The Ask Pearlfisher Anything webinar series gives brands the opportunity to connect with Pearlfisher’s experts across a range of topics including insight and innovation, brand strategy, brand design, visualization, production and sustainability.

In this session, Caitlin Russell, Strategy Director and Justine Allan, Head of Client Management at Pearlfisher New York, discussed how retail has evolved over the last two years, what we can expect to see from retailers in the future and how brands can make sure they meet their audiences where they want to be met.

Here we share the top 6 insights from the webinar:

1. Are retail footprints going to get smaller or larger?

While several brands might be reducing their physical retail footprint, it’s important to understand the sheer scope of digital retail. It goes far beyond standard online shopping transactions, to include ecommerce, social media, gaming and the metaverse; enabling brands to reach new audiences in new and exciting ways.

A key to success in online retail is to tailor the shopping experience for both the shopper and the platform.

Brick and mortar retail is likely to become more “of the moment”, defining a cultural experience and capturing the imagination and engagement of the shopper at that time.

In banking, for example, Capital One turned some of its physical retail space into Capital One Cafes, enabling co-working, creating places to conduct business, pre-empting the freelance economy and adding value for customers.

2. What’s in store for private label retail brands?

Private label brands are in house brands retailers offer alongside brand-name goods. Examples include supermarket own-label lines.

The world really is their oyster and now feels like a crucial time for private label brands. They have a level of data and insight into shopping behavior and decision making that goes beyond anything we’ve ever seen before, enabling retailers to identify shopping trends as they emerge and respond quickly to events and influences.

At the same time, shoppers are increasingly buying based on their values, looking beyond brand loyalty to better understand brand purpose and aligning their spending with the issues that are most important to them.

The combination of these two factors makes it the perfect time for businesses to pursue and grow private label brands.

Crucially, when it comes to value-based shopping, people want to know about the ethics of a product’s development throughout the supply chain. Through private labels, brands can provide clarity and insight like never before because they have oversight of that entire supply chain. 

3. How has the metaverse expanded the world of e-commerce and how does that impact brands?

The metaverse is brand new and might feel daunting to some brands, but it’s an incredible opportunity.

Brands should be thinking now about how they can use their digital brand assets to define their space within the metaverse. In the last couple of years, the value of digital brand assets has grown enormously. People want to expand their horizons.

These virtual spaces are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible because they aren’t restricted by physical space.

Brands shape our personal identity in the real world and the metaverse provides unlimited opportunity for imaginative stories, for the development of our digital identities and to connect with people who share our values, our style, and our desires.

Digital goods are like the Wild West of our digital identity. Brands like Nike have created an entire digital world where customers can interact with their products in new and exciting ways.

4. What will make the shopper of the future tick?

The word consumer is becoming increasingly outdated. It’s intrinsically linked with the idea of consumption, which is starting to feel more and more uncomfortable. Using the word “shopper” instead, is a much better descriptor for how people buy things now.

Rather than a transaction between money and products, people want their spending to support and illustrate their values and enhance their personal identities and lifestyles.

Connecting authentically with the shopper of the future starts by understanding who they are, what they believe and how they behave beyond purely demographics.

A lot of our clients want to tap into the massive spending potential of Gen Z, but if we know anything about Gen Z, it’s that they don’t think of themselves as a homogenized group. They prioritize individuality. Two billion people can’t all be treated the same!

And it’s not just Gen Z. If you compare Prince Charles with Ozzy Osbourne, they’re both elderly, wealthy, white men that live in castles but their shopping habits, priorities, values, personalities and personas are very different.

To really harness the power of the future of shopping, businesses need to think about how shoppers use different channels and engage with different brands and they need to find ways to help shoppers express their personalities.

Having confidence in your values as a brand will enable you to tap into this extraordinary potential.

5. How will retail change beyond the pandemic?

The pandemic has accelerated existing change. Yes it’s advanced digital adoption, but it’s also highlighted the value of the physical world. During the various global lockdowns, people craved inspiration, education and the opportunity to interact with products. To pick up and smell candles, to pull the curtain on a dressing room in a retail store, to experience novelty.

Brands that think about how they can capture the imagination of shoppers will be the ones that succeed.

After our focus on essential workers during the height of the pandemic, shoppers have a new understanding of the people behind brands and services. This has helped shine a light on supply chain challenges and made shoppers more curious about the way brands treat people. Increasingly they expect their brands to treat their people well.

6. How can new brands penetrate established markets?

A new brand needs to think carefully about who they are and why they’re there. It’s only with that confidence in their own story that they will be able to convince others. Hone in on your point of difference. Understand how your brand meets a need that was previously unmet and deliver on it.

To really engage shoppers, you need to tell your story in a succinct, but powerful way. Understand who you’re trying to speak to. Brands and products can become viral really quickly when the right people start talking about it. Advocacy plays a huge role in building brands these days. 

Don’t focus just on competing for the money someone is spending. You have to find cultural relevance, not just in what’s happening now but what’s happening next.

Consider your channels and the number of locations in which your brand can engage. Which will be the most effective for your brand? Is it social media? Traditional retail or e-commerce? Gaming spaces? Events and collaborations? What makes sense for your brand and how do you ground what you’re doing?

How do you tell your story and what’s the right message for that moment? Is it awareness? Storytelling? Benefit driven? What will make a shopper choose your product or service?

Where is the moment in which this product is more needed, most relevant and most resonant?

Answering these questions will be key to successfully penetrating established markets.

If you’d like to access the full recording of the event or find out more about Pearlfisher’s retail insight report – Retail Citizenship – please fill out the form below.