In this episode:

In the final episode of this 3-part discussion, WSL Strategic Retail’s Wendy Liebmann and Candace Corlett, reflect on how shoppers are moving on having survived the chaos, and how companies must reset fast to accommodate them.  The implications for retail, brands and service companies are now crystal clear:  Retail must restructure (finally) to accommodate new technologies shoppers have quickly adopted. Brands must connect in new ways emotionally.  And a new level of service expectations emerges.

Wendy  00:03
Hello, I’m Wendy Liebman CEO and Chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail. And this is future shop. This is the third part of a discussion in a series that we’ve called six months in. Now watch. My guests throughout. This is Candace Corlett, president of WSL, my business partner and good friend. And we’ve had a fascinating discussion about this changing world we now live in. In the previous discussion, we’ve talked about how shoppers have already reset their lives, and the way they shop, and spent. Recession or not shoppers are moving on, and retailers and brands have to reset really fast. In this discussion, in our conclusion of our discussion, Candace and I are going to now talk about what’s next? And what the heck do I do about it?

Wendy  01:10
So the other piece to all of this is, of course, in our world, what is the notion of shopping ultimately look like? And so, it feels to me like from what you’re saying, what we’ve discussed is, you know, shoppers are resilient, people are resilient, as best they can afford to be. There are people who have not been and are not, we certainly see the we talk about shopping life. And for those of you who are listening, that’s how people live their lives socially, politically, economically, technologically, and how that impacts how they choose to buy goods and services. So that’s the world we look at, and how we help our clients anticipate the future. As we think about the future now, it feels to me like the greatest restructuring is actually going to be on the part of retailers who have to think about box, no box Omni? How do I communicate and build trust? and manufacturers, particularly big CPG companies and big brands? Who have to really think about engaging shoppers differently? That it’s not about the shopper, the shopper in many ways is moving on their path? You feel the same way about that?

Candace  02:29
Well, you know, me I love buckets. Yes, I think we can plan for 80% of the things. Count on more shoppers buying the basics online. And whether they want to pull into the curb and pick it up. Or have it delivered. More people will buy the basics. And I mean, really the basics, the mayonnaise, the shampoo, the conditioner, the pain reliever online. So retailers be ready. Manufacturers expect more of the space in the store to be allocated to the pickup center. And that space has to come from someplace, it’s going to come from the aisles.

Candace  03:16
The second thing is that brands really have to think about how they are going to emotionally connect when their only visibility is the picture of the package on the screen. And that’s where I think we need a new adventure. And I don’t want to slow it down and be asked to click to ads. I don’t want to have ads interrupting my cart. Because remember, I’m doing this because my first motivation is I want to get this done quickly so I can get on to other things. So how am I going to emotionally make somebody smile when they see my brand when they’re ordering online.

Candace  04:00
So those are two buckets that are going to keep our manufacturer partners and our retail partners very busy for the next two or three years. And they can count on those changes moving forward.

Wendy  04:13
And I also think you alluded to the fact of services, but not just order online and pick up at the store or in the store. But also other services. We haven’t talked a lot about health and wellness here, which is a great passion for us and we have been studying for many years. And I know you know you’re ready just about ready to release our latest update on what we call the big business of well. And I think about last December when we had our symposium when we hosted our symposium in New York and we had this amazing group of retailers and students and manufacturers who talked about their take on wellness moving forward. So much of what they said continued continues to this day and if anything that’s been ramped up and the importance to shoppers about being well, but the services, the kinds of things, whether they’re remote or in store that have emerged through this will also take space and take trips out of the store, right?

Candace  05:14
As you were talking when I was thinking about is, again, coming back to target, one of the things I loved about wandering into target was picking up a Starbucks. So now when I pick up outside, I would like to have that Starbucks. But really thinking, you know, what else we’ll get someone to want to pick up in my parking lot, as opposed to another parking lot?

Wendy  05:35
Well, that’s Walmart doing recently having movies in the parking lot. I mean, talk about Back to the Future. You know, they used to have like, pony rides in their parking lot on weekends for NASCAR, right NASCAR? They used to do, right, they would release a new DVD, you know, new CD. And in one of their stores, they used to have the concert. And then they would in the days of I don’t even know what they called it in those days. But then they would send out through their system, not the technology we have today. They would broadcast the concert live throughout their whole network. And to your point, why can’t I get my pick up my groceries and get my Starbucks at the same time? Right?

Candace  06:18
And what we know is that American shoppers are very visionary when it comes to how can you serve me better? And, you know, yes, we are going to bring out my groceries, you should ask me, do you want me to get to a coffee while I’m at it. So expect a new level of service expectation, certainly, as we transition to making shopping faster. Health and wellness is a whole other adventure. Gosh, it’s so embedded in our culture. Now, you know, as you said, we’ve been tracking people’s growing commitment to live a healthier life since 2012.

Wendy  07:04
And by last year, there were a large swaths of the population that said, you know, I’m going to spend more for healthier choices. And we saw it, we saw it and clean and free from which became so important not just in skincare, but it moved over into haircare. And then the expectation that even cleansers would take out some of the bad ingredients to make it just a little bit healthier. So we’re seeing that movement. And I don’t expect that to change. People are very conscious of I want your products to keep me healthy, not just do what they do, are supposed to do to keep me healthy?

Wendy  07:44
Well, I think that was one of the other interesting things to me and in in the work that we’ve been doing throughout the six months is that level of people who are still committed to taking care of their own and their families health and wellness, whether it’s around sustainability, or whether it’s about, you know, their own responsibility for being healthy at levels that continued and to some degree, that willingness to pay a little more, but not only. So that proposition of thinking about it’s not just about the mask, but there are so many other things around immunity and protection that have become that are going to become this massive categories as we move forward as opportunities as we think about this. Right.

Candace  08:33
Right. And that that’s the opportunity again, for brands to connect themselves. And I think, you know, the pushback that, well, we’re a brand that is primarily made up of chemicals, you know, you just have to be a little bit healthier. It was a wonderful retail executive in the dollar channel, who said to us, you know, just make it a little bit healthier, doesn’t have to be 100%. But help people move forward, help them be proud that they’re moving forward, making smarter choices, and doing as best as they can. Not everybody can afford pure organic, all natural will want that. But to make it accessible to all income levels is going to be important going forward.

Wendy  09:19
Well, that’s why I think retailers like Aldi are doing such a good job of and they’ve been doing it for a period of time, but it wasn’t just about small formats, you know, easy to get to very affordable prices, they already had added right? They had added in, you know more fresh, they’d added in more organic and granted it wasn’t the sort of selection you might see at a whole foods or you know, fill in the blanks, but they were conscious of that and that respect for the lower income shoppers. And now to your point, we see the kinds of numbers of people walking into smaller stores and even higher income people again, because of their anticipating what the economic challenges might be.

Wendy  10:00
Get back in the dollar store in the Aldi’s, you know, in the smaller format, the discount formats. So I think all of those shifts. What’s fascinating to me is that so many of the things not to just sort of pat ourselves on the on the back, but why not? So many of the things we’ve been talking about that have been grounded in our insight around shopping, and shoppers lives, I really have been absolutely heightened and ratcheted up as we move into this new world that we’re coming to. Yeah. So much to talk about. I mean, one of the things that struck me in a podcast I did with our European partners GDI, the cochlea, Duke violet Institute in Switzerland a few months ago was David Bosshardt, who’s the CEO of that Institute, use the phrase, the virus is us.

Wendy  10:54
What he meant by that was, you know, when there’s a vaccine, when the virus itself is over, when the pandemic is over, whether that’s in a year, or whatever it is, our way of thinking our lives, our attitudes, and our behaviors will have will have been changed. And, and I you know, you talk to grandparents, who great grandparents who grew up in the depression, it formed their thinking for a very long time. So that notion of the virus is us. And the transformation and the shifts that it has caused are the realities, it will require us to face up to, and not just literally about the virus, but all those cracks in the way we thought about retail or work. We haven’t even talked about work, right? And working from home. And all those companies have said, Oh, no, we will never let our people work from home. Oh, well, surprise, hello. Look what happened.

Wendy  11:54
So all of those things now are, you know, require us to sort of change the kaleidoscope and see them through a different, different lens.

Candace  12:05
But you know, I think, going back to the healthier premise, this is the time like no other, where brands need to step up and show how they’re keeping you healthy. You know, we talked about Generation Z, okay, Generation Z. Now the oldest are like 23 years old, and I forget was like 40% of them are married already. They grew up in a society that said, no sugar, lots of water, stay healthy, build your immune system. Buying powders, collagen powders, protein powders, protein bars, all focused on infusing their body with healthier choices, to build their immune system.

Candace  12:56
To help them build muscles to help them look buff. Regardless of their motivation, they are now moving into, you know, prime shopping time. And they will take those values with them because they don’t know any other values. They didn’t have to learn to avoid sugar they grew up, you know, no, we know we don’t need those sugar cereals. So it’s a different world that we’re moving into a world that’s going to be grounded and how can I connect to healthy.

Wendy  13:30
And it’s interesting cuz cuz again, you know, we do for those of you who don’t know, once a year, we do a report we call future sharp, surprising. And where we take all our learnings from the last 6, 12, 18 months, then we sort of, concisely talk about some of the really key issues we see moving forward over the next two or three years. A couple of years ago, we did one call from chaos to control. And it talked about social movements around the world. All of the things that were emerging, the political unrest around the world talked about issues around health and financial disparity. And it talked about fundamentally how shoppers in their resiliency, take control of what they can, whether it’s the ease of the shopping trip, whether it is taking control of their own health, if they’ve got a little bit of money or a little bit more money. And I think that’s been very clear. So not only are we prescient in that, but then the most recent one we did we called Reset or Recede.

Candace  14:35
You know, I was going to say to me reset or receipt was such a powerful message it was we wrote it last November, December. And it was really admonishing our clients that you either reset the way you go to market and I mean, you know, the messaging. At that point, it was less about the logistics, or you were going to recede into the background because so many other brands are out there offering the combination of, yes, we do what you need done and we are a much healthier choice.

Wendy  15:09
Yeah. And so many retailers and whether they’re the small independence, whether they’re the local markets, I think, sort of wrapping this up, I think perfectly to sort of see that next generation of shoppers that we look at all the time, at Generation Z. And I think about our own Gen Z employees. And the they’re totally different mindset, whether it’s their activism quiet, or, you know, on the barricades, or whether it’s a willingness to rent versus buying, whether it’s the consignment store, good for the environment, whether it’s how did they take care of their children today in ways they can afford to take care of whether it’s reading the ingredients in the package to canvases point.

Wendy  15:53
And so as we move into this next moment in time, it’s really fundamental and critical that we think about these new frameworks. One of our clients recently said, you know, we are working on either old paradigms are no paradigm, I think one of the things that’s very clear in all the work that we are doing, and that we are seeing is that this shift was just exacerbated by this outrageous, stunning, dramatic pandemic, from March 13, to six months in now, there’s so much we’ve learned about ourselves, about our own personal resiliency, about the companies and how we run them and how we communicate with our teams. And our clients.

Wendy  16:46
We’ve also learned a lot about the weaknesses that were that existed within the structures and approaches we took as businesses, as retailers as manufacturers, across channels, across categories, and that we cannot ignore those moving forward. But our client who said recently, we’re working with old paradigms or no paradigms, I would challenge him and didn’t challenge him to say that may be true. But so many of the major shifts that were emerging over the last 6, 12, 18 months around wellness, personal wellness, a search for happiness, not grounded in stuff, time, the issues of time, the issues of do we need so many physical stores, all of those things were in place, before March 13. And so there is guidance in all of that, for how we think about what comes next.

Wendy  17:52
It’s hard. But I think, you know, from canvases point, we see we’re seeing so much of this now. So that’s the thing. That’s the thing, which is what I always say at the end, the lens is there, the framework is there. We just have to be willing to challenge and recognize that what got us here will not get us to the next normal.

Wendy  18:23
Thanks for being with us. Thank you, my dear friend, Candace, as always so much to talk about. Thanks to everybody for listening. Don’t forget there’s much more WSL Strategic where you can see all our latest How America Shops® insights, The Bridge to an Open Society, which is the latest work that Candace and team have revealed. There’s a new study on The Big Business of WELL, and what that looks like, you can sign up for our What’s Up weekly newsletter, where you hear what we’re all thinking about and our latest retail Safari innovation package. You can’t get out to the stores around the world. But we can show you innovation on all of that from your computer.

Wendy  19:03
So lots of things to check out. Join us next time. See in the future.

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