With the amount of offering available in shopping centres as well as at their fingertips brands need to evolve and use technology to their advantage by providing the customers more than just products. Information is available to better understand the customer and what they need in the current trend of personalisation or what others may call the ‘’Me Age’’ as well as understanding the future consumer needs.
Brands have the opportunity to become even more innovative with their interaction and offering to their customers. Through means of providing social locations in store and brand pause spaces. Stores can uplift the bar of customer experience and have the customer, in the words of Howard Saunders “fall in love” with your brand. “The most important thing is to go back to basics, understand how you can really connect with your customer, stop thinking about product and think about the communities that you cater to, create engaging spaces where people can connect and socialize.” said Howard Saunders.
A great example presented by Saunders is the New York Samsung Experience Store which has a glassy, multilevel complex that has event space, a virtual-reality roller coaster and on the mezzanine level a coffee bar with all the trimmings, stocked with multiple artisan roasters and a rotating array of small bites from the Smorgasburg roster. This store bursts at the seams with the amount of instore customer experience offering, something of now even greater importance than product.
The Retail Futurist Howard Saunders recently spoke at the 21st Annual Congress of the South African Council of Shopping Centres, the founder of 22and5 has been shaping retail for more than 30 years. A former Creative Director of the international design agency Fitch, for over a decade he has focused his skills on helping clients understand and prepare for the fast changing retail landscape.
Saunders spoke on the topic The Future is Scary to which he painted the picture of how the future would look like with the emergence of robotics, big data, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, driverless cars and facial recognition software and the impact on 'bricks and mortar' retail over the next decade. Saunders highlighted that technology is a tool that has helped companies connect and will continue to do so, however from a personalisation stand point it is important that the brand builds trust and loyalty. Tech such as smartphones has facilitated the rise of bespoke customised products, and therefore technology becomes a key component to better cater for your customer through the access of information including the facilitation of ease and convenience.
4 tips Howard Saunders raised for retailers to consider:
1. Encourage creativity in shopping centres: Through flexible leases and pop up stores.
2. Look into symbiotic leasing: Brands like Nike and Adidas are now looking into incorporating artisan coffee shops in store.
3. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence: Think about community and make people feel more connected.
4. And finally the next big thing according to Saunders are smart phones. They are still to evolve and provide an even greater source of data.
“As a Retail Futurist I encourage my clients to take a fresh look at what they do and what they really stand for. Business is often too busy to pause and think, you have to force these things. I try to unravel the meanings behind the things we buy: why our aspirations shift and how the future is likely to change the way we behave. I believe shopping is not only the engine of our economy, it’s the foundation of a thriving community. This isn’t some business to business thing, this is life” said Saunders.