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Valentina Calendoro
Valentina Calendoro 10 January 2022

How New Concepts and Technologies are Shaping the Retail World

A look at the trends that have emerged during the Covid lockdown, by Valentina Candeloro, International Marketing Director, Mood Media.

Brands have taken advantage of the Covid lockdown to introduce several sustainable, immersive and service-orientated innovations; that have allowed shoppers to discover new concepts in retailing – or, alternatively, re-discover known brands that are reinventing themselves for the modern age. 

And this is a global phenomenon: we’re seeing these changes in all four corners of the world. Let’s take a look at how some retailers are adapting to the post-lockdown landscape.

Adidas: A Sense of Style

Trainers have come a long way. The days when shoppers just picked a colour and their shoe size are long gone, the modern-day trainer is personalised to such an extent that every shopper can be offered an individual experience. 

For example, the Adidas store in London’s Oxford Street has a running machine that will measure the customer’s gait and use this information to recommend the particular type of trainer to suit his or her style. 

But the store goes further than that.

If a customer wants something more distinctive, there’s an in-store customization bar where artists will paint designs to the customer’s specifications. There’s an opportunity to win prizes, a trainer cleaning service and a QR code that allows customers to join a creators’ club.

And for the real fashion devotees, there’s a store within a store that sells the Yeezy range, the fruits of the collaboration between rapper Kanye West and Adidas. The aim is to provide shoppers in the Adidas store, a more complete experience, a chance for customers to display their own individual sense of style.

Clarins Boutique: The Flagship for the Eco-Aware Shopper

Entering the new Clarins boutique in the heart of Paris is to experience a variety of sights and smells. It will feel like diving headlong into nature. All the fittings in the store are made from eco-friendly and sustainable materials. This includes a new type of stone, Krion K-Life, chosen for its antibacterial and purifying properties.

In addition, the panelling in the shop is eco-certified light beech wood, while around the wall, shelves contain jars featuring some of the 208 plants that Clarins uses in its products. Shoppers can find further information about these plants, including their properties and benefits, thanks to the use of QR codes.

There are other innovations: product information is displayed on low-energy LED screens, and receipts are not printed. Clarins has an ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and is heading in the right direction.

Tesco Brings Back the Deposit Concept

Excess packaging is a bugbear for consumers. To meet these concerns, Tesco has set  up a trial at ten stores in England that allows shoppers to buy goods in re-usable packaging, containers that can be returned to the store for cleaning and then using again. 

The supermarket chain is working with packaging company, Loop, to introduce the new system, which is being used on 88 products – including washing powder, dry condiments and cosmetics – although there are plans to include more products in the scheme.

The system is based on an old-fashioned deposit scheme. Each item costs an additional 20p, a sum that is refunded via an app, once the product has been returned to the store.

We’re not talking small amounts here. Tesco estimates that packaging from these ten stores could be used two and a half million times in a single year – a saving that could make a considerable saving in the company’s waste output.

Stores offering this service are located in Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Northampton, Stratford-on-Avon, Leicester, Evesham, Ashby de la Zouch, Wellingborough and Loughborough, although there are further outlets in the pipeline.

Online shoppers can also use the Loop platform to order goods. The principle is the same: customers can return containers by post: they get their deposits refunded, while the packaging is cleaned by waste management company, TerraCycle, ready to be used again

Irish Fashion Retailer goes Green

Primark has built its reputation on value for money: buying clothes at £5 a time may be good for the wallet but doesn’t encourage sustainable consumption. The company is therefore embarking on a new strategy, reconciling price with sustainability.

There are two main objectives in this approach: halving the carbon emissions of its value chain and improving the quality of life of the people involved in production – areas that Primark define as the three Ps: Product, Planet and People.

The company has made a start: one in four garments is made from recycled synthetic fibre materials, and Primark aims to reach 100 percent by 2030.In order to meet this ambition of halving its carbon emissions, the company is no longer using plastic hangers and labels for clothes.

This is not a new trend, Primark had already committed itself in recent years by signing the United Nations Charter for Sustainable Fashion. 

The final pillar of this commitment is financial resilience among the brand's employees. Primark is committed to ensuring that by 2030, all workers in their supply chain - 68% of whom are women - can earn a living wage, and have access to a range of other benefits, social security and employment protection.

The New Reality

Tommy Hilfliger has taken the concept of a changing room one step further. The US brand has launched an augmented reality (AR) service where customers can superimpose clothes on themselves to see how they look.

It’s a service that’s available to anyone with a mobile phone and the service will also suggest additional items to the customer. One survey has suggested customers are 40% more likely to buy an item if they’ve used an AR system. The augmented reality changing room is just one part of the Tommy Hilfiger initiative.

The company has also introduced a pop-up store to its retail outlets across the world and has increased its social media presence. It has also introduced in-store artists to help shoppers to create customised artwork. 

Like many other retailers, Tommy Hilfiger has introduced a club for its customers, and, again, like other brands, the company is big on personalisation, hoping that each store visit is an individual experience for its customers.

Clearly retail brands have suffered from the successive lockdowns of the past 18 months. But our research has shown that consumers have missed the in-store experience, from the ability to be able to touch, feel and try products, to having the gratification of being able to take the item home immediately.

Retail brands are coming back stronger through the adoption of in-store digital technologies, showcasing sustainability, creating an in-store experience and providing additional services such as customisation and personalisation.

This is the future of the physical store. 

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