Retail Innovations Blog Series: Trend #4: Activism

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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Retail Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the year, we will explore the hot four trends (Omniexperience, Smart Shopping, Engagement, and Activism) showcased in 2018 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

In today’s blog, we will explore Trend #4: Activism.


Trend #4: Activism

Consumers are increasingly looking to align with brands and retailers that share their values. Activism plays an important part in this, and it means that brands no longer can be a neutral onlooker; they must take a stand on social and political issues or risk losing customers, and even losing sight of their own brand identity. This is how retailers offer the opportunity for all involved to feel they are contributing to a greater purpose when buying or representing a particular brand, resulting in loyal customers, employees, and shareholders.

Social Foodies, Denmark

Social Foodies is a chain that sells sustainable, high-quality sweets, mostly chocolate and ice cream, to consumers in Denmark, to support farmers in Africa to achieve a better life. Most products in the stores are made from raw materials from Africa, where the chain has built a chocolate factory and employs locals from Cape Town to operate it, similarly to a dairy in Mozambique, where locals received 300 cows and an education in agro-business and are able to put food on the table. The chain now has seven stores; most include a small sitting area or café, where customers can enjoy their ice cream or breakfast. The store also presents workshops, so customers can learn how to make its famous cream puffs.

Social Foodies has created a sustainable concept that, as a way to help small farmers in Africa, sells sustainable sweets to consumers. The concept taps into consumers’ desire to do good through their purchases, but, whereas many retailers and brands today want to explore how they can cater to consumers who are increasingly aware of their own consumption, Social Foodies wishes to help push consumer behavior into an even more conscious direction.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Social Foodies produces great products and the sweets are very popular among the consumers. The chain has several times been nominated by AOK, a renowned guide to Copenhagen, as the “Best Sweets in Town,” a prize the company won in 2018.

In addition to making great products, the chain is run by enthusiasts with a common goal to create jobs and education and improve the local economy in third-world countries. Social Foodies is involved in the production process from the small farmer to the final products in the store and controls the entire supply chain.

Everlane, U.S.A.

Everlane, a digital native, is a U.S.-based apparel retailer with a focus on ethical production of clothes. The company has expanded into bricks-and-mortar retail. Stores were launched with the goal of increasing interaction with customers; layout is simple and spacious, and the product line is updated weekly. The store features a lounge and will host a variety of events, such as classes and panels. Check-out locations around the store are loaded with customers’ purchase history.

The company focus on ethical production and transparency is clearly reflected throughout the store in signs, pamphlets, photos and tags on products, with information on the factories where products are produced and where each comes from. Everlane provides a model for how to communicate that the quality is what it says it is. Everlane’s forthright messaging, coupled with its fashion forward aesthetic, has turned customers into loyalists and inspired the startup of other fashion brands.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Since launching the company in 2011 as a direct-to-consumer clothing brand committed to “radical transparency,” the company has been defying the reign of fast-fashion heavyweights like Zara and H&M. Everlane uses its website and social media handles to offer customers a glimpse into its factories around the world, gives voice to the workers making its garments and shares a price breakdown of each product it sells.

Sois Blessed, Germany

Sois Blessed is a 600 sqm concept store and an inspiring place for all who understand fashion, lifestyle and interior as a statement, not a status.

The store presents brands and products with unique stories behind the labels. One hundred percent of the profits of the Sois Blessed collection go to the children at Hope School, a charity project in East London, South Africa. Sois Blessed invites customers to linger in the Day Bar or enjoy modern floral arrangements, vases and ceramics in the beautiful Flower Studio.

The Sois Blessed concept store is making a difference far beyond an opportunity for shopping. The Day Bar and Flower Studio entice customers to spend time, have lunch or just meet for coffee. The Sois Blessed team has created a cozy, but chic atmosphere, which makes the stay as pleasant as possible. Frequently, events, such as readings, concerts and workshops, etc., contribute to create a place of encounter and exchange.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Social responsibility is becoming more and more important for retailers, if they want to make a real difference. Sois Blessed focuses on encouraging and supporting others. With regular events and its unique fashion line, Sois Blessed takes responsibility and emphasizes a major issue of our time, all within an inspiring and welcoming atmosphere.

J.C. Williams Group’s Final Word

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2019 Retail Innovations and Trends, but they already begin to illustrate how important a brand’s advocacy is to customers, as well as the standard to which brands must uphold them. We at JCWG expect to see more brands take up social stances as 2019 progresses and 2020 looms nearer.

See 4 MORE Activism concepts and more in 2019 Retail Innovations and Trends! Download your free copy now!

Retail Innovations Blog Series: Trend #3: Engagement

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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Retail Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the year, we will explore the hot four trends (Omniexperience, Smart Shopping, Engagement, and Activism) showcased in 2018 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

In today’s blog, we will explore Trend #3: Engagement.


Trend #3: Engagement

In retail, interaction between customers and staff sets the stage for a personal shopping experience. When consumers choose to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, they are looking for the personal, human experience that the online world cannot provide. Interaction and engagement in the store with products, staff and brands are essential, allowing for more accurately identifying customer needs, building relationships and loyalty and personalizing the shopping experience. Intensive storytelling and strong content are paramount in resonating with customers and creating an emotional connection to the brand.

mymuesli, Germany

Founded in 2007, mymuesli was the first cereal company in Germany enabling customers (called muesli friends) to customize their own cereal mix online with fully organic ingredients. Additionally, there is a wide range of pre-mixed cereals and breakfast products available online and in more than 50 mymuesli stores. The new store’s layout offers muesli friends and employees room for interaction and communication. Checkout takes place at a kitchen island, where muesli friends can also order smoothie bowls, coffee or to-go products. In the muesli library, guests find a wide selection of muesli creations and lifestyle products.

The new mymuesli store not only offers a wide range of cereals for different individual requirements, but also serves as a social, interactive space. Customers feel welcome in a warm and inspiring atmosphere, where the check-out point is a kitchen island. There is no barrier between staff and muesli friends. Muesli friends are invited to share their mymuesli experiences on Instagram.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

The new mymuesli store concept was developed and designed based on key customer segments and the innovative multichannel brand DNA of mymuesli. Offering many products besides muesli, the store invites customers to linger and get a healthy smoothie or breakfast. Based on target group needs, mymuesli developed new products, such as smoothie bowls and cereal drinks. The store’s layout and design create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, allowing maximum interaction with the products and staff and seek to strengthen the mymuesli experience.

Lee Valley, Canada

Lee Valley is a 40-year-old Canadian company that sells both online and through its 20 retail locations across Canada. Its product is rooted in woodworking and gardening, but expanded its customer offering to include hardware, home and gift products. Through its growth, Lee Valley realized that the knowledge and information it provides customers was just as important — if not more important — than the products. This set a course of creating customer engagement opportunities across its retail network, including in-store events, seminars and drop-ins, online woodworking and gardening newsletters, as well as digital outreach through social media. Each Lee Valley store is outfitted with its own seminar room to host new and existing customers and also offers ongoing demonstrations and engagement opportunities on the showroom floor. Lee Valley is committed to skill building and sharing the joy of creation—this makes it a trusted source for information and knowledge, giving customers the confidence to try.

Lee Valley is a 40-year-old Canadian company that sells both online and through its 20 retail locations across Canada. Its product is rooted in woodworking and gardening, but expanded its customer offering to include hardware, home and gift products. Through its growth, Lee Valley realized that the knowledge and information it provides customers was just as important — if not more important — than the products. This set a course of creating customer engagement opportunities across its retail network, including in-store events, seminars and drop-ins, online woodworking and gardening newsletters, as well as digital outreach through social media. Each Lee Valley store is outfitted with its own seminar room to host new and existing customers and also offers ongoing demonstrations and engagement opportunities on the showroom floor. Lee Valley is committed to skill building and sharing the joy of creation—this makes it a trusted source for information and knowledge, giving customers the confidence to try.

While many of Lee Valley’s products and programs are not novel in themselves, their combination with a coordinated purpose to ensure success for their customers is innovative. These products and programs include:

  • Canadian-designed woodworking tools through its Veritas brand, one of the most respected woodworking brands in the world.
  • A combination of selling channels that include stores, catalogs and websites that work together to serve the customer better.
  • In-store seminars and workshops, where customers can find out how to use the tools they have bought or just learn about shortcuts and new skills in their area of interest. These can include everything from woodworking and bookbinding to gardening and DIY.
  • For customers who cannot make it to a workshop, Lee Valley provides monthly woodworking and gardening newsletters which share techniques, tips and tricks for learning. Many of the articles feature projects from Lee Valley employees, which further emphasize the company’s expertise.
  • All of these products and services have created a community of Lee Valley customers who are fiercely loyal and committed to the brand.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Lee Valley is a true omnichannel operator that started with catalogs and specialized in woodworking but has expanded in purpose and brand. It now provides tools to make everyday tasks in customers’ homes, workshops and gardens easier and better. Lee Valley has made its stores the center of a community of like-minded people who find reward in the creative process.

Muji Hotel, China

The Japanese company Muji, famed for its contemporary lifestyle products, recently opened its first hotel in Shenzhen, China’s fastest-growing city. Located in Shenzhen’s central Upper Hills neighborhood, the hotel is designed to provide a physical experience of the Muji philosophy and its minimalist Japanese style. The hotel has 79 guest rooms, with five different types offered, spanning the fourth to sixth floors. Walls and courtyards are created with materials recycled from the pillars and walls of traditional Chinese houses. The hotel design projects a luxurious concept.

The Japanese company Muji, famed for its contemporary lifestyle products, recently opened its first hotel in Shenzhen, China’s fastest-growing city. Located in Shenzhen’s central Upper Hills neighborhood, the hotel is designed to provide a physical experience of the Muji philosophy and its minimalist Japanese style. The hotel has 79 guest rooms, with five different types offered, spanning the fourth to sixth floors. Walls and courtyards are created with materials recycled from the pillars and walls of traditional Chinese houses. The hotel design projects a luxurious concept.

In addition to offering a soothing sanctuary, the hotel is also home to the biggest Muji store in China, spread across 1,726 sqm, on the second and third floors. The store includes features like an embroidery workshop and custom-made Muji curtains. Another unique feature of the hotel is that everything on display in the hotel rooms is available to purchase. The hotel also boasts additional features such as a diner, library and gymnasium.

Muji Hotel is innovative because it promotes the brand by providing a physical experience of the Muji philosophy and its minimalist Japanese style and through use of its products in the hotel.

  • Besides being a hotel, it is home to the largest Muji store. Everything on display in hotel rooms is for sale at the store in the hotel.
  • The hotel includes an embroidery workshop, where customers can purchase custom-made Muji curtains. The hotel also boasts additional features, such as a diner, library and gymnasium.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Muji’s hotel highlights a very different approach to brands going bricks-and-mortar.  Retailers are opening new and innovative formats that reinvent the wheel. Muji can utilize its retailer and customer expertise to bring a new experience to the forefront.

J.C. Williams Group’s Final Word

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2019 Retail Innovations and Trends, but they already begin to illustrate how valuable engagement with the customer is, especially for digital natives. We at JCWG expect to see more innovation in line with this trend as 2019 progresses.

See 13 MORE Smart Shopping concepts and more in 2019 Retail Innovations and Trends! Download your free copy now!