Why we can expect more retail mashups in 2021
By Ron Lutz, Chief Retail Officer at Miller Zell
Retailers constantly strive to give consumers the best of what their brand can offer, and now they’re looking to give them the best retail can offer beyond the customers expectation. As consumers lean more heavily on e-commerce, brands from across the retail spectrum are forging unlikely partnerships in the race toward making in-store shopping worth the trip. And recent headlines go to show that this trend toward cross-pollination isn’t a once and done, in fact it is growing and being cultivated by the consumers expectation. The days of clear retailer lines and segmentation are definitely changing.
Kohl’s locations across the country will now be home to ‘a store within a store’ in partnership with beauty brand Sephora, with more than 850 Sephora at Kohl’s sites slated to open by 2023. Ulta Beauty didn’t miss a beat either, partnering with Target to open makeup and skincare shops inside hundreds of U.S. stores over the coming decade. And as this trend goes beyond beauty, shoppers will now be able to step in style as regional grocery store chain Hy-Vee plans to open 1,200-square-foot DSW mini-shops.
The experimentation taking place today in retail is, quite frankly, fascinating. Although e-commerce has grown leaps and bounds this year, numerous brick-and-mortar brands are making headway in attracting customers, too. And it’s safe to assume that the trend toward unlikely retail pairings will continue through the New Year and beyond.
A by-product of COVID-19 is that while many consumers venture out to do their shopping in-store, they continue trying to prioritize safety and are combining their trips more than ever. Instead of hitting the mall, drug store and supermarket, customers want to get in and out to accomplish all their shopping needs in one stop.
Cross-pollinating with other brands allows both (or all) parties to reach a new consumer base. So, too, does mixing online and in-store shopping through buy online pickup in store (BOPIS), curbside (BOPAC) and other omni-channel methods. Think, too, of how rather than succumbing to the retail behemoth Amazon, many brands like Kohl’s, Whole Foods and UPS locations are making it easier on shoppers by allowing them to return Amazon purchases in their stores. And we all know that when consumers come through those doors, they are much more likely to make an impulse buy or another purchase.
Similarly, Amazon now reroutes shipments to pickup locations that include Rite Aid, 7-Eleven and GNC, Stein Mart, Chase Bank and Sprint stores so consumers can keep their holiday purchases a surprise.
Is It Right for Your Business?
However, while I predict this cross-pollination trend will proliferate and we will see more interesting pairings spring up, it’s not right for everyone. There’s plenty to consider before making the leap – and that includes having a deep understanding of your brand and what it’s truly all about.
Retailers that get who they are and what their customers want aren’t necessarily going through any type of reinvention. Perhaps they’re improving already-in-place programs (say loyalty or curbside, for example) or are doubling-down to ensure consumer insights are still accurate. These brands could simply be trying to stay close to those patrons that had given them a thumbs-up in the past. So, they’re enhancing and accentuating their customer experience. The experience must be additive and not diminishing to your brand promise you are known for.
Further, some retailers that have survived this trying year are going through a rebirth of sorts. They might know their brand well but are trying to navigate consumers’ changing wants and needs. So, they’re really full-on press in defining who they are, identifying their customer base and trying to put that playbook together quickly. Everyone’s scrambling for consumer market share right now, and it begins with deeply understanding their customer lane.
How to Implement a Retail Mashup
If you’re a retailer interested in forging a mutually beneficial relationship with another brand, first identify your target customers. Get to know their changing needs better and try to figure out what else you could offer to keep their loyalty. Ask questions at the checkout. For example, what errands are they headed to next? Depending on how you survey your customer base, a simple “two question” survey with 3-5 choices of potential business offerings, and a fill in the blank option most likely will give you a great starting point. If it’s something you could offer and currently do not, consider doing so.
We’re talking 2020 here – an unpredictable year in which just about anything seems possible going into 2021. In fact, retail giant Walmart and social media giant TikTok are about to become the newest odd couple: I just read more about this interesting pairing in which Walmart is bringing livestream shopping to TikTok.
So, in closing, we’ll continue to see retail cross-pollination in an effort to be more meaningful and safely touch consumers. It’s not right for everyone, though. Some companies will simply choose to strengthen their brands and more intimately get to know – and satisfy – their customers better in other ways.
Who knew what interesting changes the pandemic would bring? It will be fun to watch what unfolds next – what sticks and what doesn’t. It will be a year of “test and learn”. One thing you can say about retail is that it’s forever changing, so strap in and enjoy the ride, as it is going to be an incredible experience to the next horizon.
Ron Lutz, Chief Retail Officer at Miller Zell
With over 35 years of leadership experience, Ron Lutz has built his career in guiding retail-driven businesses through transformational growth and change. A veteran in the industry, Lutz has expertise in bridging strategy to implementation, bringing innovative store builds to life and fostering unparalleled customer experience. In his current role as Chief Retail Officer at Miller Zell, he is the voice of the customer and is committed to providing a comprehensive view of what each client needs throughout the retail reinvention process.