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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 leadership and promotion news from Pacsun, Calvin Klein and CVS Health.
This week, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies hires a new CEO, while a luxury ecommerce platform taps a successor to its founder. Plus, we’ve got news on top leadership hires and promotions at Pacsun, West Elm and Calvin Klein Americas.
Unilever appoints CEO
Hein Schumacher. (Courtesy photo)
Hein Schumacher will be the next CEO of Unilever, effective July 1. Schumacher comes to the maker of Dove, Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s from Royal FrieslandCampina, where he is credited with leading turnaround efforts at the $11 billion business.
Succeeding the retiring Alan Jope, Schumacher will assume the top job at Unilever as it appears to be on the precipice of change following the appointment of activist investor Nelson Peltz to the board in May.
“The Board looks forward to Hein realising the full potential of Unilever as a winning business which delivers long-term growth and value for all its stakeholders,” said Unilever Chairman Nils Andersen, in a statement.
Brie Olson named co-CEO in Pacsun shakeup
Brie Olson. (Courtesy photo)
Brie Olson was promoted to co-CEO of Pacsun from the role of president. Olson will serve alongside co-CEO Mike Relich. With the move, Alfred Chang will transition to the CEO role at clothing brand Fear of God, which is a Pacsun brand partner. As president, Olson oversaw Pacsun’s AI and metaverse initiative, led a variety of brand partnerships and introduced a gender neutral collection.
The RealReal hires Wainwright's successor
John E. Koryl is joining The RealReal as CEO. Koryl is stepping in to lead the luxury ecommerce platform after founder Julie Wainwright stepped down in June. He comes to the company from the digital arm of Canadian Tire Corporation, and also previously played a key digital transformation leadership role while serving as president of stores and online Neiman Marcus.
West Elm taps Ralph Lauren Home lead as president
Day Korbluth. (Courtesy photo)
Day Kornbluth was named president of West Elm. Kornbluth comes to the Williams Sonoma-owned sustainable home retailer from Ralph Lauren Home, where she served as president. The company credited her track record of growing home furnishing brands with a focus on product and digital innovation. The move follows former West Elm president Alex Bellos' appointment as CEO at Food52 earlier this year.
Vera Bradley shakes up leadership
The travel and accessories retailer Vera Bradley announced a leadership shakeup that resulted in the following:
President Daren Hull, Chief Creative Officer Beatrice Mac Cabe and Chief Revenue Officer Mary Beth Trypus all saw their roles eliminated, and will be leaving the company.
The company will also add the position of SVP of merchandising and design, and is actively conducting a search.
Alison Hiatt joined Vera Bradley as chief marketing officer to oversee digital marketing, customer data and ecommerce. Hiatt brings experience from the food company Salt and Straw.
Pura Vida, which is owned by Vera Bradley, will see co-presidents Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman leave the company. With this, Vera Bradley will acquire a 25% interest in Pura Vida from Thall and Goodman for $10 million, effective January 30.
Vera Bradley said it is making these changes to "drive cost savings, add more focus on marketing and merchandising, and position the Company to deliver steady top- and bottom-line growth."
Master P named chairman of Launch Cart
Percy "Master P" Miller. (Courtesy photo)
Percy “Master P” Miller was appointed chairman of the board at Launch Cart, an ecommerce platform that bills itself as an alternative to Shopify. Alongside a rap career that yielded 90s hits with his label No Limit Records, Miller brings a track record as an entrepreneur in food and entertainment. “With his entrepreneurial spirit and deep understanding of the power of business, our partnership will make it easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to realize their dreams of starting an online business, building a brand, and generating income,” said cofounder Bernt Ullmann.
Kohler to lead Calvin Klein Americas
Donald Kohler. (Courtesy photo)
Donald Kohler was named president of Calvin Klein Americas by parent company PVH Corp. Kohler brings experience from a 15-year career in retail from Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo and Diesel. The company said his expertise includes direct-to-consumer, third-party driven business models and ecommerce. The new comes on the heels of the appointment of Inditex executive Eva Serrano as global brand president at Calvin Klein.
Skims appoints chief commercial officer
Robert Norton is joining Skims as chief commercial officer, and will lead international expansion. Norton joins the Kim Kardashian-founded shapewear brand from Moncler, where he served as president of the Americas. Over a two-decade career, he also previously served as CEO of the Americas for Roberto Cavalli and was an executive at Ralph Lauren.
“I have been a fan of Robert’s for several years and believe him to be a rare, creatively minded executive who knows how to build both a brand and a business,” said Jens Grede, cofounder and CEO of Skims, in a statement. “We are excited to have Robert on the team as we continue the evolution of SKIMS into a global retail brand.”
CVS Health creates chief product officer role
CVS Health announced a pair of appointments:
- David Joyner will join the company as EVP and president of pharmacy services, which serves employers, health plans and government. Joyner previously worked with CVS Health, and has 34 years of experience.
- Amy Bricker was named EVP and chief product officer for the consumer. She assumes the newly-created role to head consumer products and innovation after serving as president of Express Scripts.