By: Stephan Paschalides
As part of OmniShopper, Stephan Paschalides from Now Plus One, led a group of conference attendees on a 3.5-hour Retail Trend Trek through Chicago. The fundamental goal of this inspirational immersion was to explore current marketplace trends and collect valuable insights that are relevant to participants, no matter their brand or agency affiliation.
We visited several retail locations of new and established brands, including Bonobos, Shinola, TOMS, Warby Parker, The Tie Bar, DAVIDsTEA and BucketFeet. At each stop, a brand associate shared thoughts about the brand and specific retail location, and then we had the opportunity to ask questions and explore the store space and products. We were very impressed at the high level of engagement by the group, and at the sheer amount of insights we uncovered in such a short time!
We’d love to share some of the highlights of our Trend Trek in terms of insights:
· The brands we visited actively encourage employee participation by inviting them to share feedback, incorporating their ideas into the brand or store, and allowing them to make changes to the retail space. Because of this two-way relationship, employees act as enthusiastic and powerful brand representatives, rather than mere retail workers.
· Each of the individual retail establishments we visited takes pride in participating in the larger community. They hold events for the neighborhood, share products with other stores, and give back to local Chicago communities. This allows even the bigger and global brands to feel authentic within the local community.
· The brands we encountered are transcending the retail experience by creating a movement for change. Shopping at many of these store locations is more than just a transaction; instead it feels like a way to participate in the brand’s movement whose goals included issues like eradicating poverty, connecting people to artists, and revitalizing craft in America.
· Despite the current industry obsession with having digital presence, there remains a strong consumer desire to offer tactile, sensory and emotional experiences in physical retail environments.
The Trend Trek participants reported than they felt invigorated by getting out of the building and exploring Chicago. We consistently find that there is a lot of power in exploring parallel categories, as it helps participants think more conceptually, and allows them to translate fresh insights to their own category.
Stephan Paschalides is the Principal of Now Plus One, a cultural insights agency specializing in market immersions. He will be leading a Trend Trek at Foresight & Trends 2015 in Los Angeles.