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Now, New, Next: Retail is finding a deeper purpose and bringing the brand to life

With the post-retail apocalypse mindset clearly in the rearview mirror, forward-thinking brands have focused on solving real challenges for their customers. Brands are reaching customers with more engaging experiences and technologies, as well as proving that they are more than simply a place to buy goods. Those winning with customers are finding new ways to bring the brand to life, reaching the customer on a deeper level and creating lasting connections.

In the Winter/Spring Retail Trends Update, we take a look at how some of the trends we identified in our annual Now, New, Next retail trends report have evolved, driving the retail landscape forward.

1. Engaging in the brand promise in store: Designing unique spaces for customers to engage
Looking to adjacent experiences and services, brands are experimenting with new store formats that authentically bring the brand to life. While some brands are offering new services themselves, others are looking to partnerships to create unique value.

  • Noting a shared commitment to wellness, Kohl’s is partnering with WW (formerly Weight Watchers) to bring new health and wellness offerings into Kohl’s stores. The new format will include a community space for workshops, events, and WW member meetings.

2. Conscious connections: Eco-conscious brands are forging deeper customer connections
Many customers today—especially younger demographics—expect their favorite brands to adopt causes close to their hearts, and make the world a better place. With this in mind, many brands are looking to sustainability and environmentally conscious initiatives to resonate and create relevancy with customers.

  • Noting their customers value both sustainability and ethical sourcing, J.Crew is launching a line of “eco denim.” The jeans are made from sustainably sourced cotton and eco-friendly dyes, and are manufactured at a Fair Trade Certified facility. The brand is also expanding their denim buyback program, using the recycled denim to create housing insulation for Habitat for Humanity.

3. Mainstreaming secondhand: A fresh look at resale and refurbishing
Whether “tidying up,” looking for new value, or relishing the thrill of the treasure hunt, the resale market continues to resonate with customers. As interest continues to grow, brands are looking to exceed customers’ expectations with high-quality merchandise and better shopping experiences.

  • Stage is reaching a younger customer base through its partnership with thredUP. The brand is hosting thredUP shop-in-shops where customers can purchase or donate secondhand clothing. Stage is also offering used, authenticated luxury handbags from brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

4. Bridging the gap: Looking to technology to solve customers’ challenges
With digital avenues playing a critical role in retail’s growth, brands are looking to new technologies and solutions to solve problems inherent in online shopping. Brands are finding new ways to deepen customer engagement and increase confidence and comfort with digital shopping, leaning into product visualization technologies, deeper content, and customization tools.

  • Looking to deliver a more immediate experience than home try-on, Warby Parker launched an augmented reality feature that allows customers to virtually try on pairs of glasses. Customers can try on more pairs than are available via home try-on, and get a realistic view of the size, color, and texture of their glasses.

5. Driven by artificial intelligence: Handing over the controls
While brands are more comfortable using artificial intelligence and machine learning to surface new insights, far fewer are experimenting with turning over decision-making to the technology. Cutting-edge innovation is enabling brands to develop and deploy 1:1 marketing and communications solutions in near-real time—with a human hands-off approach.

  • Ulta is deploying an artificial-intelligence solution to personalize the customer experience in store. The beauty brand will use “Beauty 3.0” to deliver personalized recommendations and will incorporate an augmented reality feature to enable virtual product try-on.


For more on these trends, read our full 2019 Retail Trends Report. 




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