Wendy Liebmann, founder, chief executive officer and chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail cites Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and digital as the two biggest disruptions to the retail industry to date.

Liebmann’s expertise lies in helping clients build retail strategies by focusing not on the consumer but how they shop. And according to her, the only way to get ahead in digital is to understand how behavior and lifestyle affects shoppers.

This story first appeared in the February 14, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“If you follow the shopper, you see the future,” Liebmann said of today’s shopper — who can now be found online.


According to the executive, shoppers are now in control. Consumers, whom she calls “all-seeing and all-knowing,” have more choices than ever and they are using it to their advantage. This emergence of e-commerce has led to “on-demand retail,” the access to shopping all day, every day.

Stemming from this is a new customer mind-set, Liebmann said, one that is value-obsessed at all levels of retail.

“Shoppers want anything, anytime, anyhow,” Liebmann said, revealing that 74 percent of consumers go to friends and family for recommendations and 72 percent read or write peer reviews, now a driver of sales. Additionally, 41 percent of shoppers use a smartphone in-store and 15 percent use a tablet.

Experiential retail is also key, and because of social media, friends have become the new sales associates.
“The path to purchase is changing, it’s a new shopping world,” Liebmann said.

For example, she noted that commodities — like diapers — have started to disappear from aisles, becoming more of an online proposition.

Despite this, Liebmann promised that brick and mortar is not going away.


Instead, retailers must deliver value everywhere, create a hyper-channel experience at every consumer touch point, customize offers, give shoppers more reason to buy and build emotional engagement.

Liebmann cites Burberry as using its site as a model for a physical store in London that houses all brands under one roof. “It’s a brick-click experience,” she said.

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