What does the future of retail look like? That’s always one of the big talking points when thousands of retail professionals get together.
At the retail industry’s annual trade show MAPIC, held in Cannes, France, multiple conversations centred round the impact of rapidly evolving technology, the challenges of brand building in the digital age and innovative new ways to improve the customer experience.
Within these mega-trends, there were four themes that consistently came up over the course of the three-day event through presentations, panel discussions and side-line conversations:
1. Food delivery: a diversion?
The likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats are transforming the food retail industry since bursting onto the scene just a few years ago and bringing consumers their favourite restaurant food direct to their door. Speaking during a session hosted by PropertyEU, JLL’s head of EMEA Foodservice Consulting, Jonathan Doughty, says: “The impact on retail has been profound. Delivery has opened up opportunities for people to eat more easily and it’s changed the variety on offer. However, a really smart move will be when food operators own their own delivery network, which they can control and profit from.”
Similarly, James Brown, head of EMEA research and strategy at JLL, describes food delivery as an emerging ‘science’ with different operations and lease lengths than fashion retail: “As food and beverage grows up it is going to reach a point of saturation and there needs to be a better science behind it.”
Indeed, food and beverage is one of the big growth areas within retail with more space than ever before being given over to restaurants and food outlets in malls, shopping centres and high streets worldwide.
2. More born-on-the-internet brands
Social trends are inspiring new brands with a few already taking the retail world by storm. One of the most prolific participants in this year’s MAPIC was Australian brand T2 Tea, a purveyor of fine and funky teas and tea accessories which was bought in 2014 by Unilever. T2 grew its business online and boasts a loyal social media following across Instagram and Facebook, in particular, targeting tea enthusiasts worldwide with their vibrant take on an age-old obsession.
Commenting on the impact that social trends have on a brand success stories, Doughty says it’s all about the consumer’s desire for ‘quality, culture and craftsmanship’ of products.
Italian chocolatier CioccolatItaliani is one such example of a brand building a reputation around craftsmanship. During a panel session on Emerging Food Trends, the audience heard how the brand has been built on two principles: firstly, Made in Italy – its authenticity is built on the ‘world’s best coco’ and the heritage of Italian chocolate, and, secondly, advocacy – social media impact has cemented CioccolatItaliani’s position both in-store and online.
3. China: don’t underestimate this nation of shoppers
This year, on China’s version of Black Friday – Singles Day, which took place on 11 November – Chinese online marketplace Alibaba traded $18 billion worth of goods. It’s estimated that it will take 9.9 billion cardboard boxes to ship all of these items to Chinese shoppers, for whom shopping is now a national pastime. What’s more, these consumers travel. Around 129 million Chinese tourists are predicted to travel overseas in 2016, according to Fung Global Retail and Tech, are set to spend an average of $1,783 each on goods – up more than 6 percent on 2015 and an amount that has been steadily rising each year.
During a panel session about China and South East Asia’s impact on global retail, JLL’s James Assersohn says: ‘It’s not El Dorado anymore, it’s established. The Chinese have a totally different attitude to consumption.”
4. A vision of the future: digital dressing rooms and pop-ups
Online retail is merging with brick and mortar stores in the fitting rooms and many agree that this is one example of technology that will come to define the future of retail.
David Zoba, Chairman of JLL’s Global Leasing Board, used Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship New York store as an example. Its fitting rooms house connected wall mirrors, which can show shoppers items in different colours, sizes and styles to match what they’ve brought in to try on. Once they’ve tried on an item, shoppers can touch the mirror to place an order or save items to buy later. Working alongside a mobile app, the fitting room can even adjust ambient light and temperature to give customers a full seasonal overview of their outfit.
Meanwhile, for retailers keen to test the water, pop up shows will play a longer-term role in market expansion and tech adoption. From short-term installations in shopping centres to 18-month semi-permanent stores, pop-ups are evolving to give brands more flexibility.
This story was first published on Real Views.