High-price workarounds, small formats that deliver big and hidden pearls of joy. These are among the five big themes our WSL scouts discovered on their Retail Safari® treasure hunts in 2023. Learn how Popshelf, Air Jordon’s World of Flight, Rouse’s Market and others took on innovation in their own ways.
Is Your Store or Website a Natural Habitat For Change?
Retail innovation can be like a banana: fresh today, old tomorrow. Sure, there’s value in the familiar, but it must be smartly evolving familiarity. The shopping trip must combine the convenience, selection and value shoppers have always insisted on with treasure-hunt innovations that bring adventure and discovery to deliver a happy trip that makes shoppers smile.
Because if there’s one thing we learned in 2023, shoppers will not wait for it here if they can get it more joyfully there. And “it” includes everything from groceries to baby clothes.
This is why WSL regularly sends our global network of trained scouts out on Retail Safaris®. These excursions are the fodder for our themed reports that summarize the most inspiring retail innovations in the U.S. and abroad, and what these ideas might offer for the future of your business.
In 2023, WSL’s Retail Safari® scouts tracked more than 75 retail, brand and digital innovators in the U.S., Europe and Asia. That’s a lot, yet as we culled through these many expeditions, familiar stories kept resurfacing. We’ve distilled them into five big themes.
WSL’s Top Five Retail Safari® Themes of 2023
Meeting Shoppers Who are Working Around Inflation
Nine in 10 shoppers told us they expected higher prices to stick in 2023, and they were quick to find new ways to save money. So in our Retail Safari®, “How to Attract Shoppers During a ‘Permanent’ Price Correction,” we searched to see which retailers and brands were helping shoppers live within their stretched budget in inventive ways. At Popshelf, we discovered, price-conscious customers could build their own mops starting at just $2 – making an easy-to-put-off item a must-have. And a Tesco supermarket in London offers its reward members a hard-to-resist alternative to dining out: a selection of “Meal Deal” lunch combinations, with sides and drinks, for just £3.
Redefining ‘Ease’ with More Efficiency
While frugality is top of mind for 87% of shoppers, many will pay more to save time – especially Millennials with children. So our scouts sought stores that use technology, locations and formats to address the perennial quest for convenience. Highlights of “Shopping Made Easier” include a L’Oréal Beauty Hub at LaGuardia Airport that smartly turns “minutes into moments” through a curated selection of essentials, including a grab-and-go station. The Texas grocery chain H-E-B has added actual convenience stores, called Fresh Bites, directly outside its full-size locations to give time-strapped customers a choice. And Sprouts Farmers Market in New Jersey provides ease through the mobile AI tool One Quin, which answers customer questions, such as product ingredients and locations.
Mixing Social Media’s Influence Into the Mortar
When it comes to getting the attention of Gen Z and Gen Alpha shoppers, the biggest competitor retailers and brands may face is social media. So we sent our scouts to test stores in Tokyo, Paris and Brighouse, England, for a fresh perspective of how social media shapes in-store discovery. In “Clicks to Bricks: How to Attract Young, Digital-Savvy Shoppers to the Store,” we uncovered a content creation studio at Air Jordon’s World of Flight (Tokyo), where visitors can record their own product reviews to post on social media. And the online beauty brand JustMyLook has designed its only store to serve as an outlet for TikTok’s most viral products (Brighouse, England) with a central display of QR codes that link to what’s trending. Back here in the U.S., retailers are looking for space to permanently place social media-launched categories, such as menopause relief.
Experience Can Buy, and Sell, Happiness
Shoppers are still adjusting to the one-two-punch of the Covid pandemic and inflation. How can retailers help them cope? These stores, explored for our Retail Safari®, “Unlocking the Door to (Shopper) Happiness,” use joy as a coping tool. At Babylist’s “store of the future” in Los Angeles, happiness is delivered by displaying gifts not just for baby, but the whole family – what a nice surprise! The home and holiday superstore At Home, meanwhile, makes home decorating affordable and fun by featuring plenty of budget-friendly décor. To tailor that hunt for shoppers (and to save time), At Home organizes the merchandise in its store by price point – think “under $25” displays – so shoppers can quickly find items in their budgets.
Small Chains Roaring Ahead of Grocery Innovation
Sometimes the joy-seeking, cash-strapped shopper wants a smaller shopping cart, literally. So our scouts toured three new U.S. supermarkets to see what they have to offer against the big boxes and even Amazon. We weren’t let down. Our “Supermarkets: Yes! to Innovation” captures how a limited footprint can offer unlimited experience. The newly opened Rouse’s Market in Louisiana made sure even its most hurried customers can grab an order of its popular Houma de Chicken, by attaching a drive-thru. The 34,000-square-foot Bristol Farms in California includes a gourmet food hall and AI-powered “Caper Carts” to check out the items. And at Sendik’s Food Market in Wisconsin, shoppers can find apparel that’s carefully displayed, not far from the bananas.
Inspired to Make Your Store a Habitat for Change? Well, There’s More
WSL can customize a Retail Safari® to suit your budget, any way you want it. Ask us about our Virtual, Live, In-a-Box Retail Safaris® and new Photo Library. If you’re not a subscriber or client yet, you can download a free tour here. Have other questions about our proprietary research, reports and consulting? Contact us here to get started.