To say that consumer shopping habits around the world are vastly changing is a bit of an understatement. Experts argue that retailers need to respond to change swift and adapt, or be left behind. ”This is arguably the most exciting time in retailing history," says Myf Ryan, Chief Marketing Officer, Westfield UK and Europe. "Retailers have to be brave and innovative, identifying what shoppers will want in the future by offering genuine added value to create an experience that cannot exist online.”
In order to help retailers get a better grasp on how consumer are shopping today, Westfield launched an extensive study which aimed to explore the transformative retail shift. The findings, which are based on interviews with both retail experts and over 13,000 shoppers across the shopping centre’s locations in the US and UK were unveiled the report “How We Shop Now: What’s Next?” and feature five consumer trends which will help retailers succeed in the future.
“The five trends we have identified by speaking to shoppers across our world-class shopping locations in the US and UK offer a blueprint for the future of successful retail,” added Ryan. "Fashion stores of tomorrow might look radically different - bringing shoppers through the doors to attend a vintage clothing club, rewarding them financially for recycling their old clothes, helping them pick a new outfit with virtual reality and then loaning it to them for a party at the weekend." The trends highlighted in the report include a pay-as-you go retail model, using stores as classrooms, a lifestyle approach to loyalty rewards, assisted virtual reality and extra-sensory experiences.
The first trend, rental retail, revolves around the ’sharing economy’ or pay-as-you-go idea founded by the likes of Rent the Runaway, Uber and Airbnb. According to the report, one in five UK consumers are interested in renting items from their favourite store - a figure which increases to one in three in London. One in six shoppers in New York said they were interested in clothing rental, compared to one in ten consumers in San Diego. Back overseas in the UK, a fifth of the shoppers expressed interest in spending 200 pounds or more a month on an unlimited clothing subscription. Millennials in particular are open to this trend, with nearly half of the 25-34 years olds questioned being interested in renting.
Using traditional retail stores as workshop space to offer classes for shoppers to learn a new skill is the second trend Westfield picked up on, as seen in Lululemon stores, which regularly host Yoga Classes in their larger stores. Nearly a third of shoppers questioned interested in attending a lifestyle class at their favourite store. Most UK and US consumers were the most interested in following a health or fitness class, 27 percent and 29 percent respectively, followed by inspiring learning lessons such as creative cookery, expert sessions and lastly clubs. UK consumers however did show a great appetite than their US counterattack for digital learning skills, with more than a sixth of Brits interested compared to 12 percent of Americans.
Lifestyle Loyalty Retail
Although many retailers already offer loyalty cards, points and rewards to returning customers, there is a new consumer demand emerging for scheme that reward good lifestyle choices instead of monetary transactions. These types of reward scheme are likely to be more aligned with what the retailer stands for and hopes to achieve, rather than just based on what they sell. One fifth of UK consumers revealed they would like to see a lifestyle reward when spending money at a brand which would give them something in return for making a good choice, such as: recycling (29 percent,) exercising (20 percent), spending time with family (19 percent), getting enough sleep (14 percent), and charity volunteering (10 percent). 16 percent of US consumers want to be rewarded for making wise financial decisions, and the youngest group of consumers surveyed in the US and UK craved rewards to have a strong work-life balance with time spent with loved ones (30 percent.)
Enhanced Virtual Reality Retail
With virtual reality predicted to really kick off this year among consumers, in part due to the long await arrival of the Oculus Rift, Westfield foresees VR becoming an ubiquitous part of the shopping experience as consumers will want to use it in order to see how certain products work and to help bring in-store products closer to their lives. Some retailers, such as Tommy Hilfiger, have been quick to incorporate VR in-store and using it to share experiences with consumers. 41 percent of UK consumers said they would be interested in using new technologies, such as VR headsets and a third of US and UK shoppers questioned would be interested in suing virtual assistance to see how clothes would look on them.
As more and more people spend more time engaging with screens, the effect plays havoc on the body’s sensory system. Therefore a sensory retail experience, where consumers can fully immerse themselves in a product and have all senses stimulated is demanded. According to the report, engaging all five sense, vision, touch, sound, smell and taste, enhanced the shopping experience. Although vision and touch were deemed to enhance the experience the most, smell and sound were almost equally as important. Taste was also very important to over a fifth of the shoppers surveyed and 73 percent of UK shoppes claimed that to touch and feel and trial products was the main benefit of visiting a physical store.