‘The future of shopping is personalized discovery’. That was the closing remark from Nicolas Franchet, global head of retail and e-commerce strategy at Facebook, who summed up this year’s World Retail Congress (WRC) ‘big data’ theme in a nutshell.
Disruption in the retail landscape, and Millennials – the consumer group most likely to cause it – were the official themes at this year’s WRC conference, now in its 8th year. As Samsung Electronics joined Mastercard and Deloitte as co-sponsors, the topic of disruptive technology and digital shopping behavior was top of the agenda across the board.
‘Innovation and new technology bring a type of disruption to the online and offline retail experience that puts the shopper in control like never before,’ says Ann Cairns, president international markets at Mastercard. ‘We know what we want, when and how we want it and we expect retailers to understand these needs, accommodate them, and know how to deliver experiences and environments that make life and shopping simple, secure and relevant,’ she explains at the opening day’s session called ‘The future is now, are you ready?’
Now that contactless payments are available on the London (and New York) transport systems, Mastercard’s data can help retailers understand the entire journey to purchase, says Cairns. ‘Mobile payments are likely to grow exponentially across the massive reach that card networks afford. This is indicated by early and high-speed adoption of contactless,’ she says. Adding to the trend is Apple Pay that just launched in September, with similar contactless payment responses likely from Google, Samsung and other technology companies keen to join the dots for consumers to enjoy seamless transactions at convenience retail locations, she adds. Contactless has quickly become a loyalty battle war among banks, that are keen to offer both existing and new customers incentives to use the service.
However security issues around smartphone payments are growing. ‘Now consumers are concerned with security, the public wants to have a safety net around their online shopping behaviour, it’s key to the global growth of mobile payments,’ says Cairns.
Department stores do digital
Paolo de Cesare, CEO of French luxury department store chain Printemps says that in the luxury department store sector – where physical retail theatre reigns supreme – e-commerce has become increasingly important due to increasing numbers of overseas customers.
‘From gathering purchase data to personalised relationships, we want to deliver superior service and advice in-store. Through our data we have seen age demographics broken down, for example we know our millennials and boomers shop next to each other, so now we cater to mother and daughter shopping together.
‘Through providing ‘meet the designer’ experiences for VIPs with the likes of Roland Mouret or Victoria Beckham, we can achieve highly personal shopping services,’ he says. Printemps is also building on its co-branded promotions with luxury partners Dior, Chanel, Baccarat, Prada for seasonal campaigns. Personalised e-commerce is the future of omnichannel at Printemps, he says.
‘Experience per square foot is our mantra,’ says Rachel Schechtman, CEO and founder of ‘advertorial’ boutique Story in New York. She says stores that will resonate in the future, will not be about consumerism, they will offer customers immersion and experiences that surprise and delight.
Schechtman says that being ‘tactile and serving the community’ is more important than working to traditional metrics such as sales per sq ft. She does this by providing a regularly changing assortment of brands, start-ups and sponsorship platforms that are more like partnerships, describing the store’s role as a matchmaker between brand and consumers. ‘We are democratizing the store experience, we want to replicate reading a magazine with new content for our customers all the time.
Story has hosted a number of co-branded ‘experiences’, including a men’s grooming event with Details Magazine, where customers spent an average of 20 minutes playing with the Gilette-sponsored virtual scuba-dive table courtesy of digital VM specialist Perch Design.
Experiential designer appearances also resonate for the ‘living press release’ idea of storytelling at Story, says Schechtman. Highlights have included a General Electric 3D printing event when Rebecca Minkoff arrived to 3D print and etch one of her handbags, and a pitch night event with Beth Macri debuting her jewellery line that led her to doing ‘Made in America’ on eBay with Martha Stewart. Pitch nights from local artisans are now a regular monthly event, drawing crowds eager to learn about new designers.
Schechtman will live and die by the store experience, but she adds, ‘if experience is so important to retail, make e-commerce an extension of the journey in-store.’