In this episode:

Wendy Liebmann talks with Joi Pratt, Senior Consultant for Shopper Activation, at WSL Strategic Retail, about how the WSL team brought the future of retail to life in real time through a customized Retail Safari®.

They discuss:

  • The 5 Health & Wellness trends that were the focus of a two-day event conducted in collaboration with the Kroger Company in Cincinnati.
  • The diversity of retail that inspired 30 CPG attendees – from robotics at the Ocado Shed that enable fast seamless delivery, to immersive experiences at Jungle Jim’s, to the passion of REI associates, to the Kroger Marketplace and urban format, and more.
  • How bringing people together encourages new thinking and partnerships to deliver what shoppers want now. And will.

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Watch the video episode:

Wendy 00:00
Hello, everyone. I’m Wendy Liebmann, CEO and chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail and this is Future Shop. This is where I talk to innovators, disruptors, iconoclasts and friends and family about the future of retail. Today my guest is actually my colleague, Joi Pratt. For those of you who don’t know, joy, she is our senior consulting expert in all things, insights and shopper and retail activation. Hi, Joi. Welcome to Future Shop.

Joi 00:32
Hello, Wendy. Thanks for having me.

Wendy 00:34
Pleasure. I feel silly saying welcome to Future Shop, especially since you’re live our life every day is about what we call Future Now. Future Next, right? Yeah. So welcome to your life. I feel like since this is the first time Joi has joined me on the podcast you’ve seen Candace, I should tell you two things about her. Maybe one she’s a mad sports fan. So football season, right? Joi? Yes. Jets fan. Jets fan. Sorry about that. But she’s ever hopeful about next year, and a baseball fan. So at least she and I have something and Candace in common about baseball. She’s a Mets fan. No, no kidding. Kidding. Kidding. Yankees fan with me. Candace was all by herself on the anyway. It’s great to have you. Thank you Joi. for doing this. So what we wanted to talk to you about today is you know, last week Joi and I led a group of clients on one of our Retail Safaris® and we did it in conjunction with one of our very dear retail partners. And our goal was to immerse everyone in how key themes were seeing and our How America Shops® research are coming to life at retail. So we built out a two day agenda for our clients and our dear host, the Kroger Company, and the health and wellness division of the company. And we focused on how health and wellness was coming to life at retail. So we wanted to share some of those things with you today. Some of the highlights of of what we did. It was an exciting and wearying few days wasn’t it Joi.

Joi 02:15
Oh, it was long days. 15 hour days. Yeah, but

Wendy 02:17
fun. Right. A lot. We learned a lot. Right? We heard a lot. We shared a lot. Lots and lots of learning. Yes. Yeah. So I thought we’d just quickly start at where we began, which was, what are some of the insights we we are seeing in our work that defined how we would go about creating this two day event, we called out five key insights, Joi, you want to share some of those?

Joi 02:44
Yeah, so the first one we called out was the rise in social health conditions. And what we are seeing is stress continues to be the number one obstacle that shoppers face, and living a healthy life. What we’re seeing, especially among younger shoppers, so the Gen Z and millennials, that they’re suffering, four out of 10 are suffering from anxiety and depression. Some are feeling loneliness. And then this is all creating barriers to living a well life. We also see and I think all of us have experienced that inflation is driving low price retailers. But that’s not to say that people will not spend more for you know, their values. And that’s both social values, as well as you know, their healthy eating values. We also see that you know, because stress is the number one obstacle to living a healthy life, people want easy stress free shopping, they want to be happy, they want to shop happy stores, they want to connect with people use the store as a way to engage socially with friends and family. And that leads to the whole happy human healthier retail emerges, where as I said before, that people are socializing more in stores, and just connecting with each other. And then finally, shoppers want to shop stores and brands that support their values. And so the number one value for shoppers is fairness and fairness has different meaning. It’s Do you treat your employees well? Are you making products? affordable for all? So just not a few but for all? Do you are you living out are you help me shoppers to live out my shopper values? And so they want to buy products, we see almost one out of four I want to buy products that are clean and natural. And that’s part of their values.

Wendy 04:41
Yes. So those were the things thanks Joi. Those were the five major themes that we took from all our How America Shops® research that we do continuously through the year and we said okay, now if the focus of these couple of days for clients and our retail partner is to be what’s going on? Where’s the innovation we’re seeing? What would that Retail Safari® look like? And so we built out an agenda which range from from the delivery of showcasing a totally robotics Driven Distribution Center. And you may say, what does that have to do with healthier? Well, as Joi said, right? It’s about stress. It’s about easier shopping order online pick up in store, well, how do I do that? Well, you have to have a really impressive, efficient distribution center. And Kroger has just one of those which is was mind boggling, right? Joi?

Joi 05:39
Yes. It’s so futuristic. Seeing the different robots pick up your orders and help make you know, delivery, you know, easy and fast. It’s, it’s mind blowing.

Wendy 05:55
Yeah, we were talking about working and the future of work and watching people in this robotic environment with these little robots that look like they come out of a sci fi movie. And then many of you, I’m sure have seen the pictures, but it’s different in real life. But the other part to it was actually this whole piece of watching people then pick the orders. And I said to Joi, I think how do you hire for that I think you hire for it, you might have to get some use of great gamer that can work on console, look at 10 things going on at once you know all of those kinds of things so that they can picks hit a button pick hit a button, pick it about it was extraordinary. Right. So that was how we began our, our day by looking at how a company of a large size could actually deliver efficiently to all of the all of the shoppers all around the country, who are now expecting faster, easier, more stressless, stress free shopping experiences. And then we went on right? We went through many other places that were innovative and different, typical and not typical. Right? Joi, Joi. What was the highlight for you once we got out of that? Amazing place?

Joi 07:07
Yep. So once we left the distribution center, I think it was Jungle Jim. It was massive. It’s soon as you walked in, they actually had an area where they actually conduct podcasts. What really impressed me about the store, is their assortment for different ethnic foods. So maybe from China, Japan, Korea,

Wendy 07:36

Joi 07:37
I’ll show yeah, thank you, Africa, you name it, you can find you know, the products you were looking for. And then also it was affordability, the price points were very appealing. They also had additional, you know, services such as cooking classes, but there was none taking place at the time. But even if you know someone that is a cigar aficionado, they can easily you know, purchase cigars. And so that kind of really impressed me because they had something for everyone. I was really impressed and it’s huge. And what is it? I forget how many 1000 square feet but it’s huge.

Wendy 08:16
Yeah, it’s about 150,000 200,000 square feet. I think the thing that was interesting, and this is one of the things we do, sorry for the pitch everybody, on our on our Retail Safaris® is we try to think about what the sort of the yin and yang so we saw this robotic distribution center, which was extraordinary. And then the counterpoint was this international market, which is a go to place for families on the weekend, which has, as Joi said, amazing selections of everything from types of food, to cigars to toys to beer, name it an extraordinary set of right candy, right, we all go and candy to health and wellness products, which were amazing. And it was a massive old world laying of hands on you know, kind of personal service that you you know, it was sort of a counterpoint to the to the to the robotics, which was just really fascinating. And then we went really small, right? Yes. My favorite place my favorite place. Rei? Well, I had to REI was one now why was that so interesting to everybody?

Joi 09:29
The first I didn’t think a lot of you know attendees knew about you know how REI you know was structure what it you know, actually the whole co-op idea. And but what I liked most about REI is that their associates are passionate about what they do. They’re passionate about REI. I was speaking to a sales associate and she said that was her dream job is to work at REI. She loves what the company stands for. And if many people don’t know, REI is co-op driven. So you purchase actual a membership? I think believe it was $30

Wendy 10:09
for a lifetime, not even a year, right? Forever. Right?

Joi 10:13
One time. Yep. All your purchases at the end of the year, they gave you a dividend. And I forget what it was, I think it was 3%

Wendy 10:25
Yeah, I can’t remember, we should remember that. But next time you sign up everybody, you will get your dividend.

Joi 10:32
And so you’re invested into you know, the company as well. And they just made you feel like you’re one of them. And the product selection, the health and wellness, they had everything that was if anyone is looking on how to merchandise or how to offer you know, healthy snacks, go to REI all their whole snack area was filled with healthy, it was sweet, healthy, clean, which I thought was impressive.

Wendy 11:01
Yeah. And and Amy, the store manager, was to your point was so excited to be talking to us and telling us about the proposition. And again, you know, it’s the robotics, and then you get down to the sort of personal touch, it was a very efficient place. They signed some people up, as you know, already as co- op members, which was great. They love to have us there. But there was a really emotional, I think sort of experience of working with people were so passionate about what they do. And then we all jumped back on the bus and went to my other favorite store, which is Five Below because I’m still a teenager who likes things that are Five Below and all amazing selection of products and, and all that again, a wonderful manager Ryan, who was just so excited to tell us about Five Below and what it stood for and what they were trying to do.

Joi 11:54
Yeah, at Five Below all those candies that you grew up on, they had it like I have not seen what was it now later, and maybe 20 years.

Wendy 12:05
Oh, you’re not that old. I thought you’re only 22. Anyway,

Joi 12:09
and they had it. So it’s just kind of it brought back, you know, childhood memories in a good way. And an affordable way as well.

Wendy 12:17
Yeah. And I think the other thing about it is they’ve been so good in terms of innovation. So they take a trend that’s, you know, socially trending. And there is product for that, they encourage kids to play, there’s a dribbling aisle on the floor where they encourage kids to take the balls out and play. They’ve also got a very strong and clear voice in terms of their messaging. So just really felt like a fun place. And of course, the way we can always tell if our retail safaris are resonating is when people go shopping, they were shopping bags. And a lot of us I think if you didn’t mention Joi, you and I’ve talked about this a lot of clean products, you know increasingly in skincare, personal care, healthier versions of products, and then national brands, big national brands that are now in in Five Below too. So lots of elements to that, that really talked to happiness, happy stores, affordability, easy to shop, very curated. And I love their extended selection of books. I know Maryann Javier on our team, just go loves the books that are sold in those stores too. So lots that you can get for $20. Lots of things as you walk out the store. So the other thing that struck me was the when we went into a place then like Sephora, where we looked at how they had brought in not just healthier, cleaner products and price points afford a more affordable price points. But at Sephora, the national beauty chain, they’re actually selling vitamins and minerals, and you know, the, you know, immunity type products amidst all that fancy beauty. So that was another thing that I found really interesting in the mix of things.

Joi 14:01
And then also I would add to the localization of the merchandise assortment. That store really did a good job of creating a curated merchandise assortment for the local area.

Wendy 14:12
Yeah, yeah. And there was so much more of course, you know, it was Kroger. So the Kroger people were very generous in not only letting us in, a peak, which most people don’t get to do have their Ocado hed which is the the robotic distribution center, but also their Marketplace store, which is their big, their largest format, which has an extraordinary selection of my favorites Murray’s Cheese, which is down the street from where I live in New York City, which they bought and healthier food options as well as all the work they’re doing around pharmacy clinics, diabetes care, a lot of that right and then they took us to their new urban format, which is downtown called On the Rhine. So there was so much that was part of that day and days it was absolutely chock full. Oh, and of course, then we went to Findlay Market, right, which was this old world market where we all were desperate to have lunch. So we said, no, no, we’ve got to stop now we’ve got to just be regular people and eat more food. Yeah,

Joi 15:16
then you know what go into all these different stores just speaks to the trends that we highlighted at the start of the Retail Safari®. So the happy human healthier retail, which we saw are creating those social spaces within the store. So we saw that at the Kroger downtown small store format. We also saw people focus on value. And so even though it’s lower price, and then in some cases, it’s you know, offering, you know, products that speak to the shoppers values as well. So it’s not only just low price, but also product that speaks to shopper values. It was it was really a really good day and a half of fun shopping and connecting with our manufacturing client partners, as well as our retail client partners. Partner.

Wendy 16:11
Yeah. And and I do think the the other thing that we like to always add in as a surprise was, which was on the last morning, we had an external speaker, Dr. Somi Javaid, and she is somebody that we’ve had on this podcast that those of you haven’t listened to her go and listen. She is an expert in women’s sexual health and wellness, and has a clinic and expanding clinics called HerMD. And she spoke on the final morning. And I must say Joi, I did look around the room because I was moderating a chat with her. And I was thinking or how was everybody going to respond to this? We had about 30 people. And I was thinking, well, the women will get it because she’s gonna talk about menopause. And, you know, and health and health and sexual health conditions for young women as well. And everybody was leaning in, the women got it, the men got it, the opportunities to do business and think differently about the kind of products and services. It was extraordinary, I think, and there was a lot of discussion and excitement, to have her talk about the story that she’s been following, and the and the work and the research she’s been doing. So I thought that was another exciting piece to the whole thing.

Joi 17:26
It was. She made you feel comfortable talking about some of these, you know, women health issues openly. And candidly.

Wendy 17:35
Yeah, and that and that was the thing after I think everybody really engaged in in that before we we went off and wrapped up the rest of the couple of days. So now you will know why Joi and I was so exhausted when we came back, although and then we have the day off site doing our 2023 24 planning. Joi was very quiet for the day. And I said Joi. And she said, Oh, it’s so tired. And it was it was a it was a was a long few days, but so many things that came out of it right in terms of exactly as you said, Yeah. Trends thinking engagement. And I think the last thing I would say in all of this is also the discussions, not competitive discussions, just the sharing of thoughts and community building. So we as a group were kind of shoppers too, we were, I think after being locked down for so long, so eager to be out with people and with like-minded souls who are keen to see what was new and different and meet with their retail partners in real life, as opposed to across the video screen here. So there was so many layers to this that I thought were really, really rewarding, I think for everybody.

Joi 18:50
Yes. And I think, you know, I remember speaking with one retail executive that said, you know, even though you have competing brands, you have to focus on the shopper. And so we can’t solve the shoppers, you know, needs alone, we have to work together collaboratively. And so it was nice at the end of our Retail Safari® to see brands, you know, thinking about potential partnerships. Because that is to me, it’s going to be the future to help the you know, really push the future of retail is going to be brands working together partnering to deliver on what shoppers want. Well,

Wendy 19:35
I couldn’t end in any better way than that. Nothing left to be said. So Joi, anytime you want to do a Retail Safari® and I have to do a little shout out to not a little A big shout-out to our colleague, Allie Chilicki, because she did a lot of the legwork in turn which she always does in all our retail innovation work. Some of you have met her through our virtual Retail Safari®. She did an amazing job organizing selecting vetting. So the whole, the and more others on that WSL team. So, thanks to ally for all of that. And of course any of you who want to go suffering with us, we’re always happy to put on our shopper hats as always and go shopping. So, we will see you next time. See you in the future. Cheers. Thanks, Joi. Take care.

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