Retail Therapy – The Changing Shopper Experience


At the end of 2011 ZARA entered the South African retailing landscape when it opened its first store in Sandton City. Dion Chang, a trends analyst at Flux Trends, called the move a ‘game changer’ and warned local retailers to be afraid. “Today’s mantra in retail is to delight, inspire and engage. Selling is an experience.” He was speaking in Johannesburg at a Flux Trend presentation on the retail landscape.

Static retailers that only compete on price and nothing else will die, while dynamic retailers that can provide people with what the web cannot, without pushing their product is the future.

For today’s new school of shoppers the whole shopping experience is disappointing. He says this century demands an interactive, exciting and innovative shopping space. “This is what the shoppers want, but their expectations are not being met by the retailers.”

“The days of retailers managing shoppers’ experiences are over.  Today’s shoppers are taking charge of their own shopping experiences”, he adds.

You can also only push price to a limit, but not a brand or service.  The brand experience is where the push should be and is for some already. Chang says the trick is to focus on the solution your product offers, not the product. Adidas is very good at this. It’s a brand that connects both inside and outside its bricks and mortar stores. For example it allows a shopper to identify the style of shoe you wish to buy before you go to the store. When you enter the store it will sync your profile so that the store staff knows what you want.

Tesco in Korea is another good example of going to its shoppers. It’s not the number one store in Korea and it also has fewer stores than its main competitor. It lets the stores go to the consumer, setting up virtual store displays in subways that look exactly like the real store. Commuters use their smart phone; scan a QR code on the product to order it. The products are then delivered to the shopper by the time they get home. Tesco online sales increased 130% making it the number one online store in that category and close second offline.

“Both these examples show how a brand used technology to increase its sales or drive a shopper to their store, but more importantly it met the needs of its shoppers,” says Chang.

Trending Tribes:

It’s a man’s world: a toiletries aisle for men only. In Prague a new upscale mall was built with a wing just for men. In Australia, Manland caters for men offering free hotdogs, sports and games.

Technology: the immediacy that technology offers has led to the power to purchase becoming a nightmare labyrinth. Retailers are asking who do I talk to and if I do find out, what do I say to them.

Web vs real world: Most shoppers use a combination of internet shopping and shopping in stores. Retailers need to use apps to drive shoppers to stores and then engage them in the store. Don’t focus on technology focus on its benefits.

Store Trends:

Store within a store: e.g. MAC in Truworths.

Pop up stores: both quick and slow. Adidas is the master of this trend, popping up in the shape of a giant shoe box.

Smell: also not entirely new, but many retailers are using it as a differentiator. Connects with people’s emotions directly.

Upsell, cross sell and collaborate: The more surprising the collaboration the better, e.g. a Spanish piazza outlet and a book store.

Convenience kits: Time is the commodity so get on pack recipes. Taking this further, in the UK you can buy a holiday in a box. Inside is the paperwork you need.

Sustainable and green: trends will grow.


With kind permission of Advantage magazine ( Dion Chang’s trends analysis company Flux Trends specialises in tracking shifting social dynamics and understanding consumer mind-set, in particular, translating global trends to ensure they have relevance for South African business.

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