What factors improve the in-store shopping experience for U.S. consumers? According to a recent report, a shopper’s needs and wants at the brick-and-mortar level continue to lean more traditional than trending. So it might not surprise you to see “quick checkout” (81%), “good customer service” (76%) and “ability to buy online and pick up in-store” (58%) as leading factors to a better in-store CX (Groundtruth).
But what about the trending side to retail? What role does it play and should it influence your in-store strategy?
I love it when clients ask us questions like these, because it brings our experts together to talk about where the in-store experience is headed. For 2019, here are four trends on our radar. We think they should be on yours as well.
Trend No. 1 | The next phase of the influencer
Expect to see two of the biggest retail trends of the last few years ㅡ “immersive experiences” and “influencers” ㅡ become more lockstep and mainstream. While influencers have continued to become a bigger part of what and why people buy, we are about to see the next phase of influencers truly embedded into the retail experience.
We just saw Payless open a fake luxury store to attract influencers, and we expect to see more examples like this (Adweek). It’s an old concept with new applications.
Next year we will see more stores move toward aligning with influencers and the product demand they create. At a minimum, imagine more interactive how-to videos from YouTube influencers next to the products on display. At maximum, imagine these YouTube and reality stars opening their own retail extensions like an airport lounge or a store-within-a-store.
Take Ulta Beauty for example: this beauty retailer’s stock surged when it revealed an exclusive partnership with Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics makeup line (Motley Fool). Once a competitor of Ulta thanks in part to Jenner’s direct-to-consumer business model, Kylie Cosmetics’ in-store availability now has exposure to more than 30 million loyalty shoppers (Forbes).
In short, influencers are skilled at acquiring and converting customers, and you’ll see that more integrated into physical store environments.
For even more foresight, download our free retail report:
On Trend In-Store Shopper Marketing: 5 trends that matter most — right now — to the brick-and-mortar checkout experience
Trend No. 2 | Immersive experiences become the norm
We’ve seen an explosion of retailers moving from selling products to selling experiences ㅡ from pop-up stores to The Museum of Ice Cream selling ice cream, but these are often one-off experiments used to drive viral moments (Shopify).
We will start to see big-box retailers across the country make immersive experiences part of the normal everyday shopping experience. At the beauty counter, a consumer will sample a product and then select an interactive display to have it shipped to their home. Stores will stop organizing themselves by “category” and find ways to tell a story in the layout of their products.
An important note is that stores will get more sophisticated in the analytics and data they use to create and maintain experiences.
It’s trendy for stores to create cafes that cater to urban millennials, but if the demographic of your area is baby boomers, is that the right fit? Stores will start thinking beyond the viral moment, and more about how to target and personalize experiences for the specific people they are trying to reach.
Trend No. 3 | Making convenience even more convenient
As buying online and picking up or returning in-store has gained popularity, retailers will dramatically shift their store plans and resources to accommodate consumer demand for convenience. “How convenient can ‘convenient’ get?” will be the question for retailers in 2019.
In order to compete with direct-to-consumer e-commerce, big-box retailers will begin to use physical locations as distribution centers, with automated pick and sort functionality and boxing fulfillment.
According to a Zebra Technologies survey, 76% of retailers use store inventory to fill online orders, and 86% plan to implement “order online/pick-up in store” within the next year.
In-store resources and floor plans will switch to cater to the customer experience.
Example: In the past, you had to walk through the full store to return an item, so that retailers have an opportunity to upsell. Retailers are shifting toward having those areas upfront, or even a drive-through model.
Another play to provide maximum convenience comes via collaboration between two major brands. Kroger and Walgreens have joined together for a 13-store pilot program that features a Kroger Express store-within-a-store concept, which is expected to take up a “third of the typical selling space” within Walgreens, according to RetailWire.
SVP of Merchandising for Kroger said this program will provide Walgreens customers “convenient access to a quick meal.”
Trend No. 4 | Private labels grab more of the spotlight
Typically less expensive than national brands and more profitable for retailers, these products can also be a strong driver of increased customer loyalty. For example: Costco’s private label brand (Kirkland) is a key growth driver and accounts for nearly 25% of the warehouse club’s sales ㅡ industry average for private-label sales is 17% (Forbes).
Additionally, private labels are no longer stigmatized as the cheap or less attractive option. Innovative private label design continues to play a significant role in how private labels are perceived as an approachable, equally reliable option.
Maybe that’s why 85% of consumers indicate they trust private-brand products at least as much as national brands (Packaging World).
Beyond trends: Reimagine the role of your store
There once was a time when your brick-and-mortar locations served as the customer journey’s final destination. This school of thought is now one that’s extremely dated.
From driving up product demand to growing earnest customer loyalty, retailers have an opportunity to leverage their physical store locations as an asset at each stage of the sales cycle.
Toni Thompson is president of Retail Solutions, RRD Marketing Solutions. Looking for more expertise and foresight? We highlight five more in-store marketing trends making inroads right now in the brick-and-mortar experience. Access our latest retail trends report here.