After a pandemic period in which many turned to e-commerce, the Accenture 15th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey found that 70% of Gen Z consumers plan to do their holiday shopping in a brick-and-mortar location, but the stores they’re heading to will incorporate some of the digital bells and whistles all consumers have come to appreciate.
“[T]he pandemic forced older generations to overcome their hesitancy to shop online, an ongoing trend identified by our findings,” said Oliver Wright, head of Accenture’s /zigman2/quotes/201711136/composite ACN -1.06% global consumer goods and services group, in the report.
More than half of baby boomers (54%) plan to do most of their holiday shopping online.
“On the flipside, younger consumers – who are already comfortable online – appear to be seeking out services and experiences that go beyond shopping,” Wright said.
“Retailers and consumer goods companies must tap into these behavioral shifts and push forward with their reinvention in order to engage a diverse, multi-generational marketplace of millions of individuals.”
Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -1.38% has announced its entry into the department-store space, following bookstores, its Four-Star Stores, Whole Foods Market and stores that use its Just Walk Out technology. The new store will include features like high-tech dressing rooms and QR codes that will alert associates that customers want to try on an item of clothing, according to The Wall Street Journal .
But the e-commerce giant isn’t alone in its efforts to reimagine the modern store as a more personalized experience.
Nordstrom Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203902116/composite JWN -1.80% , which has its roots in department-store retailing, has also jumped into new formats and technologies with Local stores that have no inventory but lots of services, and the introduction of livestream shopping earlier this year , filmed at its New York City flagship.
Kohl’s Corp. /zigman2/quotes/210414114/composite KSS -2.89% and Macy’s Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201854387/composite M -3.25% have added in-store partnerships, with Sephora shops heading to the former for an “elevated beauty experience” and Toys ‘R’ Us at the latter, part of an effort to broaden the product categories found under its roof.
Macy’s has also proposed a $235 million upgrade to the Herald Square neighborhood surrounding its New York City flagship, with an office tower and transportation access that will make it more integral to the Midtown landscape.
“A new store doing more” is how Cowen describes the transformation, with the analysts group’s three C’s of maximum importance: convenience, culture and curation. Included in that is the use of technology to make transactions between online and in-person seamless, creating physical events that can’t be replicated digitally and tapping into consumer lifestyles with more personalization and creating a sense of community among a retailer’s customer base through engagement.
“How do you start moving towards a delightful experience?” asks Michelle Decker, associate principal at CallisonRTKL, a global architecture and design practice. The answer isn’t simply lots of robots and gadgets, though that’s usually part of the modern store plan.
“The technology in the stores of the past were big, flashy screens, pushing boundaries of technology you wouldn’t see at home,” said Decker. Now it’s about creating a more inclusive environment.
“The store of the future is moving towards more tailored, curated experiences,” she said. “The experience of walking into a store will be different for everyone who crosses the threshold.”
So if the lights are too bright in the fitting room for some customers, perhaps there’s technology installed that will allow customers to dim them. And retailers are learning how to better incorporate a customer’s online preferences into a trip to the store.
“Customer data can be used in a way to make things a little better,” she said.
“Every retailer is trying to understand the customer. So online is the best way to start.”
Decker also suggests that companies determine the different functions that a store space is meant to serve. For example, Nike’s digital Live stores are tailored to be “locally-relevant,” based on shopping patterns and app usage in a geographic area, whether Long Beach, Calif. or Williamsburg, Brooklyn .
Target Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207799045/composite TGT +0.84% stores have become key fulfillment hubs , with pickup services continuing to grow in popularity and cutting the cost of getting items purchased online into a customer’s hand.
With all of these functions, stores have gone beyond just places where shoppers buy stuff, Decker said. In the past, a company scoped out a neighborhood, picked the best spot and set up shop, prepared to ring up sales.
“Now it’s very specific why you want to have this location and there’s discussion among many teams – marketing, branding, architecture, entertainment – to create a store that works for a purpose,” she said.