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How have you changed in the last five years?
For professionals considering how to connect with consumers, it can be helpful to think about how habits changed amid a pandemic and the growth of digital experiences.
“At this moment in time, it’s really valuable to remind ourselves of how our lives have changed and take that with us as we think about our businesses,” said Wendy Liebmann, CEO and Chief Shopper of WSL Strategic Retail during a presentation on Monday at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Total Store Expo in Boston.
This certainly plays out in how shopping behavior has changed over the last five years.
To name just a few of the modes that have grown: Shoppers are ordering online, picking up items, then sticking around the store to shop. More shoppers are using subscription services. QR codes are prevalent in stores. Gaming is not only a space for entertainment, but a gateway to a wider experience that includes shopping through the metaverse. Cryptocurrency is a payment option.
There was change happening pre-pandemic, it accelerated when COVID-19 arrived and it’s not going away.
The period of re-emergence from the pandemic can bring another moment of big shifts, and it's not only about the return to stores. Shoppers are experiencing a duality, Liebmann said: There’s uncertainty about what’s ahead, both in terms of the economy and the pandemic. But at the same time, shoppers are guided by the more insistent feeling that, “I want my life back.”
Liebmann described key characteristics of consumers today, as compared to eight years ago, from WSL research titled How America Shops.
The shopping population is increasingly younger, with nearly half being under the age of 40. It's more diverse, and families are larger. With 18% growth in the last eight years, Gen Z and millennials are in the driver's seat for trends.
“It’s the younger population influencing the rest of us,” Liebmann said.
Shoppers are being more particular about their purchases during a period of rising prices amid inflation, and seeking longer life out of those products that they do buy. Nearly half of shoppers surveyed were more cautious, while almost four out of 10 shoppers said they are cutting back to pay for basics. The elevation of price to the priority level isn't absolute, however. At the same time, one in five shoppers said they will still cut back on certain items to pay for products they believe are worth it.
For a brand of retailer, this “redefines” the competitive set, Liebmann said. It’s not just a question of competing against brands who sell similar products, but also for overall share of a consumer’s wallet.
Shoppers are stressed. When it comes to wellness, shoppers cite stress and anxiety as the top area they are seeking to treat. Six out of 10 Gen Z respondents feel they are managing this condition.
Shoppers are taking a more holistic view of how they take care of themselves. This means not only general considerations about combating illness, but also eating healthy, drinking water and seeking continuous improvement. They are constructing a framework for wellness, and adding products and services within that.
Shoppers are also “revolutionary,” said Liebmann. When shoppers are making buying decisions, they have elevated expectations not just about the products they shop, but also how companies treat workers and serve their communities. They seek brands and retailers that align with their values, and show they are caring for others.
Shoppers are turning to a wider range of stores and commerce experiences. The number of channels shoppers engaged in a three-month period increased 37% over the last eight years, Liebmann said. As surfaces expand, there are room channels to work together. Liebmann shared that two-thirds of shoppers who go to a store for curbside end up parking the car and going into the store. Pickup that starts online can drive in-store purchases.
There are also opportunities to expand the number of surfaces where a brand reaches consumers by selling directly, and through social media. Livestreaming is becoming a tool to broadcast sales events.
“It’s not just the ecommerce revolution we’ve seen over the last decade or so, it’s the way that delivers new points of connection,” Liebmann said.
Consumers and retailers approach these shifts in different ways. For instance, while a brand must align inventory and distribution for each channel, a shopper doesn't think about how a product gets to them. Rather they are only considering what experience will deliver the right product for a given moment and mindset. At times, they may need to obtain a product on a set date. At others, they may be fine waiting and want to do research, or browse in-person. They are looking to shop for “whatever they want, wherever they are," Liebmann said.
For shoppers, the ease of switching between modes is designed to be easy. After all, convenience is the goal. But the changes taking place create complexity for brands and retailers. Don't lose sight of the fact that the goal should be meeting shoppers where they are.
“For all of those who are manufacturers, brands, you are not the focus anymore,” Liebmann said. “What you need to understand and retailers need to understand is the journey because that journey has become so much more fragmented.”
The trick is to make sure that adding more layers and even products to that journey doesn’t make things messier for shoppers. Rather than crowding the digital shelf, create human experiences to offer connection along the way. To determine the right approaches, pay attention to where shoppers are, and how their lives are changing.
“Shoppers lead you to the future if you follow them,” Liebmann said.
Trending in Shopper Experience
On the Move has the latest from Amazon, Lovesac and more.
This week, leadership is changing at GameStop, Sorel and Beautycounter. Meanwhile, key executives are departing at Amazon, Wayfair and Lovesac.
Here’s a look at the latest shuffles:
GameStop CEO fired
GameStop announced the termination of Matthew Furlong as CEO on Wednesday. A brief statement did not provide a reason for the firing.
With the move, Chewy founder and activist investor Ryan Cohen was named executive chairman of the video game retailer. Cohen will be responsible for capital allocation and overseeing management.
It came as the company reported a 10% year-over-year decline in net sales for the first quarter. Meanwhile, the company’s net loss improved by 62%.
In an SEC filing, GameStop further added this “We believe the combination of these efforts to stabilize and optimize our core business and achieve sustained profitability while also focusing on capital allocation under Mr. Cohen’s leadership will further unlock long-term value creation for our stockholders.”
Cohen was revealed as GameStop's largest shareholder when he disclosed a 10% stake in the retailer in 2020. GameStop went on to become a leading name in the meme stock rise of 2021.
Sorel president steps down
Mark Nenow is stepping down as president of the Sorel brand in order to focus on his health.
After rising to the role in 2015, Nenow spearheaded a transformation of Columbia Sportswear-owned Sorel from a men’s workwear brand to a fashion-focused brand that led with a women’s offering of boots, sandals and sneakers.
“Mark led the brand to sales of $347 million in net sales in 2022,” said Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle, in a statement. “His leadership has been invaluable to this company, and we wish him the very best.”
Columbia will conduct a search for Nenow’s replacement. Craig Zanon, the company’s SVP of emerging brands, will lead Sorel in the interim.
Beautycounter appoints interim CEO
Beautycounter appointed board member Mindy Mackenzie as interim CEO, succeeding Marc Rey. According to the brand, Rey and the board “mutually decided to transition to a new phase of leadership for Beautycounter.”
McKenzie, a former executive at Carlyle, McKinsey and Jim Beam, will lead the company as it conducts a search for a permanent CEO. Additionally, former Natura & Co CEO Roberto Marques will join Beautycounter’s board as chair.
As part of the transition, Nicole Malozi is also joining the company as chief financial officer. She brings experience from Tatcha, Nike, and DFS Group Limited.
Amazon’s North America fulfillment chief departs
Melissa Nick, a VP of customer fulfillment for North America at Amazon, will leave the company, effective June 16, CNBC reported. Nick joined the company in 2014, and oversaw a region that included nearly 300 fulfillment centers. After doubling its supply chain footprint during the pandemic, Amazon recently reorganized its fulfillment operations to take a regional approach, as opposed to a national model that often resulted in items shipping across the country.
Wayfair’s chief commercial officer to retire
Jon Blotner (Courtesy photo)
Steve Oblak will retire from the role of chief commercial officer at home goods marketplace Wayfair. With the move, Jon Blotner will be promoted to chief commercial officer.
"Steve has served as a critical part of our leadership team and played a pivotal role in Wayfair's growth, helping us grow from a $250 million business when he joined to $12 billion in net revenue today,” said Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah, in a statement. “He oversaw countless milestones, from helping to launch the Wayfair brand as we brought together hundreds of sites into a single platform, to launching new categories, business lines, and geographies while overseeing our North American and European businesses, to leading our debut into physical retail.”
Blotner previously oversaw exclusive and specialty retail brands, as well as digital media at Wayfair. Before joining the company, he served as president of Gemvara.com prior to its 2016 acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway.
Lovesac announces CFO transition
Furniture retailer Lovesac said Donna Dellomo will retire as EVP and CFO, and move to an advisory role, effective June 30. Dellomo was with Lovesac for six years.
Keith Siegner was appointed as the next EVP and CFO. He brings experience as CFO of esports company Vindex, as well as executive roles at Yum! Brands, UBS Securities and Credit Suisse.
Additionally, Jack Krause will retire from the role of chief strategy officer, effective June 30. His responsibilities will be divided between CEO Shawn Nelson and president Mary Fox.
“Since joining Lovesac, Jack has played an instrumental role in transforming the Company into a true omni channel retailer by helping expand our physical touchpoints and digital platform as we continue to disrupt the industry,” said Nelson, in a statement.
NRF adds board members
The National Retail Federation announced the addition of five new board members. They include:
- Marguerite Adzick, founder and CEO, Addison Bay
- Harley Finkelstein, president, Shopify
- Ian Kahn, partner, PwC
- Sharon Leite, CEO, Ideal Image
- Carrie Tharp, VP, strategic industries, Google Cloud