Coffee Break

Social And Digital Have Generated An Entirely New Retail Experience

When the film Pretty Woman came out in the early 1990s, the shopping experience was very different to today. In the movie, there’s a scene where Richard Gere gives Julia Roberts his credit card and sends her on a shopping trip, telling her to buy whatever she wants. The thought of being able to get anything is visible on Roberts’ face: she’s thrilled by the prospect, after having spent years scrounging around for any money she can get.


The film is a reminder of what the retail experience used to be like for customers. Shopping was something that was done both for necessity and entertainment, and unlike today, it was actually something you had to physically go and do.

But with the rise of social media and digital technologies, the way businesses “do retail” has fundamentally changed. People are now 24/7 consumers, always tethered to their devices which, in turn, are connected to shopping sites of all kids. To say that there’s been a transformation in the retail experience is an understatement.

For businesses, the question is how these changes will continue to affect them going forward. What does all this new technology mean to them?

Prediction #1: Retail Will Have To Sell Both Experience And The Product

Walmart, Target and other big box retail giants made a name for themselves by “stacking them high and selling them cheap.” But in the digital age, this is precisely the market that the online retailers have covered. They’re using high-tech digital technologies, like multi channel solutions, which seamlessly integrate their supply chains, enabling them to deliver efficiencies traditional retailers could only dream of. In a word, they’ve got the market for cheap, high-quality goods cornered.

It means that brick and mortar retailers are going to have to find new ways to compete. Offering discounts and lowering prices just isn’t going to cut it anymore: they’re going to have to appeal to the fact that customers want an entertaining experience when they go shopping. In practice, this means that retailers are going to have to change their offerings. Already, we see coffee shops show up in supermarkets and entertainment being mixed with electronics stores. But now commentators, like Daniel Newman writing in Forbes, are predicting in-store technology will fuel a new wave of demand.

Prediction #2: Social Media Will Create Personalized Customer Experiences

Nobody thought that social media would have such a profound effect on marketing, but it has. Now companies are using personalised Snapchat messages to reach customers with unique content. Stories on Snapchat can be particularly effective because it allows firms to bring text, photos and videos together in one single item and share them for 24 hours.

Clothing brand Free People uses social to get its customers engaged. It offers ephemeral peeks at future lines of clothing for people who connect with the company on Snapchat, showing them what they have to look forward to in the new season. This keeps core customers interested and engaged in what the brand is doing.