In some ways, it feels like the future of retail has arrived. Shoppers today can make purchases in virtual reality, check out in stores without the help of cashiers and even receive personalized recommendations via text. However, looking beyond the exciting technology, customers still yearn for authentic, meaningful, shopping experiences.
Olapic’s Amy Aylward, Senior Director of Product Marketing, hosted a panel on the future of retail at Youth Marketing Strategy San Francisco to discuss the role and influence of consumers, authenticity, and technology in the retail landscape.
The panel featured a diverse group, which inspired interesting conversations.
- Jennie Yoon, Chief Business Development Officer, Casetify
- Laura Choi, Founder, Par en Par
- Stacy Carpenter, Director of Customer Experience, TOMS
- Malcolm Scovil, Head of Marketing, Tophatter
TODAY’S RETAIL EXPERIENCES ARE TECH-DRIVEN, BUT CUSTOMER PSYCHOLOGY HASN’T CHANGED.
When asked, “How has retail changed?” Stacy Carpenter of TOMS aptly responded, “How has it not changed?” TOMS was one of the first brands born of the social revolution, and has been fortunate to mature alongside a highly engaged audience on social media. When it comes to marketing, it has been crucial to leverage their customers, as Stacy explained, “the biggest change has been going from brand-focused marketing to customer-focused marketing.”
Laura Choi, founder of Par en Par, echoed that same idea. “The conversation with retailers and consumers used to be binary. Today there are so many more touchpoints to consider: social media, word of mouth, Instagram feeds, that’s where customers are now.”
While technology has afforded shoppers new touchpoints to shop faster and more efficiently, Jennie Yoon of Casetify believes the psychology behind shopping is still the same. “There’s more technology and better storytelling with retail today, but the touchpoints are changing more than shoppers’ behavior.”
For Malcolm Scovil of Tophatter, a live auction site where every product sells within 90 seconds, efficiency is a huge driver for their customers. “Instant gratification and snackability are what our customers want.”
A theme that bubbled up in many sessions throughout the day at YMS SF was that authenticity and user-generated content are key for Gen Zs and Millennials.
TOMS is lucky to have an audience that creates content organically without being asked to. As Stacy highlighted, “A huge part of our success is authenticity! Customers purchase because of the gift factor.”
TOMS is sure to make customers a big part of their marketing strategy, leveraging user-generated content while highlighting two customers, “We celebrate by promoting the customer who buys [a pair of shoes] and the customer who receives the gift.”
While not every brand has a 1-for-1 model, authenticity manifests in other ways. Malcolm Scovil said, “When I first joined Tophatter, I thought to myself, ‘are we just selling smart watches and jewelry?’ But I quickly found through customer research that most people use Tophatter to buy gifts for their friends and family – affordably. We are helping millions of people have fun and give. I find a lot of inspiration in that.”
Recently Tophatter ran a campaign where they asked customers to share why they love Tophatter, and put the winning response on a billboard with a photo of the customer. “It was a way to highlight our customers and make them a part of the conversation.”
Laura Choi of Par en Par learned during her time at Warby Parker that customers notice authenticity in every little detail. “Par en Par is about promoting balance. I am detail-oriented down to the packaging. When you have your own company, you own the voice to the customer – so the authentic presence starts with you.”
RETAIL BRANDS OF THE FUTURE EVOLVE WITH THEIR CUSTOMERS.
Another trend that came up in more than one session throughout YMS SF: youths are philanthropic and cause-driven, and they expect brands to have clearly defined missions.
Once you have your mission established, find existing communities to align with. Laura Choi of Par en Par said, “With fashion and travel, it should be a given that you’re doing good. We have advocates online, like EcoCult, who are passionate about sustainable fashion. It’s all about finding existing communities who care and leveraging those communities.”
TOMS has taken an innovative approach to storytelling and removed the blog from their site. Stacy Carpenter explained, “Customers were always asking: ‘do you really give?’ So, we built a custom content widget that leverages user-generated content to show what’s happening behind the scenes. We’re figuring out how to tell our story the right way.”
Casetify is also going through a transformation driven by their customers. Jennie Yoon explained, “We had to take a step back, look at Casetify and ask, ‘why does the world need another phone case company?’ We’re actually rebranding right now with a focus on more storytelling. Our mission and brand has evolved, in part driven by our customers.”
To learn more about how Olapic can help you build an authentic brand through visual marketing, feel free to explore the technology or reach out to us, here.