JWT Forecasts 2013 Retail Trends

Ann Mack JWT Intelligence TrendspottingEach year, JWT Intelligence shares its forecast of trends set to drive consumer behavior in the coming year and beyond. The firm’s eighth annual Trends Report reflects evolutions in technology and its growing impact on retailers and consumers. JWT director of Trendspotting, Ann Mack, left, explains: “New technology continues to take center stage, as we see major shifts tied to warp-speed developments in mobile, social and data technologies.” The Retail Report moves beyond trends to examine how businesses are engaging and reacting to consumer shifts. Here are some of the retail trends JWT forecasts for 2013.

B2C/P2P Partnerships. As the peer-powered marketplace continues to heat up, look for established brands to strike partnerships with fledgling peer-to-peer services as a way to infuse freshness or modernity into their persona, broaden their appeal or get an existing consumer segment to consider the brand in a new light. Both Gap and Pepsi Next recently held promotions with TaskRabbit, which helps users outsource tasks. Initiatives also provide opportunities to learn more about the audience, inner workings and strengths and weaknesses of the P2P world.

Click-and-Collect Shopping. Already gaining popularity in parts of Europe, “click and collect” melds digital and physical commerce by letting customers order online, then pick up the goods at a store nearby. It’s hyper-convenient, with retrieval often at curbside. In Europe, retailers including Tesco and Asda in the U.K. and Ahold in the Netherlands now offer the service. A few U.S. retailers are testing the waters, including Ahold’s Peapod. Online retailers including Amazon and eBay are getting into the pickup game, too. Look for digital-physical hybrids to expand to more categories, such as home improvement.

Clockless Day. Increasingly in this always on, globalized world, life is no longer apportioned into neat on/off divisions. Consumers want to continue with their lives 24/7, be it eating, shopping, exercising, working, etc., and businesses will be expected to cater to those expectations. For example, both Macy’s and Toys “R” Us were open around the clock for at least two days leading up to Christmas 2012.

Cutting out the Middleman. The success of vertically integrated eCommerce players like Warby Parker (eyeglasses), Dollar Shave Club ($1 razor blades), Stella & Dot (jewelry) and Bonobos (menswear) will spur a host of new niche brands that cut out middlemen and sell quality products online at below-market rates. We’ll see a range of upstart challengers as the model extends to more categories, from office supplies (Poppin) to bedding (Crane & Canopy).

Dads in the Aisles. Men are taking on more cooking, cleaning, parenting and shopping duties. As they populate the aisles of supermarkets, drugstores, toy stores and more, we’ll see market research taking the male perspective into account, goods retooled for male appeal and messaging that acknowledges the man’s changing role. “Man up, clean up,” P&G’s Swiffer brand is telling men.

Geofencing. Watch for more brick-and-mortar retailers to launch opt-in mobile programs that send SMS promotions or other messages when consumers are in their stores or within range of a store. While the technology has been in place for a few years, more retailers will start adopting it as a way to combat showrooming and survive in today’s competitive environment. Best Buy, for instance, will be using eBay’s price comparison app, RedLaser, to show shoppers in-store specials and other relevant information. Skin care brand Kiehl’s uses geofencing at its retail outlets and is investigating its use within department stores where Kiehl’s has counters.

Individual Attention. More mass market retailers and hospitality providers will be catering to a growing expectation of superior service. Consumers are seeking out friendly faces who can cater to their individual needs. For instance, Target is testing a “beauty concierge” program, and J. Crew’s recently relaunched personal shopper program, now dubbed Very Personal Stylist, is available for free at all stores. More supermarkets are hiring dietitians to help shoppers make nutritious choices, and more restaurants are pampering patrons by relying on software that can track individual preferences. Watch for this type of service to trickle down from the higher end.

Self-Service. Consumers will be doing ever more for themselves as businesses cut labor costs by adding new self-service options. Self-checkout is becoming more common in retail, and the advent of “smart carts” and mobile “scan and go” apps will put a new spin on the idea. While the benefits of face-to-face interactions are sacrificed, self-service is often more efficient, and today’s consumers frequently prefer to take the reins.

Tablet Shopping. As a wider array of consumers adopt tablets and more retailers embrace the platform’s opportunities, watch for Tablet Commerce to take off. The appeal of tablet shopping includes a bigger screen than smartphones, a more lean-back experience and easier touch browsing than traditional e-commerce, and aggregation apps, like Catalogue, that let shoppers scan multiple catalogs simultaneously. In a 2012 Shop.org/Forrester Research study, about half of merchants surveyed reported higher average orders from tablets than PCs or smartphones. Watch for more creative tablet-based offerings from online retailers as shopaholics develop a new guilty pleasure.

Variable Pricing. Airlines and hotels have long charged different prices for the same seat or room, a practice that’s expanding into more categories with a big boost from technology. Prices are shifting based on time of day, competitors’ pricing, fluctuating demand and individual consumer profiles. For instance: Some Amazon vendors rely on software that constantly adjusts their prices, grocers are starting to use loyalty card data to personalize offers and demand-based pricing is being tested everywhere from parking spaces to restaurants. With the middle market still squeezed, brands will use variable pricing to cater to both spenders and savers.

Window Shopping. Store windows are turning into 24/7 retail platforms, via technologies like interactive touch screens and QR codes. In late 2012, PayPal rolled out a test in Amsterdam’s De 9 Straatjes shopping district in which retailers posted QR codes on their storefronts, enabling shoppers with the campaign’s mobile app to scan the code for purchase links to products in the window. In Germany, shoppers outside one of Adidas’ Neo Label stores were directed to a mobile URL that linked a smartphone with a shopping bag on the window. Consumers could then drag products into the bag and buy them or save them for later purchase.

Amazon. The eCommerce giant is now selling everything from high-end apparel to wine, and has shrunk its delivery times. Amazon may prove an extremely disruptive force, with the rise of “showrooming.” For brick-and-mortar shoppers, Amazon’s Flow app quickly reveals the Amazon price, which is generally hard to beat. The eCommerce brand, which could pass Walmart as the world’s biggest retailer by 2017, according to consultancy ChannelAdvisor, is also mulling physical stores.

Shopping is shifting from an activity that takes place in physical stores or online to a value exchange that can play out in multiple new and novel ways, according to JWT Intelligence. Since almost anything can be a retail channel, due largely to mobile technology, brands must get increasingly creative in where and how they sell their goods.

JWT’s report is the result of quantitative, qualitative and desk research conducted throughout the year. It includes input from JWT planners across more than two dozen markets, and interviews with experts and influencers across sectors including technology, health and wellness, retail, media and academia.