Advice and Opinion Research

SACSC: Four key trends driving retail in 2015

Amanda Stops, CEO of the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC).

Retail has become a stage for change, innovation and disruption. It has also become an increasingly global business as every corner of the world joins the market of our global village – and South Africa is no exception.

Amanda Stops, CEO of the South African Council of Shopping Centres, has gathered insight from several recent international retail events, from the ICSC European Conference held in London to the ICSC Recon in Las Vegas, to support, empower and inspire the council’s members.

Stops reports four universal themes that are driving retail across the globe.

1. Customer Experience

Today, shopping has become about the consumers’ desire for experience, rather than a desire for product, reports Stops. In the new land of retail, the customer is truly king. “Our shopping centres and retail stores are changing from being spaces to places, so people will feel more comfortable, stay longer and buy more,” says Stops.

She reports that only 5% of American families now fit the traditional mould of working dad and stay-at-home mom. “Time is scarcer and more precious than ever before, which means retail needs to offer a great experience or extreme convenience – or both,” notes Stops.

Based on the insight she has gained from the world’s retail thought leaders, Stops notes that today’s six main retail drivers are: feed me, entertain me, health and fitness, reduce risk, increase convenience and provide value.

“Shopping centres are placing more emphasis on unique entertainment and experiences, with a focus on food and casual dining as draw cards,” says Stops.

In this customer-centric environment, there are no limits to what retailers are doing to delight their shoppers. Some retailers are even working with customers to pilot new products and experiences.

“With consumers now better educated than ever before, with access to online information for their decision making, they expect store staff to have the same level of intellect, as well as experience and knowledge of their products,” notes Stops. “This makes staff training a key ingredient in offering the best customer experience.”

2. Technology

Bringing the real world and digital world closer together is one of the big impacts of rapidly evolving technology. For retail, this influence is so vast we are already experiencing the complete interdependence of physical and digital retail – so much so we are hearing the death-knell for almost any kind of pure-play retail.

Physical shops are realising they cannot survive without digital channels and pure online retailers are increasingly opening physical shops to support their businesses, making brick-and-mortar stores the new black for retail success. This has given birth to the concept of ‘phygital’ – the combination of physical and digital stores, which is tipped to be the recipe for future retail success.

One of the biggest movements that shows this is the click-and-collect phenomenon, which frees customers from being tied to home when waiting for a delivery. It also allows them to buy additional items when they go to collect their online purchases in-mall or in-store. Then there’s the emergence of ‘dark stores’, which are places to pack orders for people to collect during certain hours. So, the store will only be alive with activity during certain ‘collection’ times.

With time being such a desirable currently, apps like Westfields’ Dine on Time allows customers of Westfields Mall in San Francisco to order and pay for restaurant and fast food online, without standing in line. The shopper can choose a time to collect it or have it delivered. Shoppers receive and text to remind them when their order is ready.

“To keep things exciting for the customer, we are even seeing virtual food trucks in food courts, which can make changes in menu on a daily or weekly basis,” says Stops.

3. Adapting to change

“In a world of disruptive technology, we live in a constant state of flux, so malls and retailers need to adapt to remain relevant and appealing to consumers. Our ability to evolve, and to move quickly, will determine our success,” tells Stops. When it comes to technology, retailers not only face the challenge of helping shoppers become more comfortable with new innovations, but taking the leap into the digital world themselves.

“Those who say ‘my business is not digital focused’ are really saying “I don’t get it and it scares me senseless’,” says Stops. “Usually, they simply need a little help understanding. With open minds, technology can help us do great things, or even the same thing in a great new way.” She points to Starbucks as being an innovator moving into a digital future.

4. Leadership

Strong and inspiring leadership is driving retail success. Stops says: “Even with the best strategies and ideas, people need to implement and execute them. This is where having an excellent leader can make or break a strategy.”

In the retail and shopping centre industry, the mark of a leader is can be found in their attitude, market reputation, capability, trustworthiness and ability to deliver. They are authentic and consistent. Leaders are game changers. Most importantly, leaders love their industry and immerse themselves in knowledge about it. The shopping centre industry is a business for retail and property addicts. To be an industry leader you must eat, breathe and sleep shopping.

“Excellence doesn’t happen by chance, it needs vision. A leader know the way, goes the way and shows the way,” reports Stops. “Being a leader means ensuring your team has the right value set. You need to understand people to lead a team, be innovative, inclusive, ambitious and stay relevant. Good communication is also essential. Be brave, and when you make mistakes also solve them. Lean to observe and devote time to meticulous preparation.”