WSL Future of Health Event

How to make the future less disruptive than the recent past

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Who knew how quickly retailers would respond to pandemic shopping, which drove a surge in demand for store pickup. Who knew how resourcefully retailers would respond to online orders for basic groceries and health categories that had been grounded in brick store buying.

Who knew how much manufacturers would struggle as the global pandemic dismantled their supply chains.

Who knew work life as we knew it would be overturned in days, and that the new ask would be flexible in-office days and repurposing the time used to commute.

No one had planned for a pandemic that would last for years, for staffing shortages caused by illness and the big quit, for unprecedented unemployment and inflation.

Who knew we could be so resourceful — but do we ever want to do that again?

The Journey to Planned Disruption

Yes, a pandemic taught us to be agile, but, hopefully, once was enough. Here we demonstrate five disruptors that are around the corner. If you follow your shoppers in our How America Shops surveys, you, too, can plan to meet these changes that are inside everyone’s three-year planning window.

• QR codes are back, but with added purpose. Retailers have heard the message from their shoppers — too much inventory on the floor creates shopper stress. And do we really want to carry stuff home when it can be delivered the next day? Walmart never put the full Gap home line on the floor. Similarly, Kohl’s in its small format in Tacoma, Wash., stages a room and encourages shoppers to order online. There are pieces for shoppers to feel the quality and see the colors, but minimizing inventory on the floor and ordering online from the full selection is the plan. QR codes are also used for ordering merchandise that is out of stock and for product ­information.

• Emerging channels should be part of your new distribution strategy. Livestream, direct to consumer, social media all take share in a long list of categories — not just beauty and fashion. Foods, vitamins, beverages and natural health remedies are all being purchased from these new channels. No it’s not easy to ship direct to a consumer from your website or a social media site, but this is how shoppers are buying, and success means following your shopper.

• Don’t underestimate Mark Zuckerberg’s or Amazon’s commitment to make the metaverse a mainstream shopping channel. Today, three in 10 people are in the metaverse, three-quarters of them are there every week, and three-quarters have bought an exercise class or a concert or dressed their avatar. Almost 40% have spent at least $500 on services and merchandise in the metaverse. But this is just the beginning. A Tatcha video will show you how a walk in the forest can lead you to buy real body products to use in your real shower.

• Trust is busted. Online reviews have taken a hit when it comes to shoppers’ trust. They are not the influencers that they used to be. Reviewers are not seen as category experts, and what pleases one consumer may not be important to another. Reviews described as “paid promotion” don’t help to increase the credibility of a review. While 70% read reviews on Amazon, only 60% trust those reviews. Retailer websites are not far behind. Who do we trust now? Family and friends have regained their status as the most consulted and trusted influencers — it’s known as word of mouth.

• Discovering “New” — the brick store still wins. The traditional brick store is where two-thirds of consumers still discover something new. The displays, end-caps and shelves in stores are where most people, across generations, find new things to try.

Going into 2023, WSL focused on the future you can plan for. Digital innovation does not have to be a disruption if you see it coming, and knowing when to use the brick store is equally important. How America Shops Planned Disruption shoppers led us to the coming disruption that you can plan for. Having grown up in corporate America, I learned early on that management does not like surprises. We managed to live through the disruption of a pandemic — but do we really want more unplanned disruption? I think not.

Candace Corlett is president of WSL.


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