It’s a pivotal time for fashion apparel and retail. After a year of digitalization accelerated by a global pandemic, retailers and brands across the fashion apparel, beauty, luxury and accessories markets are embracing innovative ways to evolve their brick-and-mortar stores to meet the requirements of a new customer journey, where digital and physical more meaningfully converge. In this issue of Trend Spy, WWD looks at how physical retail has evolved during one of the most transformative years in retail yet.

It’s a new brick-and-mortar landscape with new rules. In its latest consumer survey of more than 41,000 U.S. shoppers, with key results presented here, Klarna, the leading payments provider, shopping service and retail bank, uncovered the seismic shift that has transformed how consumers are shopping in store. Among the most notable changes redefining the customer shopping journey is occurring at the point of sale, with contactless, buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup as the newly preferred methods of receiving purchased products. A demand for greater convenience and flexibility are also underpinning these trends. Klarna’s survey revealed that 81 percent of shoppers said the availability of buy online, pickup in store has improved their shopping experience, while 61 percent said that contactless payments also elevated their shopping experience in physical stores.

These newly emerged consumer preferences are driving the growth and demand of Klarna’s in-store platform, which has been rolled out to more than 60,000 stores nationwide, including retail brands Bluemercury and The North Face.

A new environment

At Bluemercury, this new customer journey and contactless environment required the brand to reimagine beauty, which “has always been a very intimate and personal experience,” said Marla Beck, CEO and Founder of Bluemercury. “Many conveniences such as virtual consultations, curbside pickup, and ship-to-home will remain at all physical locations. Our beauty experts continue to see a high volume of virtual consultation appointments, even as store traffic grows.”

Beck said the company already used Klarna on its website, and now with the in-store option, the beauty brand is reaching “a new generation of shoppers.”


Klarna’s Shopper Insights.  Courtesy Image.

Similar to Bluemercury, The North Face had to pivot their in-store strategy to accommodate higher digital engagement during the pandemic. Marissa Pardini, Vice President and General Manager Americas at The North Face, said to accommodate this shift, “we brought to life a suite of omnichannel capabilities to ensure customers were able to access our products as safely, and seamlessly, as possible.”

“We’re seeing that even in a physical retail environment, customers want options that are digitally connected and will make the shopping experience feel fast, safe and easy – such as buy online, pickup in store, Pardini said, adding that Klarna served as “a fantastic tool for enabling customers to have broader access to the gear they want, but with personalized payment flexibility.”

Pardini also said the outdoor gear market offers products that customers want to touch, feel and try on — which spotlights the importance of physical retail stores. Indeed, Klarna’s research supports this as consumers cited touching and trying on products as the top reason for shopping in store. And most shoppers surveyed also said shopping in store allowed them to discover new products and make purchases instantly.

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