Since Amazon began 23 years ago, physical retailers have been on the back foot. But now the store is returning with a revived confidence, and the nest retail revolution is underway. It’s about providing multisensory experiences, focused personal communication and real value, in a reconfigured relationship where the shopper holds the power.
The customer is king
Some of the new “shopper power” has actually been driven by the boom in online shopping. When consumers had little choice but to visit physical stores, those shops and brands held control. Now that consumers can browse at home and compare prices on their smartphone in-store, brands are having to work harder to convert customer visits into sales.
Therefore, shopper power is a by-product of the digital revolution and the “extreme availability” that it brought to consumers. Physical retail now has to cater to shoppers who have extremely high expectations. Not to mention younger generations are particularly fickle, including Millenials and Generation Z, (sometimes called post-Millenials, born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.)
Stores rise to the challenge
Retailers are innovating for these new consumers who see shopping as a lifestyle and leisure experience. As a result, stores are being re-imagined for the new cohort of savvy, dynamic shoppers. As these consumers have to be given an experience that they won’t get elsewhere, pleasurable sensory inputs, including scented areas, become vitally important.
“Shopper marketing” and social stores
From the brand perspective, this shift is seen in the growth of “shopper marketing”. A growing part of retail science, shopper marketing is an attempt by companies to target each customer more effectively. A variation on the personal algorithms of the online world.
Personalisation is key
The new shopper expects highly-personalised retail experiences and customised sensorial spaces, says sensory marketing expert Caroline Ardelet of the University of Westminster. “The personalisation of the store’s sensory atmosphere, aligned customer persona and expectation, is going to be a big trend. As well as differentiated atmospheres and zones, enabling stores to deliver highly-personalised sensory experiences or customised sensorial spaces.”
To give customers more, and to increase dwell time, stores are offering increasing amounts of space for areas for socialising and activities. From concerts to yoga classes and knitting. In doing so, they go far beyond the older transactional relationship and become a place for living. And the ongoing hope of catering to shopper power is that customers will become brand advocates.