasonal presentations extend beyond the realm of “window dressing” and into the role of “public art.” Connect emotionally with the consumer and enrich, add and inspire her to think beyond the obvious. The tools and the props that are part of this bourgeoning explosion of retail creativity are often ordinary, but their use is exhibited in extraordinary ways.
12. Communication: In the end, effective marketing communication needs to sell things, but first the brand needs to win hearts and to some degree, minds, into a dialogue before the selling begins. The trend around visual merchandising is providing an unexpected and imaginative “kit of parts.” Mannequins, forms and mirrors to “populate” visual is increasingly important.
The imbedding of digital technology can range from retro to high-tech to even retro-tech, where the repurposing of materials — whether for repetition, color blocking and storytelling — are becoming an increasingly important part of a successful retailer’s effective communication initiative.
13. Success through action: Think reboot and power to the consumer — be it in understanding, discovering or transacting. Act on trends that address the consumer’s need for irony, humor, advocacy and independence while recognizing their personal emancipation not only around the commercial retail aspects of their life, but health, education, travel and creativity as well. Don’t forget the importance of personalization and customization and the growing trend toward “yin and yang” all under the same roof, within the same shopping bag and within the mind and the heart of the consumer. Remember, there is no success without action!
Kenneth Nisch is chairman of JGA, a retail design and brand strategy firm in Southfield, Mich. Nisch applies his knowledge and entrepreneurial insight to create concept and prototype development and brand image positioning. He can be reached email@example.com.