London is buzzing this summer. People flocked to the city for the Diamond Jubilee. While it captivated the world's attention, it was just a warm up for the Olympics. As athletes and devoted fans from around the globe descend on the city, retailers are getting prepared. Therefore, you can see some of the hottest trends in retail on steroids. Four in particular are made better by incorporating self-service or kiosks. They are:
The emergence of Millenials and
The increase of International shoppers.
London real estate was already at a premium. However, the massive influx of people this summer has made that even more pronounced—especially in locations surrounding the Olympic venues. Therefore, retailers are getting creative with pop-up locations. Even Liberty, the famed British department store has taken a temporary space in an outdoor area on the main promenade where Olympic revelers will pass en route to the park.
Trendy retailer H&M is opening a sports-focused store that will feature active wear in Union Jack colors. These stores will be open for 10 weeks in Covent Garden and Westfield Stratford City. It isn't just London that is seeing this trend, H&M is opening another pop-up location in Miami Beach this summer.
The value of pop-up stores is being recognized by other entities beyond retailers. EBay created several pop up locations. Wired Magazine builds an electronics pop-up store in New York at Christmas every year, and even the Flaming Lips have puckered up to the pop-up trend.
Retail expert, Brian Walker from The Retail Doctor told Smart Company, "Pop-up shops give you instant accessibility, instant wow factor if done well, and put you in environments that you might not be otherwise." He continues, "A pop-up shop is an extension of the brand and should be treated that way – so investment of capital is key."
Pop-ups allow retailers, websites, magazines and even bands to capitalize on compelling events and locations as well as keep their brand top of mind. Because of their temporary nature and space constraints, pop ups typically have limited selection. By introducing self-service, kiosks or tablets, pop-ups could be nimble as well as offer a broader range of items.
These locations are ideal for endless aisle types of applications. Moreover, shoppers heading to the Olympic park or to South Beach may not want to be burdened with parcels. A kiosk would allow visitors to purchase from the extended offerings as well as have items delivered at their convenience.
Even after the Olympics, London real estate will be at a premium. For brands and retailers interested in a more permanent spot in highly desirable locations, the smaller-footprint store has become a mainstay. Over the past few years, giant retailers have responded to changing consumer behaviors and adopted a more focused approach. Smaller-footprint stores are ideal for urban locations and create a more European shopping model where consumers visit the stores daily—which is ideal for brand engagement.
Target created stores that were almost half the size of their traditional stores (60,000 sqft vs 120,000) for their urban locations. Walmart Express was born to allow the retail giant to fit into this new reality. In addition, stores like Kohl's and Office Depot are embracing this trend and getting away from the mega store to broaden their appeal.
Like pop-up locations, these smaller footprint stores are unable to carry the full product portfolio. Not to mention, have you ever tried to wheel your newly purchased office chair through the streets of Seattle?
The limited space and the realities of urban living make these locations ideal for kiosks, which can expand product and delivery options. In addition, these stores don't have room for support staff. Retailers could take advantage of hiring kiosks to off load many of the human resource tasks. This would ensure that associates focused primarily on the customer.
Emergence of Millenials
Millenials are not only the athletes in this year's Olympics, they are a large percentage of those who will be drawn to the games. In a previous blog, I wrote about how self-service and Millenials are an ideal match.
Millenials will outspend Baby Boomers by 2017; however, they also currently punch above their weight. That means they spend more than their actual purchasing power. In addition, they shop in an entirely different way than their parents—who they trust less than random people online (http://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-will-gladly-take-a-strangers-opinion-on-how-to-spend-over-mom-and-dads-2012-1).
To meet the demands of this generation, retailers need to ensure that reviews are easily accessible. Kiosk or shelf-level tablets would be ideal to help these informed consumers complete purchases. Because they are wired all the time, they are great researches and users of technology. You don't want to put your associates in a position where a customer pulls out their phone to show them they are wrong about their own products or specials—which could instantly derail a purchase and mar your brand.
According to a RSR paper, The Retail Store in Transition, an uninformed associate is worse than no associate. Moreover, most Millenials don't even want to bother talking to an associate. They'd rather interact with an avatar or something 'less human'.
Retailers can appeal to this demographic by ensuring peer reviews are available through out the store, providing easy access to information in a visually appealing way and empowering associates with technology to further the conversation.
Self-service and kiosks are ideal for this. However, be aware that this is the Apple Generation and it has to be sleek, elegant and modern. Any boxy, clunky things that are not graphically appealing or don't work on the first try will be quickly abandoned and Tweeted about, Facebooked and Pinned under #fail.
When I was growing up, Italian food was considered exotic. Now, even in my small suburban town, I can eat at 30 different ethnic style restaurants and encounter six different languages on any given day. This diversity is changing the shopping landscape. Every four years we are reminded of how diverse our world is with the Olympics. Can you imagine being an associate at the H&M location in Covent Garden trying to articulate the merits of products to people from every country on the planet?
Self-service and kiosks can make life easier for both the associate and the shopper by providing information in multiple languages. This trend isn't just for retail, but health care, public spaces like airports and public transit as well as universities. Providing information in multiple languages in a single location is simple with a kiosk whether it is products, services, frequently asked questions, timetables or way finding assistance.
With summer heating up and the biggest shopping days ahead of us, retailers should consider how they are going to make these trends even better shopper experiences. Self-service can make small spaces have big impact by expanding offerings. It can help limited staff meet growing demand by offloading administrative tasks such as managing job applications. In addition, it can bring the viral, social shopping experience into the store by incorporating reviews and rankings. Finally, it can create a personalized experience no matter which language you speak.
Sheridan Orr is the Managing Partner of the Interrobang! Agency, a consulting firm specializing in brand experiences. She has a decade of experience in consumer behaviors, brands, technology and design. Her passion is in crafting engaging and connected customer experiences.