A retailer was easier to define. Think of it this way: If someone said they were going shopping, one had a pretty good idea of what they meant. Obviously that’s not the case anymore. Today, shopping is a multi-channel, multi-dimensional event. It takes place on smartphones and inside pop-up stores that are here one day and gone the next. Innovative and sometimes gourmet foods can be purchased from food trucks. Produce and frozen foods are now commonplace items at mass merchants like Target and Walmart. And music can be purchased 10 ways to Sunday – except, ironically enough, at what used to pass for “music” stores.
The rules have changed: Retail’s business tomes are being rewritten, and the industry, such as we knew it five or even three years ago, has been transformed along with them.
Leading the charge are the Baby Boomers and Millennials. The Boomer generation – the leading edge of which turns 65 this year – is now all about convenience. The same folks that once embraced cavernous superstores and big-box concepts that allowed them to explore everything a product category had to offer, are now leading a move back to small footprint shopping environments and edited assortments. Suddenly, the generation for which more was more has come to terms with the idea that less is okay. Brands are still important, but trust – something Boomers rarely exhibited in their younger years – can make all the difference when it comes to trying new products or testing the private label waters.
Millennials are moving to the center stage of consumerism, poised to rewrite retail history in their own digital libretto. Ever impatient, they are leading the mobile shopping charge — buying goods when they want, where they want and how they want. Social interaction around shopping has reached new proportions thanks to Millennials, and the retailers who push the innovation envelope are winning them over. Millennials love luxury brands (for a price), think games that net shopping rewards are “cool” and are (and will be) loyal to stores that engage their senses and indulge their desire for excitement. And guess who’s first in line to buy the latest, greatest tech gadget? Ignore this group at your own peril.
This year’s Top 100 list hints at the changes that are underway: Check out Amazon’s growth and Apple’s stores’ jump in the ranking as two examples. And who knows what transformative impact the mobile wallet will have over the next five to 10 years?
My advice: Buckle up, because it’s going to be an exhilarating ride.