Opinion

Do you remember retail?

30 November, 2020 Share socially

Innocent Drinks, the brand that has built its image on irony and transparency, has resumed outdoor communication after the long pandemic pause with a campaign that aims at "teaching" how to recognise and manage trivial yet forgotten activities, like how to dress properly, go to a shopping center and so on. A huge billboard with an arrow pointing at the entrance of a mall says: “Do you remember? This is a shopping mall. It's like buying stuff online, but you don't have to prove you're not a robot”.

In addition to the obvious irony, there is much more: the appeal to consumers to find a new balance between the digitalised and secluded life of lockdown and the life "outside". It’s clear that we are not to return to pre-Covid habits, but it is also clear that the digital and protected dimension, in which we have lived in the past months, is coming to an end and that we need multi-sensory experiences, which involve real comparisons and stimulus.

The pandemic has limited our capability of being social, thus reducing our need to be fashionable, and this has led us to think more consciously about our purchases. Buying frequently was generated by a relational impulsivity. The paradox of the new reality has allowed us to refocus consumption on a family dimension. In recent research by Accenture, it’s highlighted how the attitude of the consumer has changed, and they have become even more attentive to every single item they consider. A large part of the interviewees admitted to having reduced expenses not only as a form of saving, but above all for an increased sense of opportunity and desire to buy only what is useful and necessary. 75% have drastically reduced their share of food waste and 67% claim to buy products that are more respectful of well-being and health.

The demand for local products is constantly growing: proximity becomes synonymous with safety and quality. Proximity, however, is also linked to greater efficiency in shopping: shorter trips to get supplies means more time to devote to family or interests.

The surge in online purchases of these last months is not a vanishing phenomenom: those who have discovered the convenience of e-commerce will not easily go back. These new habits accelerate the change towards a new mode of consumption. UBS predicts that the rise in e-commerce will result in the closure of 100,000 stores by 2025. It is reasonable to think that we will shortly see the setting of a new balance between physical and digital. A new form of interaction, in which the two channels will fully interpenetrate.

Just look at how the more structured retailers have quickly adapted to current scenarios, finding alternative ways to satisfy the needs of their customers. Online purchases that can be exchanged in physical stores and digital catalogs that are increasingly detailed and complete.

The rebalancing and fusion between physical and digital basically passes through data management and the ability to cross multiple sets of data with each other. They are fundamental to understand and manage operational details such as the option for the collection of goods by the customer (location data), their preferences (customer data), and the rules governing the distribution of the different categories of goods (product data). The potential contained in that information is enormous and allows for a 360° understanding of the customer. Never as before, dialogue and consumer understanding are vital to trigger a new course, capable of compensating for the losses and opening new channels.

The customer experience is enriched with unprecedented points of contact, but to manage them well, it is necessary to fully understand what is changing. If the change is here to stay, it becomes mandatory to reflect on the new paradigm of consumption, no longer guided by quantity, but by quality, based on concrete and factual elements and not on aspiration. From the rhetoric of sustainability we are gradually moving on to experimenting with a new value system, which redefines priorities. It will be interesting to observe how much of these unprecedented attitudes will remain rooted once this pandemic is behind us.