“Shop, do and learn” under one roof: that’s the formula for the modern department store, according to Paula Nickolds, managing director of British retailer John Lewis.
She was speaking at the opening of a new 230,000 sq ft unit in Westfield London, now Europe’s largest shopping centre. Innovations in the store – the company’s 50th location – include a Discovery Room where customers can learn how to light a room, create a smart home or hang a picture.
Also new is the Style Studio, a 700 sq ft space for both male and female customers to meet personal stylists. A new app enables customers to keep in touch with stylists, alerted by text or email about products or collections. Stylists were trained by former Vogue UK fashion director Lucinda Chambers.
Some of the innovations were trialled last year in John Lewis’s Oxford store.
“The shop demonstrates our latest thinking on how department stores can be a place in which you can shop, do and learn in a way you haven’t been able to before,” explained Nickolds. “We are bringing… a new level of personalised, curated shopping which until now has been the preserve of boutique shops.”
All 500 staff (called “partners” at John Lewis) were trained in theatrical skills by National Theatre actors. Peter Cross, customer experience director, said: “Actors are outstanding communicators and that’s an important element in offering personal service.”
Sheila Chawla from the National Theatre explained: “Communication is made up of not just what you say but how you say it. Body language, voice and expression are all as important as our words.”
See also Next-Level Dept. Store Strategies.
Tool rental in Stockholm has had a consumer-friendly makeover courtesy of home improvement company Don För Person, reflecting retail’s shift towards service-led concepts.
Don För Person roughly translates as “tools for people”. Graphic tool images on the store’s façade make a utilitarian service feel more like a hipster experience. It’s targeted at consumers who value access to service over ownership, with most young city dwellers lacking the necessary storage space and know-how.
Don För Person’s in-store experts act as consultants, coaching DIY-ers with tips for completing their projects. A team of handymen and handywomen can be hired for at-home support, which customers can book by the hour. In-depth blogs on the company’s website offer additional guidance.
This follows the ‘do-it-with-me’ approach of brands offering concierge services rooted in personalisation and collaboration, explored in our Spotlight Teport Redefining DIY.
Owners Lisa Torsson and Vilhelm Valentin opened their first location in Stockholm’s trendy Södermalm neighbourhood in 2017 and will open a second location in upscale Östermalm later in 2018.
Equipment ranges from hammers and electric screwdrivers to carpet cleaners and step ladders. Items are priced by the day, ranging from 11 kronor ($1.34) for a spackle knife to 1,098 kronor ($134) for a professional-grade floor sander. Experts help select the ideal tool, with customers encouraged to bring in photos to assist in the process.
Read The Work/Life Revolution for insights on flexi-living.
Two telecommunications brands are exploring new ways of selling mobile tech – ranging from a focus on fun community-centred space to the provision of concierge services.
See also Tactics in Selling Tech.
Retail Week Live (March 7-8), an annual conference for retail executives staged in London, saw a fleet of European retail tech start-ups pitching to attract investor interest and industry exposure. We highlight our favourites.
The Phluid Project – America’s first gender-free lifestyle store – opened this month in New York’s NoHo neighbourhood.
The shop sells clothes, make-up and lifestyle items that transcend traditional gender stereotypes. Owner Rob Smith’s mission is to “[create] a space where strangers, allies, friends – people – can be unapologetically themselves.”
Streetwear-inspired fashions are arranged by colour and style. Most are designed in-house with gender-free sizing, which runs from one to four instead of small to large (size one fits like a womenswear medium). Outfits are displayed on specially designed gender-free mannequins, which have a pronounced flat bust and narrow waist to present as either masculine or feminine.
Phluid also aims to position itself as a community hub for gender-curious customers. The back of the store features seating for events such as lectures and networking nights. For more on stores as culture coders and thought leaders, see Beta Blends in our Industry Trend Liquid Retail.
Customers can also purchase limited-edition garments and accessories featuring cartoon-style characters from local Brooklyn illustrator Jeremy Villesca, who also created an in-store mural depicting portraits of diverse New Yorkers.
For more on the rise of gender-neutral fashion and retail, see Diversity Rules (part of The New Fashion Landscape 2017), Zara Launches Gender-Neutral E-tail Category, John Lewis Goes Gender-Neutral and Brand Watch: Mother’s Gender-Neutral Agenda. For more on body-inclusive mannequins, see Progressive Fashion: February Round-Up.
For non-food retailers, the addition of a café or restaurant boosts dwell time and can provide creative inspiration. We sum up the latest hybrid stores, Instagram-ready culinary hotspots, and concepts using food as design cues.
Besides encouraging customers to linger in a shop, the addition of a food offer directly entices experience-hungry young consumers. Global luxury food and drinks sales grew 6% in 2017 from 2016, reaching $120bn (Bain & Co, 2017).
For more on the power of brand extensions, see Retail’s Elastic Brands: Stretch & Diversify.
Modern Food Mall
See also Modern Malls.
Supermarket & Bistro Inspiration
German supermarket chain Lidl has launched a new Facebook chat tool that can assist customers with choosing the right wine to pair with their meal.
To access the bot, dubbed Margot, consumers head to the Lidl Facebook page and click 'send message'. They then select from food-pairing advice, a wine finder, or an educational wine quiz. For the first two options, the user types in what they are looking for, for example a wine to be paired with a particular dish or a variety from a specific region. The chatbot then picks up on key words such as foods, grape varieties, countries, colours and even emoji, subsequently suggesting wines from Lidl's wine selection.
Alex Murray, digital director at Lidl UK, said: "Margot will ensure choosing the right wine is never a daunting process, and we hope this service – along with the existing in-store and online information we already provide – encourages customers to discover the perfect wine from our curated range."
For more on how supermarkets are using technology to create an interactive and seamless experience, see Future Supermarket Strategies, The Mobile-First Supermarket and EuroShop Follow-Up: The Tech-Powered Supermarket.
Samsung has launched an Internet of Things-powered pop-up store concept with data collection and analytics capabilities, available for retailers to hire.
Called Connected Spaces, it’s a collaboration with global shopper conversion specialist Barrows, which handles pop-up ideation, location scouting, logistics and fulfilment for renters.
Available in three sizes, the space comes outfitted with Samsung’s own retail tech innovations. These allow retailers to shed light on data darkness and gain real-time insight into shoppers’ needs by tracking consumer behaviours on a granular level. This can help them to make data-driven decisions and create consumer-centric experiences in the future.
Data is collected via sensors, cameras and connected devices such as digital interactive kiosks and mobile scanners. An analytics dashboard, linked to Samsung’s proprietary real-time behavioural sensing technology Nexshop, gives retailers an overview of metrics such as overall use of store, footfall, average customer dwell time and demographics (age and gender). Results can be filtered by store zone and time of day.
The flexibility is impressive. Staff can adjust the in-store experience in real time. Layout, product placements, staff scheduling and inventory management can all be adjusted promptly after analysing the in-store customer journey and sales figures.
While 47% of commerce leaders are planning to invest in in-store analytics technology (Forrester, 2017), most smaller retailers don’t have the resources to access such expertise. This short-term solution provides an attractive insight into the potential of data.
A new wave of in-store floristry concepts is engaging shoppers with an appetite for natural delights and green sanctuaries. Flowers and plants promote wellness and a reconnection with nature.
Sneaker giant Nike has collaborated on a geo-smart online flash sale hosted on Snapchat, considered Gen Z’s favourite social media app.
An exclusive pre-release promotion of its Air Jordan III Tinker sneaker (to hit stores in March) was tied to a location. People were required to attend the NBA All-Star game on February 18 in the Staples Center in Los Angeles to buy the sneaker in-app.
Powered by geo-location-triggered content – a geo fence was installed over the stadium – game attendees were able to unlock specially designed augmented reality lenses. Push notifications were sent to phones and included exclusive snapcodes. Consumers scanned them to be redirected to the in-app purchasing area.
The shoe sold out within 23 minutes as consumers responded enthusiastically to the promotion, which tapped the appeal of instant gratification and seamless purchase integration.
E-commerce platform Shopify managed order-taking, while on-demand fulfilment start-up Darkstore facilitated same-day delivery to consumers’ homes. Darkstore exploits excess storage capacity in malls and transforms them into on-demand fulfilment centres where brands can store goods for a small commission.
Snap, the owner of Snapchat, is exploring in-app e-commerce with a view to earning sale commissions. Brands should be encouraged to explore the potential of similar collaborations. With stories deleted after 24 hours, Snapchat champions instant and spontaneous content for consumers with short attention spans – the kind of consumer who also impulse shops.
See Harnessing the Hype and Nike Battles E-Purchasing Bots Via Geo-Smart Promos for more on Nike’s push into mobile flash-commerce experiences.
From reviving the mall to targeting Gen Z, the annual GlobalShop trade show and conference (March 27-29) will tackle some of the biggest issues facing modern retailers. We preview some of the highlights – including a presentation by Stylus.
For more on unlocking internal innovation, see The Work/Life Revolution.
Chinese Alibaba-owned online marketplace Taobao has launched a senior-friendly version of its e-commerce app. The easy-to-use app features a simple interface and a family chat button, engaging with members of China’s ageing population who are keen to participate in the digital economy.
Currently, 30 million Taobao users are aged over 50, representing 6.5% of the mobile app’s total 468 million active users (Taobao, 2017). The number of Chinese people aged over 65 is expected to rise from approximately 100 million in 2005 to around 330 million in 2050 – roughly the population of the US (Forbes, 2017).
Senior users register an account through their mobile number and can link the account to their children. Features such as mobile shopping, personalised shopping suggestions and live-streamed content all remain – but with an enlarged interface.
Consumers also have the opportunity to make contact with their families within the app. A photo of a relative is displayed on every page, with users able to easily share products or initiate a chat or voice call by tapping the image. The app also features a ‘pay for me’ option, allowing children to pay for products that their parents have selected.
This venture into empathetic retailing is an example of the sophisticated targeting of consumers by Alibaba. Chinese seniors typically purchase 44 products a year online, spending around $800. The senior citizen online shopping market in China is estimated to be worth $200bn a year (Business Insider, 2017).
For more insights into how brands are embracing diversity and inclusivity, see our Diversity Outlook Innovation Platform.
A new service bot called Ava is leading the way for ever-more sophisticated chatbots with increasingly human characteristics. New Zealand-based artificial intelligence (AI) start-up Soul Machines says Ava is modelled on the facial scan and voice recordings of actress Shushila Takao. The bot is the result of a collaboration with American design software maker Autodesk.
Ava is part of a new era of voice activation and automation sweeping through retail. In this environment, humanised forms of digital communication are evolving that more effectively reflect and mimic human subtleties. Ava even expresses human flaws – like facial muscle twitches. Such concepts can supplement and even replace human customer service staff.
Soul Machines used computer-generated image technologies, neuroscience and artificial intelligence to create its real-time-responsive digital customer service character. Scheduled to make its debut in mid-2018 on Autodesk’s website, Ava will handle more than 50,000 subscriber requests each month using IBM Watson. It will cognitively match questions with a catalogue of answers, and also scan facial expressions via laptop or mobile cameras to gauge feelings and answer empathetically.
Ava can comprehend nuances in people’s tone of voice (typed or spoken) to better understand what kind of mood they are in. Ava’s creators also emphasise that it is incapable of ‘feeling’ anger. Equipped with a virtual nervous system, Ava receives a hit of virtual dopamine when it detects that a person has smiled, triggering a similar response.
Multinational corporation Visa has created a range of gloves, stickers and commemorative pins embedded with payment technology to enable fast, contactless transactions at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
At the event, Visa is showcasing the future trajectory of monetary exchange, whereby users pay for goods and services via embedded tech, leaving their credit or debit card at home. This is made possible through the continued development of near-field communication (NFC) chips, which enable any object to process payments when within a four-inch radius of a receiver.
Visa has released three different payment-embedded items suited to the conditions and culture of the Olympic Games. The commemorative pins are inspired by the custom of both spectators and athletes collecting pins as souvenirs of the event, while the stickers serve as flexible micro tags that can be attached to any surface for easy use. The gloves allow users to pay for transactions while keeping their hands warm in Pyeongchang’s cold climate.
Each device purchased is pre-loaded with a monetary value that the user wishes to spend, avoiding the need for the merchandise to be connected to their bank account. During the event, Visa’s merchandise is available to purchase from on-site stores as well as from vending machines located across the Olympic grounds.
Read NRF 2018: Tech-Driven Retail for examples of how emerging tech is shaking up the retail environment and creating seamless check-out experiences. For more on how digital innovations in packaging are transforming products into services, see Digital Packaging Futures.
Capitalising on The Business of Wellbeing, luxury British beauty and lifestyle brand Bamford is launching a Wellness Week featuring one-day workshops designed to help visitors better establish balance in their busy lives.
Hosted at the Bamford Haybarn Spa at Daylesford Farm in the Cotswolds, the week (March 19-25 2018) will focus on sleep, gut health and ‘unplugging’ – three core sectors of the wellbeing economy.
The Unplug workshop is designed to quieten the mind, and a talk by anxiety expert and hypnotherapist Chloe Brotheridge will arm visitors with techniques to aid calm in everyday life. Gut Health will explore how bacteria in the gut affects our immune system, ageing and hormonal health.
The Sleep Healthy workshop was inspired by the growing number of consumers who don’t get the recommended seven hours of rest a night. More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis (CDC, 2016). The expertise of yoga instructors, psychologists, therapists and nutritionists will feature throughout the day, which will include crystal bowl sound healing and one-on-one reiki sessions.
Sleep (and the lack of it) is a growing concern for consumers. Americans will spend an estimated $52bn on sleep aids by 2020 (BCC Research, 2016). For more on beauty sleep opportunities, see Beauty 360 and Brands Boost Beauty Sleep.
Bamford’s initiative cleverly propels it into the lucrative wellbeing space – establishing the brand as a pillar of education and self-improvement. For more on this, see Monetising Mindfulness and Neom Organics' Wellbeing Schools.