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EDITORIAL Shoppable video, checkout-free shopping… and a doughnut swing

The key to modern retail

Be it for physical retail, online selling or a hybrid of the two, attracting consumers to a store, site or brand has never been more crucial – and the ways in which retailers are doing it are getting ever-more inventive.

With the cost of living in the UK on the rise and with myriad choices of where and how to buy, consumers are increasingly fickle. Loyalty is increasingly becoming a thing of the past, with price and, more and more, user experience and convenience, driving the choices of where to shop.

So, what are retailers doing about it? There are, of course, many ways to stand out and each week in InternetRetailing’ s newsletter we cover most of them. This week, there have been three that show just how varied the approach to offering a USP to consumers has actually become.

Mobile-first marketplace Wish has taken perhaps the most natural approach, ushering in the use of shoppable video content to help make it standout and create a customer experience that is both slick and totally in-tune with the mores of the modern (younger?) shopper.

Wish Clips – which for now only works on some Android phones in some regions, expect expansion across iOS and the world later this Spring – allows sellers on the marketplace to upload short videos that allow the consumer to learn more about the product, as well as seeing it in action. They can then see more details, visit the merchant or brand’s website to learn more or, crucially, tap to add it to their basket on the Wish app.

This is a natural progression in the mobile marketplace world and brings together the convenience of the mobile-marketplace paradigm with the growing shift towards using video – live streamed or pre-recorded – to drive engagement. The clever bit for Wish is that it is so easily shoppable. This is often the part that is missing from many retailers and brands’ video content.

Expect to see more from other retailers this year, but for now Wish stands out as a pioneer, which should give it an edge.

WHSmith, meanwhile, is also following the early adopter route to help drive sales. It has become one of the first retailers anywhere in the world to adopt Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology to open its first checkout-free store. Located in LaGuardia Airport in New York, this outlier of checkout-free tech could well be a vision of things to come for WHSmith’s stores in the UK and elsewhere, as it offers a way to leapfrog the competition in an already very crowded market.

WHSmith has struggled during lockdown as it makes a lot of money from stores in transport hubs. Now that the people are drifting back into the physical realm, having technology that makes their stores stand out could be the vital driver for rejuvenation post-pandemic. It will certainly make shopping in airports easier if nothing else.

Another retailer looking to make its physical offering standout not just from other high street rivals, but also to give it some traction against online sellers is Primark. The company is wedded to a non-ecommerce approach – it revamped its website just last month and didn’t make it transactional – and has instead looked at how to make it stores more exciting and more Insta-friendly.

It has teamed up with the baker Greggs to open a café in its state-of-the-art flagship store in Birmingham to not only lure shoppers with Greggs’ legendary sausage rolls (vegan or otherwise), but also with a giant swing shaped like a doughnut. Why? Because this will be a draw for all those Gen Z shoppers for whom a trip out is not complete without a blow-by-blow account on Instagram.

While this may seem a tad hopefully as being a true ecommerce-slayer, it does tap nicely into the nexus of physical shopping driven by a mobile-social-first edge. A novelty for now, one wonders what will be the draw of the doughnut swing once Gen Z is, like, so over that? Perhaps a sausage-roll slide?

Joking aside, all three of these sellers are, at least, looking at ways to make tech and store work together and are at the forefront of ushering in a year of rapid hybrid retail development.

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