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 with.

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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