Offering consumers ‘experiences’ is the future of shopping

The future of shopping will require retailers and shopping centres to
embrace “community builders”, use “emotionally intelligent” staff to act as
brand experiences, and offer experiences to connect with consumers, a new
report commissioned by the owners of Centre:MK has found.

The Milton Keynes shopping centre owners, Hermes Investment Management
and AustralianSuper, commissioned foresight consultancy The Future
Laboratory to reveal the key trends that owners and managers of retail and
leisure destinations must consider in order to survive and thrive in the
decade ahead.

According to the report, by 2025, a new breed of consumer will be using
retail and leisure destinations across the globe and shopping centres and
retailers need to adapt by considered these three identified consumer
groups – community builders, hero hunters and service synergists.

Community Builders highlights consumers who go to malls in search of
“communal experiences,” highlighting the shopping trend of offering retail
space and immersive experiences that connect with a like-minded community.

The report notes that ‘community builders’ feel that purchasing of
products goes “hand-in-hand with social interactions” to drive loyalty to
retail destinations and that stores will need to become hubs of activity,
with ‘rewards’ such as exclusive products, immersive experiences that
enhance brand awareness, or lifestyle services which aim to provide simple
solutions for busy modern lifestyles.

Driving demand for retail community is Generation Z consumers, with 75
percent stating that they prefer stores that provide a “memorable and
encouraging offer”, according to the report, with 50 percent of
20-year-olds searching for enhanced retail experiences from
bricks-and-mortar spaces.

The second trend is ‘Hero Hunters”, which states that future shoppers
will place emphasis on brands’ ethical behaviours, and they will hunt out
“localised, community-oriented spaces that give back, or brands that
specifically employ and support people from local areas”.

Offering consumers ‘experiences’ is the future of shopping

Last year, the Edelman Trust Barometer identified that 56 percent of
consumers already regard ethical and open business practices as important
in building belief in a brand and according to The Future Shopper report,
this belief is set to “grow substantially”, and will shape the retailers,
destinations and activities that the future shopper will wish to engage

The report adds that consumers are already seeking brands whose values
reflect their own, with an increase in ethical purchases in the UK, with
the sector now valued at 38 billion pounds, according to The Ethical
Consumer Markets report 2016 published by Triodos Bank.

The Future Shopper report reveals that consumers want retail staff to
be brand ambassadors

The final trend focuses on service, and the changing way in which it is
perceived and valued by consumers, with ‘Service Synergists’ shoppers
expecting staff to be brand ambassadors and be knowledgeable and
enthusiastic collaborators in their purchasing experience.

The Future Shopper report states that 78 percent of shoppers regard
sales staff with a detailed product knowledge and confidence with in-store
technology as key in driving brand loyalty towards a retail destination,
which means that retail and leisure destinations will need to employing
“emotionally intelligent, highly motivated, well paid ‘brand fans’ who are
knowledgeable about the brands, stores and experiences available” in a
destination such as Centre:MK.

Commenting on the trends, Kathryn Bishop, deputy foresight editor at The
Future Laboratory, and author of The Future Shopper report, said in a press
release: “Over the next ten years, a series of powerful new social,
cultural and technological driving forces will reshape consumers’
expectations of retail and leisure destinations.

“Tomorrow’s consumers will seek a greater sense of belonging, which
malls can facilitate, complete transparency from brands, and to have
engaging experiences with staff. The smart destinations are those that
recognise the changes are happening now and respond, rather than waiting,
which will be too late.”

Ed Sellick, asset manager of Hermes Investment Management added: “This
report reveals a number of fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour that
are too significant to ignore. At Centre:MK, we are embracing how
consumers are changing and are adapting our own offering to ensure we
remain relevant and compelling.

“Consequently, we are investing to enhance the experience we provide and
the service our retailers offer through employee investment, ensuring that
consumer expectations are consistently met and surpassed. We aim to work
more closely than ever with our brands as collaboration will be the key to
future success as a destination.”

Offering consumers ‘experiences’ is the future of shopping

Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper both added in the press
release that they are currently implementing the ‘Re-imagining an Icon’
strategy following the findings of the report and will be investing over 50
million pounds in Centre:MK’s offering, environment and experience. These
initiatives include transforming Sunset Walk into a premium shopping
destination within the shopping cente, building a new multi-storey carpark
adjacent to John Lewis, delivering a brand new guest services facility on
Deer Walk and implementing comprehensive world-class customer service
training across the Centre:MK team.

Centre:MK has more than 200 shops, restaurants and cafes, and is
anchored by John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser, and Next. Other
tenants include Primark, Mothercare, River Island, Cath Kidston, Quiz,
Hobbs, TK Maxx, Joules, Jigsaw, and Yours Clothing.

Images: courtesy of Centre:MK


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