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Given the social and commercial disruption of the last two years, shopping trends have been hard to predict. Despite having more consumer data available to make forecasts, increasing uncertainty surrounding retail environments can make predictions futile.
Disorder in the form of higher living costs, increased government taxes to alleviate covid expenditure and talks of inflation mean retail sales forecasts fluctuate. After a promising end to 2021, we’ve already seen expectations tempered significantly by some industry leaders.
But for Robert Lockyer, Chief Client Officer and founder of Delta Global, a sustainable packaging solutions provider for luxury brands, there are several unstoppable shifts that retailers can depend on, each one united by a key item that continues to gain importance: packaging.
During the early weeks of a new year, I spend considerable time and thought consuming retail predictions and forecasts, and the past few years have been especially enlightening.
Even the most experienced retailers cannot confidently make predictions in the circumstances with which we have all become accustomed. But this uncertainty itself has born and fortified trends that I believe will be cemented as retail norms this year.
These are the shifts that have resulted from faster digital adoption, which occurred as retail adjusted to coronavirus restrictions. It has been claimed this adjustment advanced the use of digital interactions between consumers and businesses by several years.
And it’s those shifts that offer much more certainty of implementation than, say, fanciful talk of metaverse shopping (no, H&M is not opening a metaverse store). Those kinds of predictions tend to underestimate the material realities and needs of both consumer and retailer.
They also tend to overlook the increasing value and importance of packaging to the shopping experience. Packaging is the vehicle which will deliver these shifts, and, as we will discuss, bridge the ‘new’ retail experience with essential elements of the ‘old’ one.
With much talk of a mass move to online purchasing, it might be easy to view brick-and-mortar stores as increasingly redundant. And of course, the growing importance of ecommerce is undeniable – Adobe claims global ecommerce sales last year exceeded $4 trillion, so a robust digital presence is, of course, crucial.
Yet, 80% of retail sales occur in physical stores; they remain the principal destination to buy a product. Given the convenience of online shopping, we might conclude that consumers still enjoy physical shopping as a pastime, with the social experience of shopping outstripping the advantages of ecommerce.
So why experiential stores? The answer is not that we need experiential stores to compete with ecommerce, but that we can use them to win the loyalty of new and existing customers.
If a consumer enjoys shopping in your store more than a competitor’s, the result is an obvious one: increased sales.
To glimpse the vast potential experiential shopping has, consider Nike’s Rise store in Guangzhou. It takes data garnered from its member app to host in-store events tailored to customer preferences. Its stock is selected in this way too.
But it’s the stores entry-level use of QR codes and mobile phone integration that will most influence new shifts in shopping. The codes can instantly deliver product information, such as sizing, fit and availability. And once the consumer returns home, packaging that incorporates these codes can open styling advice and exclusive content.
And the more the consumer uses mobile integration, the more the instore experience can be curated to the individual or the local population. The instore experience becomes one that reflects the preferences of your customer in a way the traditional market research cannot.
The UK click and collect market, pre-pandemic, was worth around €6.9 billion. By next year, it will be worth around €12 billion.
One of the concerns retailers have about ecommerce, especially those who sell products at the premium end of the price spectrum, is that it removes aspects that justify higher pricing. The sense of excitement, discovery and personal care afforded by attentive, knowledgeable staff is vanquished.
And those concerns are valid. The experience of a consumer collecting a package can be a cold one. Too many retailers consider the collection process to be little more than an administrative procedure.
Click and collect represents a huge missed opportunity. Supplying the collector with an experience that begins with an online purchase is an assured way of winning returning customers. The brand heritage, stories and values conveyed on ecommerce platforms should be continued at – and after – the collection process.
For this reason, I expect to see more click and collect specific packaging used in-stores. The packaging’s utility as an interface with a client will deliver what is lost online, which is, in short, a feeling of personal care, and the excitement of discovery.
This can be addressed with in-package messaging and inserts. This should acknowledge the sales journey of the customer, thank them for visiting the store and give an unboxing experience that optimally presents the product with a sense of considered occasion.
This type of unboxing experience will be essential for retailers to profit from viral ecommerce.
Social media retail is worth about $36 billion (about $110 per person in the US). A key growth area here is purchases completed because a product or brand has gone viral, organically being recommended and shared, rather than sales made from targeted advertising.
To witness how rapidly viral ecommerce is growing and how effective it can be, try viewing the hashtag ‘TikTokMadeMeBuyIt’. A year ago, it didn’t exist. Now it has well over three billion views, with content that features regular users happily recommending a host of products to buy.
Packaging that considers the unboxing experience can entice views, harnessing the popularity of YouTube videos to create shareable content, centering your product and packaging.
This type of packaging shares the same principals we seek from a click and collect package. Inserts, a sense of occasion and discovery, products displayed and highlighted in a way to extract excitement and surprise … the only limits here are the those imposed by our imaginations.
When we consider retail shifts in 2022, we are in essence thinking about the consumer experience. Predictions of trends may waver in times of unparalleled change and uncertainty. But as the consumer moves away from conventional habits, packaging can supply what traditional retail has lost.