From Amazon to Etsy, ZaoZao and Zappos … through branded boutiques and online marketplaces, digital walls and mobile marketing, big data and personalised promotions … what is the future of retailing, in general, and for your business?
Walking around the Burberry flagship store on London’s Regent Street, with its beautifully arranged clothes, it magic mirrors that superimpose your image in the clothes of your fantasy, and place of your choice, and the VVIP room on the top floor, it is a world of imagination, where emotions not rational desire prevails. It is the work of designer Christopher Bailey who has overseen the rejuvenation of the brand from its “chav” ubiquity to its super premium status. The $100,000 limited edition, white alligator skin jacket, not to everyones taste, perhaps demonstrates this stretch. It is a brand that is truly global, more Asian than European if measured by its custom, and more digital then physical, based on the focus of its innovations. Burberry shocases the future of retail – as a niche focused, premium branded, hybrid experience.
Smart shoppers, smart stores
Online retail has grown rapidly over the last decade, from a marginal bolt-on, to major revenue stream in a multi-channel model. In the US, it has grown by around 18% per year, and now accounts for 8% of all sales. But digital is more that this, it is not just another way, but a fundamental capability that can enhance every channel. Search on your phone, buy online, pick up in store. Go to store, use your phone to buy, delivered to your home. Retail innovation is about hybrids, combing physical and digital activities and options in a more experiential and valuable way.
Retail purpose, formats and incentives all change – whilst loyalty cards originally drove behaviour through points, people soon became wise that the rewards were trivial compared to special offers in store. Whilst stores have enhanced their shopper experiences, markets have fragmented with more space for discounters. In Turkey for example, BIM has taken around 40% of the food market with low price, small outlets across cities. At the same time, online players have morphed into credible alternatives, where Amazon sells wines and eBay replaces physical outlet stores. More emotionally, technologies such as Synqera from Russia can “mind-read” a shoppers emotions, judging how to best engage them as they shop, and how to make them smile.
Digital hybrids, data and mobile
Mobile is already a huge factor: at upmarket fashion retailer Gilt, 50% of shoppers, and 30% of sales is by mobile. It is the glue that brings together online and offline, creating more personal experiences, from individual promotion geo-targeted, for in-store research and navigation, price checks and comparisons, as well as fast and safe payment. As newspapers are replaced by digital news, TV is on demand, and online retailers never close their doors, the ways retailers engage and serve consumers changes. We expect 24 hour access, we don’t tolerate stock outs, compare prices instantly, shop beyond our borders, and demand delivery in 24 hours.
Big data, the huge quantitites of transacational data, mashed with other sources of personal and behavioural data through complex algorithms, means that marketing is highly personalised. Around 35% of all Amazon purchases and 75% of Netflix movie choices are based on recommendations. Of course these suggestions compete with the much more trusted recommmendations of friends and peers on social media, often valued around 10 times more highly than anything from a brand. A brand therefore needs to think laterally, about how to influence communities, and give them the abilities and incentives to influence each other. Consumers also become much less tolerant of failures, unavailable products or poor service, they expect free and easy returns, and they immediately tweet their feelings, particularly the negative ones, to thousands of people like them.
Together, our gamechangers show how the variety of innovations build a future vision of retail. The demand side is led by the engaging, personal experiences – driven by the passion of Zappos, collaboration of Threadless, affinities of Greenbox or latest desires of Zao Zao. On the supply side, this is about the efficiency and speed of Amazon, the reach and richness of Aramex or Etsy, and the transparency of Positive Luxury. In between is the ability to match niche segments with lifestyle store experiences, and whilst the Aberchrombie brand portfolio is not without challenges, it knows how to connect.
Meet the Gamechangers in Futurestore
& Other Stories – Where women curate their own personal style
& Other Stories headquarters in Stockholm are surprisingly low-key. Located on a quiet street in a residential part of the city, it's a far cry from the vision of ultra-hip Swedish cool that H&M and its other brands seek to project on the world. Unlike Zara's portfolio of fashion brands that target different ages and attitudes, H&M's portfolio is more a collection of different lifestyle concepts. More interesting, and distinctive.
77 Diamonds – Diamonds are the real thing, even for online retailers.
Europe’s largest online diamond jeweller, set up by two twenty-something friends, one a banker, the other the son of a diamond miner. Today they run a $25m business, across 77 countries, delivering finely crafted diamond jewellery direct to consumers through a luxury service that offers great value.
Amazon – A mission to become the world's most customer-centric business
Amazon, from Dash to drones, Alexa and Echo, uses technology to disrupt and redefine a range of adjacent industry, and then do it again, whilst adding new business models that create a convenient and personalised customer experience.
Aussie Farmers Direct – Fast and fresh, field to fork
Aussies love the outdoors, fresh and natural. So the farmers jumped on the milk floats and brought together the best of local, authentic produce from across the nation, ready to deliver direct to the door. The business model is lean and networked, taps current trends and builds community.
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. – A gallon of gravity, a can of X-Ray vision
Charities and non-profits can be some of the most innovative businesses. Yet too often they forget to engage and inspire their audiences, with all predictable fundraising campaigns. Not here!
Casper – Reinventing the way we sleep
The concept was simple: Produce the best mattress possible at an affordable price, sell a single model, and deliver it quickly, for free, with a 100-day trial period. It worked: Casper had sales of $1 million in its first month. The company has since raised $70 million in venture capital, grown to 120 employees, and hit $100 million in cumulative sales in its first 2 years.
Etsy – The world's largest maker market, bringing the world's most creative people together
Etsy has created given local artisans, and local markets a global reach, bringing together like-minded buyers and sellers as a passionate movement. The business model makes it fair and accessible to the smallest trader.
Farfetch – 400 designer boutiques in one place, anywhere, anytime.
Farfetch is a revolutionary way to buy fashion, bringing together hundreds of the world's best independent designer boutiques.
Inditex – Fast fashion from La Coruña to Bershka, Mango and Zara
Inditex group has built on the global success of Zara and its fast fashion, to develop a range of retail brands that carefully target adjacent market segments with distinctive and relevant fashions. As markets and trends evolve the portfolio gives the group strength and agility.
Le Pain Quotidien – Rustic breads, communal tables ... being human in a digital world
Le Pain stands out in a cookie-cutter world of standard formats as authentic and sustainable, human and communal. Whilst the world becomes anglicised, it’s great to see a little French on our streets, albeit Belgian.
Positive Luxury – The butterfly mark of brands you can trust
Curation is a key role for retailer, editing and guiding in a world of infinite choice. Making sustainability positive, being better rather than less bad, being authentic and natural, softer or brighter.
Rakuten Ichiba – Asian shopping ... crabs and kimonos with “omotenashi”
As markets become more fragmented into specialist niches, the economics of local stores gives way to online platforms. With careful focus, small businesses can become global and profitable, without the costs of becoming big.
Sonae – Portugal's leading retailer focuses on "improving life"
A stock market flotation was the catalyst for Sonae to diversify its business into many new categories. Innovation lies at the heart of Sonae's vision for improving life. Most important platform for this is Sonae's Continente retail brand which has recently extended across Europe, and also take its own-label brands into other retailers in order to go further faster.
Tchibo – A new experience every week
Germany's favourite coffee brand, has spread its retail concept across the world, offering everything from flowers to mobile phones, with a constantly changing range. Pop in for a coffee, and to see what's new!