2017 gave us a lot of things: the dancing Snapchat hot dog, Salt Bae, the solar eclipse and the term “Retail Apocalypse.” We wrote about it time and time again, it appeared countless times at many other publications and Fashionista reports it now has a Wikipedia entry. In it, it says the term, “refers to the closing of a large number of American retail stores beginning in 2016. Over 4,000 physical stores are affected as American consumers shift their purchasing habits due to various factors, including the rise of e-commerce.”
In fact, it the number of stores closing is actually direr than Wikipedia states. The number is actually around 6,700 by year’s end, but around 3,000 actually opened in 2017. While the term “apocalypse” signifies an impending doom that cannot be rectified, the above statement somewhat contradicts that. So, it seems that retail isn’t doomed; it’s just going through a metamorphosis. Here’s what what companies that want to survive and thrive in 2018 are doing to emerge from the metamorphosis as the proverbial butterfly.
Personalization is Key
Major key alert here- customers want to feel as if you understand them. With so many options in which to purchase from, a personal connection is what takes it a step further. This can be as simple as collecting information from browsing and purchasing habits and delivering the shopper a personalized curation of items they may like. Certain stores such as Nordstrom and Topshop are expanding their personal shopping departments to further expand personal relationships with customers and create a more interactive experience.
This may conjure up images of robots running storefronts and wreaking havoc on brick-and-mortar as we know it. But, we’ve actually been using AI for quite some time in the form of self-checkouts. So much of our lives has become automated and when it happens to make shopping more convenient then consumers are all for it. Virtual assistants in dressing rooms, messenger apps on e-commerce sites and personal styling with bots are some of the features that shoppers are stating as priority for the future of retail.
First, if a store does not have mobile then they really are in for a “Retail Apocalypse.” Second, having a seamless experience between mobile and brick-and-mortar is more important than ever. Many brands are developing apps in which you can purchase product and pick up in-store, make appointments for personal styling and so much more.
Create an Experience
The “Experience Economy” is real and its where consumers, especially younger ones, are spending their cold hard cash. To lure these shoppers off their devices and into stores, brands can do that with “pop-up” shops and “drops.” Drops were popularized by streetwear brands and capitalized on by other brands with limited-edition or “capsule” collections. H&M x Balmain, Supreme x Louis Vuitton and so many others created hype and got people to not only visit their stores, but actually camp out before they opened. This tapped into their FOMO as well as created an experience. Pop-up shops also add to the idea of scarcity as it will only be available for a limited time.
According to Merriam Webster, a metamorphosis is, “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.” The way in which we shop and consume goods has changed through a natural progression. That means that the retailers of those goods are having to go through a transformation as well. Retail isn’t dead just the way the caterpillar didn’t die when it went into its cocoon. It emerged again and once again so will retail. So, 2017 may have been the year of the “Retail Apocalypse” but 2018 will be the year of the “Retail Metamorphosis.”