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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovations, 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 four hot trends (Omniexperience, Smart Shopping, Engagement, and Activism) showcased in 2019 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

In today’s blog, we will explore Trend #1: Omniexperience.


Trend #1: Omniexperience

Customers do not distinguish between digital and physical —why should you?

Physical and online/digital worlds are no longer separate entities, but complementary worlds that customers, especially Millennials and Generation Z, do not consider two separate channels. Instead, they expect a complete shopping experience in a fused digital/physical reality outside of “channels,” supplanted by omniexperience. Today, retailers must create customer experiences that, viewed through customers’ lenses, are smooth, seamless, integrated, and consistent.

Award-winning Innovation Case: Hema, China

Hema is a supermarket that functions as a retail—as well as a fulfillment—center for online shopping. It looks and feels just like a regular supermarket and includes a restaurant and fresh seafood market. Hema fulfills the needs of online shoppers by having in-store staff pick up orders and deliver them.

In a cost-sensitive business environment, it is critical for businesses to streamline their operations while maintaining, or even improving, the overall customer experience within the supermarket. Hema combines both the retail experience with the online fulfillment center into one consolidated venue.

The use of mobile apps is integrated with the shopping experience, online and offline. Customers can whip out their mobile devices and scan the items they want to buy when they are in-store. Via the mobile apps, the store can provide recommendations and suggestions to the customer to guide selection among other similar options. Each of these selections can be placed in the virtual shopping cart and e-payment and delivery of their groceries to a consumer’s home within 30 minutes can be arranged.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Hema integrates retail experience without interfering with fulfillment operations for online orders. Integrating two distinctive functions brings operational efficiency and baseline profitability. It captures and analyzes customer shopping preferences and provides recommendations via the mobile apps, providing choices for the customer. The seamless transaction gives customers time to enjoy the service and shopping experience at the store.

IKEA, Spain

After two very successful pop-up shops and an equally successful temporary store focused on bedrooms (see Retail Innovations 2018), IKEA opened a permanent urban concept in Madrid’s city center in June 2018. One of six international pilots of IKEA’s “store of the future,” the company will use it to test new concepts of stores designed to be in city-center locations.

The store, dedicated entirely to the living room, is 2,000 sqm on three floors, shows 1,000 physical products and sells the full range onsite via online tools.

In contrast to IKEA’s traditional DIY philosophy, it is a huge innovation to adapt its business model to a new “you shop online, we will prepare your order and deliver it to you” concept. Services become part of the offering.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

This innovative urban concept is new proof that IKEA is great at engaging with customers. Now that IKEA products can be bought online, they offer customers a new, more exciting, unique experience at this store, which has been specially localized for Madrid consumers, and is much closer to them, as customers demanded. Digitalization is used for both making the full range accessible and delivering a higher level of entertainment, inspiration, and brand engagement at the store.

Brandless, U. S. A.

Brandless launched in 2017 as an online store that sells everything, including organic and specialty goods, for $3. As a new e-commerce startup offering a wide assortment of own-brand household and food items, Brandless can add value for the consumer by selling quality merchandise without a so-called “brand tax.” Much like other direct-to-consumer startups, such as Everlane and Warby Parker, Brandless wants to cut out the hidden middleman mark-ups from many national brands in grocery stores.

Brandless sells bundles of products, making it easier to take care of needs in one click, at a low cost of $3. Membership eliminates shipping costs and removes the friction of price-comparison shopping.

They launched their first pop-up in May 2018 in Los Angeles that did a spectacular job of educating customers on why its products were different. The store featured a full table, as an example, of vegan products, another of gluten-free, and another of organics. The store also featured educational signage, explaining FSC certification in paper, what EPA safer choice means, and how they define clean beauty. To top it off, the store hosted workshops, a sample station, selfie area, and a product taste testing zone.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Brandless is rewriting brand narratives by selling plainly packaged, high-end staples. Consumers, overwhelmed by choice and living chaotic lives, are fatigued by the narratives brands have constructed about themselves. Brandless has taken a bold step forward in reconciling the paradox of choice for consumers. If it can create this much energy around commodity products, we are intrigued to see how it can expand its lines further.

J.C. Williams Group’s Final Word

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2019 Global Retail Trends & Innovations, but they already begin to illustrate the emergence of “everywhere commerce”: shopping anytime, anywhere, and any way consumers want, including in physical stores, online, via mobile, voice activation, or click & collect. We at J.C. Williams Group expect to see more retailers engage in this way as 2019 progresses.

See 11 MORE Omniexperience concepts and more in 2019 Global Retail Trends & Innovations! Download your free copy now!

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