'Physical retail is not going to die', says WLT group CEO David Kassler

'Physical retail is not going to die', says WLT group CEO David Kassler

The high street faced a tough time in 2018 with well-known brands and businesses shutting down stores or closing up shop. All this before the advent of Cyberville. What does the future hold for retail? The Drum spoke to Williams Lea Tag (WLT) group chief executive officer, David Kassler about the changing face of retail.

What top trends will make the future of retail more personalized and accessible to shoppers?

We need to understand how shoppers want to explore, learn and buy. By facilitating that, you can provide a seamless combination of awareness, communication, understanding, purchase, delivery, and repeat. Take a look at Jaguar Land Rover. They recognize that a typical customer visits a showroom two to three times. It became clear to them that you don’t try and sell a car on the first visit. Facilitate the learning and customer journey so that you create the second and third visits to better understand what they want.

There also needs to a better understanding of data about shoppers -- their habits and history and then apply it in a relevant way. It’s not all about attributes and characteristics for the consumer. We need to realize that it’s about distinguishing intent and context, which is subtler to identify.

Another trend we’re seeing is app integration, instinctive user-friendly technology. Talking to your phone to give you directions, that’s great. Download an app to view an augmented reality fashion show in a Zara window display, that’s bad. It demands too much effort from passers-by to see the window.

Finally, make physical spaces adaptable and less single-minded. For instance Re:store coworking spaces, which combine retail space with office space.

Is this where the future lies? Are we all going to shop at home in our underwear? Will physical storefronts go away?

Simply, no we aren't. People shop across all channels, with physical retail a key part of that. Evidence of this is Amazon’s inclusion of physical stores as part of their collective offer.

However, physical stores won’t always be about purchasing products in the store but will play a part in brand engagement, ‘retail experience’ and exploration. Just consider the Westfield shopping mall of 2028. They debuted a version of the future of retail in ten years’ time. It was labeled as a hyper-connected micro-city, focusing on social interaction and community. As humans, we are social beings and thrive on interaction with other humans. For instance, for many shopping is a leisure activity and people will spend a day at Bluewater, even when they have no fixed purchase in mind.

Greg Yevich, co-founder and technology director of e-commerce marketing firm OperationROI said: “With the proliferation of mobile devices, smart glass and smart appliances, e-commerce and the marketing associated with it will become more intertwined to our future instant gratification lifestyles.” What will this mean for retailers?

Stats on m-commerce and its growing usage and importance will become one of the key purchasing channels in the next few years. Retailers need to facilitate mobile usage and recognize that this process is a key part of the retail process. They need to make it easy for shoppers to visit a physical store and buy products on their mobile.

If you had to predict a day in the life of a future shopper, what will that look like?

First of all, easy access to all information and experiences relating to the brand and products would be key. As well as relevant engaging technology, that informs and entertains.

I would also like to see prompt accurate delivery, at the convenience of the shopper, not the store. Alibaba’s Hema supermarket in China is doing this and offers 30-minute deliveries of online purchases to shoppers living within 3km of a store. Some people are buying houses in the catchment area to qualify.

What are the biggest myths that we might be chasing when it comes to future of retail?

Physical retail is not going to die. Amazon is evidence of that. Having launched several store formats; Amazon Go, 4 Star store (all products have a minimum four-star rating on their website), fashion pop up on Baker Street, they recognize that the physical is part of the mix.

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