Convenience, Connection & Curation, three dimensions to the Future of Shopping


There’s been plenty of ink spilt on the topic of the threat posed by online retailing to the existence of physical retail stores.  Australian retailers need to continue to challenge themselves to think about how they can future proof their offer; by offering something that the online retailers simply can’t: a sense of community and human connection.

We’ve spoken with thousands of shoppers on multiple projects and have identified a recurring theme: people feel disconnected from their community and believe shopping centres can rekindle this relationship.

In days of old, towns had a central area called the town square. The square was a clearing house for traders, a place for permanent and temporary stalls, a location for festivals, taverns, stables, monuments and even public executions. It was a gathering place for villagers to find out about the world around them while they bought the goods they needed.

Today, we don’t have a town square. Cars and commuting disconnect communities. We have the internet and TV to learn about the world around us. And so shopping centres are just places where we buy goods, eat food, have a drink, and maybe watch a movie. As shoppers, we tend to move through shopping centres with a very task-orientated mentality. Every now an

As Australian retailers challenge themselves to future proof their offer; the important role they play in the simplicity of convenience, connection and curation should not be forgotten.

We’ve spoken with thousands of shoppers on multiple projects, the themes are people feel time poor, stressed by life pressures wherever or whoever they are, feeling disconnected from community and seeking places for a respite from the speed of modern life.

In days of old, towns had a central area, the town square. The square was a clearing house for traders, a place for permanent and temporary stalls, a location for festivals, taverns, stables, monuments and even public executions. It was a where the community heard out about the world around them as they connected over the purchases of daily necessities.

The wonderful thing about the town square was that the people in it had a collective memory, they knew who you were, where you came from and gave proactive advice relevant to your context!

Today, disconnected by commuting, schedules and technology, we struggle to find the time and place for connection. Without smart curation and digital backbones, shopping centres today are just transactional places for buying goods, eating food, and maybe watching a movie. The recognition of the person has been lost in the scale of the modern shopping centre.

This is not to say shopping centres haven’t already adapted. Their tenant mixes have moved beyond pure retailing to include experiences like entertainment and food.  This isn’t enough.

In an article on issue repetition by by Shep Hyken the pain is identified;

“overall customers report having to repeat information 50% of the time they interact with companies- much of this the result of channel switching behaviour. Repetition increases effort by 60%!”*

In our own research, shoppers have shared that they are happy to share their data, as long as retailers do something sensible with it, such has smooth their shopping experience, curate experience or offers.

So, what can shopping centres and retailers do? They need to invest to reimagine their retail mix, entertainment and importantly also the digital backbone. Become the facilitator in a convenient connection for shoppers with experiences curated around the connection. This requires a collective memory of who your shopper is and what they enjoy!

One of the key insights across our work in the last 12 months has been the need for companies to provide shoppers and customers with proactive advice, guidance, transparency and support. Provide clear steps and advise next steps to anticipate. This builds connection and trust.

Retailers can cultivate community and trust. By understanding their audience, they can offer value beyond product.  Culture Kings in Australia have turned shopping into a full sensorial experience, teen boys (once thought of as the impossible shopping target) are flocking to buy their clothes and accessories, while enjoying DJs and barber shops all within the Culture Kings Store.  Bloomingdale’s collaborated with over 70 millennial beauty lovers to co-create a new cosmetics store, using the Consumer Collaboration Square (Insites Consulting proprietary platform), they reimagined cosmetics.  The result was the launch of Glowhaus, providing a vastly different experience than traditional department store beauty counters.  “It’s a space to browse and play in a low-pressure environment, anchored by a play table to hang out around, try products at and take selfies”, Stacie Borteck, Bloomingdale’s VP & Divisional Merchandize Manager of Cosmetics.  Glowhaus was awarded the WWD Beauty Inc Retailer of the year award.

Glowhaus boutique instore display

For all the talk that experiences are the salvation for shopping centres, we should remember that the most powerful experiences are the simplicity of connections with others, managed in a proactive way, this provides a third dimension to the future of shopping.

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