NEW YORK — Retailers and suppliers have done a tremendous job over the past 18 months of serving consumers during a difficult time, Wendy Liebmann, founder and chief executive officer of WSL Strategic Retail, said during a presentation at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ recent virtual Total Store Expo. But when the pandemic winds down, shoppers are going to expect even more.
Convenience is an important part of the question.
“What shoppers are telling us is they want fast, safe and easy shopping,” Liebmann said. “Help me get in and out faster, add more checkouts, self-checkouts and contactless payments. Put necessities up front.”
People still want to save money, but they also want to save time and reduce stress, and be able to live a meaningful life, Liebmann said. Consumers want solutions and innovation, and they also increasingly want products that are not only environmentally sustainable but natural and organic as well.
They also want to do business with companies that support equality and greater inclusiveness.
“And, of course, younger shoppers are much more engaged in thinking about and evaluating what they expect and what retailers and brands must deliver,” Liebmann said. “So this notion of meaningfulness is really now increasingly ingrained in what people expect of us and ingrained in very nuanced ways, not just the obvious. So that’s the other piece we need to think about as we move forward in this new world.”
Another shift retailers should pay attention to is that many consumers are also thinking about health and wellness in broader ways in the wake of the pandemic. More than just getting better when they are sick, people are now seeking to “live a well life,” Liebmann said.
“Of course, it’s important to be safe, and to be secure in terms of our health, but it’s more than that. It’s not just sick care. It’s not even just taking care of ourselves physically. It’s this emotional, mental and financial security that people are telling us today is more important than ever before. And interestingly, it’s not just about younger shoppers. It’s also about higher-income shoppers.”
Liebmann explained that her company is built around the view that “if you follow the shopper, you will see the future.” She urged retailers and suppliers to recognize that shoppers today have a much bigger, bolder vision of what the future should be.
“Retail is at a crossroads, and retail leadership needs to be asking itself, “Who are we? What role do we want to play as citizens in the broader community?” That’s what retail innovation looks like now, because shoppers demand it.”