3 ways the boundaries of retail are expanding

For more from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show on January 14 – 16 in New York City, visit the official recap.

For more from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show on January 14 – 16 in New York City, visit the official recap.

How should retailers view the industry’s future at a time of rapid change? Presenting at NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, Kate Ancketill, CEO of retail trends consultancy GDR Creative Intelligence, described the need for “platform thinking,” where retailers offer radically diverse sets of experiences and products across an unprecedented number of channels.

Trends such as market fragmentation, changing consumer behavior, overstoring and the rise of experiences versus products are fundamentally changing the retail landscape. In Ancketill’s view, retailers must adapt by being more than retailers. “The retailers best positioned in the future will be those who adopt a more expansive definition of retail itself … open[ing] our minds to what retail can be,” she said.

Retailers of all sizes must now think like Amazon and other platform-style companies, finding new, creative offerings that both “sweat assets and delight consumers.” Saying the “retail machine” is broken, Ancketill described the need for legacy retail to “build something that is more dynamic, adaptable and responds to a fragmented market.”

But how? Retailers who are successful in this approach are incorporating the rich array of new technologies and data now available, while also maximizing the best of what they are right now, allowing them to expand offerings and experiences across new locations, channels and moments across the customer journey.  

While the industry is in the initial stages of this evolution, retail pioneers have launched experiments that illustrate what this means in the real world:

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Entering new channels and contexts
Retailers are seizing new channels, locations and moments to revamp the customer journey. Companies are partnering with General Motors and its Marketplace app to enable in-car purchases for 4 million vehicles, while Lufthansa works with a grocery chain to offer in-flight shopping for its customers so their kitchen isn’t empty when they return home. Or consider a European consumer electronics retailer that uses an AR assistant that guides customers around the store and describes product features.

Going beyond traditional competencies
Early movers are stretching their brand with offerings that straddle categories and reach beyond the expected. Castorama, a French DIY retailer, sells wallpaper that connects to an interactive, tablet-based media experience for children and parents to better bond through interactive story time. BuzzFeed now offers a smart hotplate that helps consumers prepare dishes from its Tasty recipe database, which already has 107 million users.

Focusing on lifestyle
Retailers are tapping consumer demand for unique, lifestyle-focused experiences. Cotopaxi offers customers access to special events that embody the brand’s focus on the outdoors and social purpose, while Museum of Ice Cream attracts customers with one-of-a-kind selfie backdrops to build personal brand. British retailer John Lewis provides a concierge service to connect consumers with its classes on topics like hair dressing and tech training, and Toyota has tailored its car-sharing service to incorporate nearby activities and experiences.

These examples offer a window into retail’s “platform” future. Forward-thinking retailers are embracing a growing variety of experiences, offerings and channels. They’re evolving away from a narrow set of offerings focused on a large, homogenous market and toward a wide breadth of offerings for an increasingly fragmented market.

The result is a more exciting, more diverse industry in which retailers are constantly pushing the boundaries of what they offer and what they do. Watch the full session below.

Retail trend watch: Inspiration beyond Amazon for transformation

For more stories from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, visit the official recap page.