What are the retail and consumer trends of today?
Today more than ever, there is a clear expectation emerging for retailers to become open, limitless spaces. We have left behind the era of boundaries, the physical is no longer pitted against the digital, there is no longer opposition between online and offline purchases, or separation between e-commerce and bricks & mortar. Furthermore, a number of indicators point to what consumers want: they are repulsed by massification, enthused by sharing, long for personalisation and to create their own brand, love modernity, and feel nostalgia for tradition. They are loyal to the brand that keeps its promises, and want to be able to declare it a failure if it does not. They want tailor-made shopping experiences. They are unique, impatient, demand simplicity, have a desire to discover and feel emotions.
What is the challenge for retailers? What does creating a “shopping journey” mean?
The offer must now consider ever lever (tangible and intangible) as a key asset with which to build a distinctive brand in the eyes of its customers. The real progress is grasping the most intimate and emotional aspects, consumers’ unexpressed true and profound thoughts. The shopping journey is fluid, purchasing experiences flow between the no longer futuristic digital world and a physical world that is far from being ready for the scrap heap. The scenario presents countless challenges for retailers: they must take on alternative viewpoints, build a set of consistent and authentic values, open up to the region, guide, inform, involve, be human and at the same time technological.
What makes the difference?
Trying to understand what consumers want is not enough. First of all, they must allow themselves to be inspired and have the courage to imagine the deepest perceptions, feelings and desires that are generated in the guts of someone looking at the brand. The search for and identification of pertinent insights relating to the consumer and not for the consumer will increasingly make a difference. It is not just about our retailers changing their appearance, we are talking about a transformation, a real change of perspective: they must no longer be a place of sale, but a space for purchases. Turning change into opportunity, global into local, data into action, stores into stories, clientq into fans. In short, making the future the present.
How has the relationship between retailers and consumers changed?
It is an endless pursuit, without winners or losers: although consumers are the real transformers and drivers of consumer customs and habits, and it is they who dictate the rules, they have to deal with the fact that the offer is almost always one step behind.
This scenario leaves us confused: fixed patterns are disappearing, consumers can no longer be clustered, but exhibit a thousand different behaviours that cross over in unique and unpredictable profiles. Consumers are at the same time the sales assistants who do it all themselves, the influencers, the reviewers, the loyal and the disloyal, those who chases offers, those who prefer the neighbourhood supermarket, those who rent a home only if it is near their favourite supermarket, those who only buys online or exclusively at a sales outlet.
Thinking about the challenges that retailers must face today means thinking about the consumer’s role. It would be much easier if we could still think in terms of classic marketing: target, segment, apply the same formulae, taking shelter in methodological, statistical and sociological certainties. Consumers are evolving. They must be targeted, but also segmented. However, there remains in them something fluid and evanescent that is difficult to grasp and which, as soon as its mystery has been laboriously revealed, is already inevitably in the past.
By Paolo Mamo, President of Altavia Italia