Flux, free-fall and convergence are all part of the “Frontier(less) Retail: Innovation, New Consumer Behaviors and Retail in the Networked Age.”
Lucie Greene, worldwide director of The Innovation Group at J. Walter Thompson, offered a battery of examples of the seismic shifts affecting retailers all of all kinds.
To illustrate the speed of change, Greene said Google and Levi collaborated on a jacquard jacket that allows bike commuters to swipe and search for local restaurants while cycling. (Conductive yarns on the left cuff enable the interactivity.)
As digital lines continue blurring, AR, VR and holograms will only become more important, as the digital environment becomes much more immersive and compelling, Greene said. Online shopping too is gaining ground, due partially to the fact that in the U.S. consumers can buy up to $800 worth of goods tax-free. And Alibaba seeks to generate more than 50 percent of its revenues outside of China, according to a Bloomberg report cited by Greene.
While gas prices are low and consumer confidence is high, retail continues to struggle as indicated by daily reports by such as a Credit Suisse one that predicted that there could be 37,000 retail layoffs this year — the highest level since 2010. Despite that, consumers are clearly willing to spend money and they expect an experience to motivate that, Greene said.
The growing influence of Amazon is affecting luxury, beauty and other categories that used to think they were immune to the juggernaut, Greene noted. Testimony to that, 89 percent of Millennials said in a recent survey that they check Amazon before they buy anything from other online retailers. Amazon Direct’s influence can also be seen in the advancement of same-day deliveries as proven by American Apparel’s one-hour deliveries in some cities. This makes sense given the rise in popularity in Seamless and Uber with consumers, Greene said.
More companies are following Uniqlo’s lead in calling itself a technology company to try to stay ahead of the curve with consumers’ habits as well as considered commerce and delivery models such as sampling, recycling and even products that are designed to last forever.
In what is known as the experience economy, people are more inclined to share compelling experiences than pictures of products. “Restaurant sales have increased 8 percent in the first 11 months of 2015, vacations and dining out are projected to see a 27 percent increase.”
Often using images, Greene offered such examples of immersiveness as Gentle Monster in South Korea, which adopts a different theatrical theme every 25 days. She also mentioned The Museum of Feelings, which is located in Brookfield Place, reacts to social media and real-time data to reflect New York’s changing mood in different colors. And Sole DXB, a two-day sneaker festival in Dubai, is another example of innovative immersive concepts. Shoppers are also in for a memorable trip to the market at Markthal Rotterdam, a massive futuristic food hall covered with art that uses 3-D techniques. Greene also gave Liberty of London managing editor Ed Burstell high marks for “always doing interesting and fun collaborations. I genuinely enjoy spending threes hours or so [there] every time I go to London.”