The current trend of personalisation, also known as the “Me Age”, can be used to understand how consumer demands are evolving as well as the future needs of consumers. There are many ways for brands to be innovative in order to get consumers to “fall in love” with a brand, says retail futurist Howard Saunders.

Howard recently spoke at the 21st Annual Congress of the South African Council of Shopping Centres. As the founder of 22and5, he has been shaping retail for more than three decades.

“The most important thing is to go back to basics, to understand how you can really connect with your customer. Stop thinking about product and think about the communities that you cater to and create engaging spaces where people can connect and socialise,” says Howard.

The glass, multilevel Samsung Experience Store in New York is a great example. It has event space, a virtual-reality roller coaster and on the mezzanine level, a coffee bar with all the trimmings. In-store experiences are more important than ever and the New York Samsung Experience Store is bursting at the seams with these experiences.

During his presentation, entitled The Future is Scary, Howard discussed what the future would look like with the emergence of robotics, big data, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, driverless cars and facial recognition software, and the impact these advances will have on ‘bricks and mortar’ retail over the next decade. He said that companies can use technology to connect with consumers, but its important to build trust and loyalty with personalisation.

Howard gave four tips that retailers should consider:
1. Encourage creativity in shopping centres: Use flexible leases and pop up stores.
2. Look into symbiotic leasing: Brands like Nike and Adidas are now looking into incorporating artisan coffee shops in store.
3. The rise of Artificial Intelligence: Think about community and make people feel more connected.
4. Consider the evolution of smart phones: Smart phones are still evolving, providing an even increasing source of data.
“As a Retail Futurist, I encourage my clients to take a fresh look at what they do and what they really stand for. Business is often too busy to pause and think; you have to force these things. I try to unravel the meanings behind the things we buy: why our aspirations shift and how the future is likely to change the way we behave. I believe shopping is not only the engine of our economy, it’s the foundation of a thriving community. This isn’t some business to business thing, this is life,” added Howard.

For more information, contact SACSC on +27 (10) 003 0228 or via www.sacsc.co.za.

Main Image caption: Howard Saunders, retail futurist.