In this regular column, creative agency Household explores how modern wellness businesses can leverage consumer behaviour to create brand stories and experiential points of discovery for customers.
This month Household explores the way brands are using cutting-edge technology as solutions to foster consumer loyalty that lasts in the long term……
We’ve been tracking the use of technology to personalise the customer experience in retail and hospitality for some time. We’ve found that the brands succeeding across the wellness, f&b, beauty and fashion sectors are thinking and behaving like tech brands.
These trailblazers are leveraging the endless capabilities of technology across their entire operation to transform how they connect more meaningfully with consumers throughout the entire customer journey.
And with 75% of consumers expecting companies to use new technologies to create better experiences for them (ZDNet, 2019), it’s no surprise that brands are masterminding and fast-tracking tech to transform their store and online channel experiences.
In this month’s column, we explore three ways in which retail brands are incorporating the latest tech innovations into their brand experiences to meet evolving customer needs:
- Connecting customer experiences through the power of voice
- Creating sustainable ‘fast fashion’
- Personalising beauty for the digital ‘you’
Connecting customer experiences through the power of voice
The need for convenience and personalisation has continually reshaped the grocery landscape as consumers look for faster, more efficient ways of buying daily essentials and the ability to have greater control over their shopping experience. As a result, we’ve seen supermarkets such as British chain Sainsbury’s implement scan and go technology, and US retailer Walmart launch new apps that allow customers to navigate and locate products directly on their mobile devices.
As consumers become more comfortable using tech to shop, what’s next for ‘convenience’ tech?
Siri and Google Home, for some, have become additional members of the family, as more brands begin to use AI in an intuitive, personal way for customers to get what they need quickly.
A staggering 94% of consumers have said that they find voice technology easy to use and think it saves time and improves their quality of life (Adobe, 2019). And as voice assistants grow in adoption, the technology is offering a new way of elevating the convenience offering.
Research shows that 70% of US smart speaker users own an Amazon Echo device. With this knowledge on uptake, Amazon saw an opportunity to integrate its voice tech into its physical brand experience, to redefine in-store convenience and almost act as a real-time personal shopper.
We worked with Amazon on the Alexa customer journey within Wholefoods stores and just recently, Amazon has opened its latest grocery store format, ‘Amazon Fresh’ — introducing digitally connected trolleys called ‘Dash Carts’, which seamlessly connect to users’ personal Alexa shopping lists. Alexa kiosks are also placed around the store to help customers find products or ask for recommendations and meal inspiration, ‘contactlessly’.
As voice technology continues to grow in usage, we can expect brands to leverage its capabilities to transform what convenience really means for customers, as they continue to shop between channels.
In the future, brands will be able to connect customer journeys in a simpler way than ever before, offering a truly contactless, intuitive experience that puts consumers fully in control of the way they want to shop.
Creating sustainable ‘fast fashion’
As climate change becomes more prevalent in society, brands are re-evaluating their end-to-end operations, this is particularly evident in the fashion industry. Research consistently shows that the industry alone could contribute to a 2°C global temperature rise by 2050 if nothing is done to reduce its footprint.
And with Kantar revealing that 63% of consumers wanting fashion brands to show their commitment to adopting more sustainable behaviours, brands are focusing on ways they can create a positive change using new technology to better support consumers, whilst making a difference.
H&M is aiming for all its materials to be either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way by 2030.
To meet this ambitious target and consumers’ growing needs toward sustainability, H&M is leaning on technological innovation to create new products directly in-store, to encourage upcycling of clothing.
Through the pioneering of a new garment-to-garment recycling machine on the shop floor of its Stockholm flagship, customers can watch the new ‘Looop’ system shred their old clothes into fibres and spin them into new yarn, creating brand new clothing in real-time.
This allows H&M to instantly produce new clothing, showcasing how fast fashion can become more sustainable. Great to see, but questions will be around scale and adoption for a long-term viable solution that really helps re-think over manufacturing and excess consumption.
Yet technology will no doubt play a key role in driving change in the fashion industry, with brands using technological innovation to shorten the supply chain and even integrate manufacturing processes directly on the shop floor – bringing new purpose to the physical and local store footprint.
Personalising beauty for the digital you
Virtual spaces have become even more dominant in our lives since the pandemic, yet they also offer us a chance to escape, and the opportunity to connect with like-minded folk. Proof of this is how much time and money consumers are beginning to spend making virtual and realistic avatars of themselves, placing as much value on their digital counterparts as they do their real selves. Digital in-game spending is expected to reach $129 billion in 2021, up from $109 billion in 2019, according to Nielson.
With the meteoric rise of this trend, especially amongst a Gen Z and millennial audience – two demographics that represent a combined spending power of around $350 billion in the US alone, according to McKinsey – brands are looking to innovate by incorporating virtual avatars into brand experiences that engage with younger generations and open up new revenue streams.
Beauty brand Shiseido has partnered with Zepeto, an avatar creation app with over 150 million registered global users, to enable customers to create a digital 3D avatar of themselves on their smartphone. Customers can personalise and beautify their avatars using Shiseido’s personal care brands, allowing them to virtually test and try on products before purchasing them in real life.
However, the experience isn’t just limited to customers’ phones. At the brand’s new concept store in Tokyo, customers can project their avatar onto large screens in-store, taking pictures as a memorable keepsake and sharing them online with other community members to see. Shiseido is using physical and digital spaces as key moments to drive participation amongst customers, as well as using its physical footprint as a channel to advertise its products through user-generated content. The brand is banking on consumers’ new-found affinity to digital avatars to encourage them to join in and drive footfall.
As consumers become more comfortable in digital worlds, brands need to innovate and experiment to meet them in these new environments and involve them more in the brand experience across digital channels.
At Household, we’ve identified an emerging global, active community we call the Participation Generation. This demographic wants to be engaged and to get involved with the brands they love, forming deeper relationships beyond transactions.
Going forward, the brands that will succeed at engaging this generation will be innovating through a smart combination of tech and real-life experiences that enhance the interaction and emotional engagement consumers will want to return to time and time again. Our work with clients such as Amazon has shown us that tech is best served with thinking about real people.
Here are three ways to incorporate the tech innovations discussed here, into your brand experience:
- Utilise your brand voice to create virtual colleagues, providing a convenient, connected service across all of your channels
- Position your store as a platform to do more locally (even manufacturing), to minimise carbon emissions
- Think about the role of digital avatars in trialling new products, as well as bringing virtual customers into the in-store experience