Senior editor of Retail Katie Baron presents an overview of the industry’s biggest stories in 2013, spanning digital commerce, store concepts, advertising & branding, packaging, and the many intersections in between.
In acknowledgement of the huge changes the digital era has heaped upon the retail sector, our first Industry Trend for 2013, Anywhere Retailing, focused on the shift from traditional modes of consumption, to a new era of shopping from just about anywhere.
Grounded heavily in the move towards a mobile future across all the consumer-facing industries, the theme at large addresses how brands and businesses can start to understand how to converse with consumers in transit. It’s a topic we’ll continue to track into 2014.
Dovetailing with Anywhere Retailing, our second Industry Trend of 2013, Future of the Store, tracked the evolution of the physical store space in the omni-channel era, providing in-depth insights into how the bricks-and-mortar shopping environment should be used to maximise brand strategy.
We rounded the concept off with an exclusive, architect-guided glimpse into the new aesthetic trends that will shape the style and feel of the stores of the future. See Store Design Directions (Architecture, Materials and VM) and Future Store Environments (Layout, Mood & Ambience).
2013 was also the year it became clear that to engage individual consumers, brands must also look to the communities they inhabit.
It’s a mode of thinking that’s equally applicable to online communities as those in the physical space, as discussed in The Social Sell and Community & Commerce. These reports coverangles as diverse as community-sourced buying decisions and brand concepts tailored to local or niche groups in order to breed genuine loyalty.
Selling Beauty Online observed how this tactic is especially useful for brands connected to beauty, health or wellness – all areas where industry insider and peer-to-peer advice is fundamental to even the smallest purchasing decisions.
Heritage can also constitute a connection to community. In Monetising Brand Heritage, we look at the brands, both old and relatively new, that have successfully traded on their back-stories.
This year we also traced the evolution of the consumer-creator mindset; in particular, tracking the consumer-creator’s impact on the store environment.
As we discussed in the report Experimentation & Co-Creation, while the benefits of offering on-demand, personally relevant products and services extends to every sector and demographic, future consumers will not just appreciate, but fully expect to have a hand in defining the brands they show allegiance to. The result has been a huge upsurge in the shop-as-laboratory store model, with brand hubs rife with customisation hotspots and research and development test beds.
The value of encouraging participation and co-authorship was also explored in The Rise of Edutainment, which charts the evolution of retail-tainment, where retail theatre comes with an educational backbone to enrich the experience. From tech brands to sports retailers, it’s an ideal strategy for engaging a growing group of knowledge-hungry consumers as keen to spend their cash on lifestyle solutions as products. Expect to see much more of this in 2014.
2013 was also the year that multi-channel thinking was usurped by omni-channel expectations. Simply having every platform is no longer enough; the aim of the game is to connect each and every one to create the most integrated, seamless shopping systems possible.
In the reports Digitising the Department Store, Tech-Fuelled Retail Spaces, The Omni-Channel Store Space and Out-of-Hours Shopping, we investigated how the most progressive brands are using technology to close the digital-physical loop – helping consumers to transition back and forth across the divide with ease.
The result of doing so is of course a new and hugely valuable pool of consumer data that brands can use to refine their retail experiences. In Data Tracking & Response Monitoring, we delivered an overview of the key players in this space who are translating reams of data into tangible, actionable insights that merge retail and marketing.
Innovations in Wayfinding also examines how data innovations are helping brands to integrate sales, marketing and loyalty to best effect.
Demonstrating how omni-channel strategising is an overarching issue, E-tail’s Physical Presence tracks how once e-tail-only brands are expanding their horizons with digital and physical touchpoints.
Beyond the virtual-physical interplay, we’ve also noticed a definite shift in the fashion industry towards brands becoming media channels. Catwalk to Closet and Retailer to Brand: Asos News both highlight how the initial convergence of the retail and publishing industries has paved the way for much bigger brand ambitions. Expect much more on this topic in 2014.
With retailers needing to compete more fiercely than ever to retain market share, it’s never been more important to look closely at how key demographics are shaping up.
In The Male Groom Boom, we delved into the social and cultural shifts that are powering a male grooming boom in the US, in turn driving a new wave of products, services and spaces.
In Female-Focused Retail – part of the Future Female Media & Marketing Industry Trend – we investigated how brands need to reimagine their strategies with a female focus if they want to avoid losing traction with a hugely powerful and growing group of consumers. Echoing that female focus, Digital Divas probed the habits of a small but highly influential group of tech-savvy women consumers that will continue to be one to watch next year.
This year also saw a slow but sure brand migration towards more mindful retailing – either to counter the potentially disorienting info-overload that’s become part and parcel of the digital era, or to address rising concerns about the ethics of rampant consumerism.
Quiet Branding looks at how brands, particularly in the luxury sector, are making a concerted effort to temper once ostentatious practices with subtler selling tactics.
Eco-Ethical-Sustainable reviews the store concepts already tapping into the ethical economy, from repair-based after-sales services to eco-architecture.
In the packaging sector, Double-Duty Packaging examines how the consumer desire for less waste and more value is driving a market for dual-purpose packaging design. Own-Label Packaging shines a spotlight on how the American and European recessions have boosted the popularity and long-term promise of the own-brand genre.