What’s your hottest retail trend for the upcoming year?
One trend we recently unveiled at The Future Laboratory was around using social media as a key tool for service and empowering sales staff. Customer service is all about building human connections so often, a single tweet or quick email doesn’t feel quite personal enough. Instead, brands will be and should be looking to live video, audio conversations and platforms like Snapchat to respond to customer queries. Beauty subscription service Birchbox, for example, invited its followers on Snapchat to call the brand using the platform’s video and voice call features.
 
Can you name a retail start-up or concept that is going to disrupt the industry, soon?
We’re seeing a shift from a static, 2D shopping experience to a more engaging, interactive one. This has already started through the rise in live-streaming. As well as being more engaging and personal for a consumer, it’s an excellent way to promote transparency and foster trust. Tmall, the e-commerce site owned by the Alibaba Group, recently did this by offering Chinese consumers a live-streamed tour around Macy’s. The stream introduced the 122,000 people who tuned in to several different products, as well as the best ways to buy them online. When you think of AI’s rise, and how VR and AR technologies could be introduced or integrated with these streams, you start to see how it will disrupt the industry moving forward.

What’s your advice for the struggling high street shops?
Don’t underestimate what you can do with your space. For many consumers, the physical store is still a key place to provide a memorable experience and service. Focus on the quality of the experience, invest in your staff and look to AI as a tool for enhancement. Similarly, look to merge your physical and digital channels into a full ‘phygital’ experience.



If you had to describe the future customer, what characteristics would he or she have?
The future consumer wants frictionless commerce, where online and bricks-and-mortar aren’t considered different channels. They’ll be seeing your brand as one channel, and so they’ll want to be talked to in the same way. Also, divisions that separate the demographics, particularly in terms of their online behaviours, are narrowing. In talking to the future consumer, brands would do well to embrace age neutrality amongst their marketing strategies.





What is the role of luxury brands today?
Luxury brands are obviously an important part of the retail landscape. Though the role of the brand depends on the particular sector, there’s been an interesting move towards luxury brands wanting to capture the Millennial mindset through digital culture. Fendi launched their digital platform F Is For… in February, full of content that targeted a Millennial audience and Gucci also launched their #TFWGucci campaign that centered around a series of specially designed memes.



On your company’s website you identified the micro-trend of honest products. What characterizes this new generation of products?
In a time where consumers are hyper-connected and are taking a results-driven, well-researched approach to purchasing products, honesty and transparency from brands has become more important than ever. These ‘honest products’ stray away from marketing jargon, label ingredients clearly and encourage consumers to put trust in the science behind the products.

Chris Sanderson will talk about the new customer at the 67th International Retail Summit on 7 and 8 September 2017. Sign up now!