New relevance for store concepts wanted

Concept innovation more important than ever
The retail world has been mainly focusing on two things in recent years:

  1. Getting and keeping the costs under control.
  2. Making the organisation, stores and staff omnichannel.

Let’s be fair here: both these strategies have proven essential in the battle to survive. The first by safeguarding (healthy) margins in turbulent and very competitive markets, thus creating financial room to stay afloat in the short term and to grow in the longer term. The second strategy does this by continuously meeting the rapidly changing consumer expectations in terms of convenience, availability and speed. Omnichannel retailing – or total retail – has evolved in just a few years from an exciting innovation into a differentiating service and on to a clear-cut dissatisfier, a fundamental requirement for modern retailers and retail-oriented brands. But where do we go from here?

Shopping in shopping centres? We’ve got better things to do
It turns out that all these efforts have ensured that retail chains once again have the courage to look toward the future with confidence. But in the perception of many consumers, shopping (in the brick-and-mortar stores) hasn’t exactly seen any improvement. In fact, over one-third of consumers (35% of Dutch shoppers) prefer doing the washing up to going out and visiting a retail store.
Furthermore, in the Netherlands, an above-average number of people (47%) consider visiting a store as nothing more than a ‘necessary evil’.

Emphasise the unique relevance of stores in a digital world
Naturally, the expectation is that the number and share of digital touchpoints throughout the customer journey will only continue to rise. However, shopping still holds the number 3 position with Dutch consumers when asked for their favourite leisure activity, and it is common knowledge that it’s practically impossible for retail brands to survive without a mix of digital and physical. Physical store formats profit from webrooming consumers, whereas concepts with online origins need a physical footprint for tangible inspiration, fulfilment and physical visibility.

The big question is: how do we exploit these opportunities and how do we ensure our physical retail square metres are relevant to the shopper who is living more and more in a digital retail reality?

First get your (digital) basics in good shape …
So we’re not exactly over the moon about shopping these days. But what is it that irritates us most of all?

  • 71% thinks it is annoying that it’s hard to compare products in the store;
  • Long queues when wanting to pay irritates 66% of us;
  • 65% doesn’t like the fact that they can’t find products;
  • No in-store product demonstrations irk 64% of shoppers.

Are these issues that cause you sleepless nights as a retailer because they are impossible to solve? Hardly. They are pretty much basic rules you’ve been dealing with for years.

In actual fact, it comes down to 3 basic elements in your concept that need to be in good shape:

  • Efficiency (“don’t make me search, don’t make me wait”);
  • Expertise (“don’t make me find out myself, but inform and guide me”);
  • Experience (“give me something to experience, entertain me).

What does your shopper expect?
We’ve become on-demand shoppers that have the same expectations in physical store environments as we do in digital touchpoints. Be that as it may, our demands really aren’t that revolutionary:

  • 75% of shoppers want to be able to know beforehand if a product is in stock.
  • 70% need their items very soon and want to actually see and feel it before buying;
  • Is the product not available or does the shopper not have a need to walk out of the store carrying the item? 73% expects to have the product they want at home via same-day delivery;
  • 62% would like to make an appointment with an expert in advance;
  • 60% expects the store visit to offer a social experience;
  • 57 % counts on additional activities in the store.

If you want to be relevant for the spoiled ‘on-demand’ shopper of today, these are the points you should really be focusing on in your concept.

Determine your ideal mix: Efficiency x Experience x Expertise
We already came to this conclusion earlier, and ABN AMRO confirms this in a report*.
There are basically 3 strategic attributes you can use in defining your relevance for today’s shopper as an answer to, or even within the mix of digital touchpoints.
What counts here is: if you really want to be relevant, excel in at least one attribute and try to find a mix with one of the other attributes.

1. Efficiency
Speed and convenience are paramount here; run-shopping at its best. How do you make life easier for your shopper?

2. Experience
Customer experience and product experience are the key terms. Which multi-sensory and social added value does your concept bring to the life of your shopper?

3. Expertise
Knowledge and specialism, that’s what this attribute is all bout. Can you provide the right advice, or can you take the right specialist action to make your added value more tangible?

Distinguish yourself in areas you can really make the difference!
We have now arrived at the point of shifting the focus, setting our sights on what the real champions have been zealously doing in recent years: searching for new relevance for the brand and formula.

In the next blog post, we offer inspiration with some innovative and sometimes traditional retail trends and concepts. Formulas that have built a brilliant concept around attributes such as experience, service, (product) presentation, distribution and staff. And all this in a retail world where price is a fact, availability is a given and the product is sometimes just a means to give the customer access to an experience he or she doesn’t want to end.

* Source: ABN AMRO: The consumer of the future can still be found in the store.

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