13 Trends to Watch for Retailers . . . and Everyone Else

Last week, I attended the annual conference of the National Retail Federation in New York, Retail's Big Show 2013, (and "big" does not begin to describe the scope of this event!). There were many informative sessions but I was really struck by the insight of Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America. I was initially skeptical but then quickly realized there are already indicators of the thirteen things that she predicted are around the corner. Most of us are probably just not attuned enough to pick up on them.

Read on and start thinking about how you can leverage these trends to the advantage of your business or at least mitigate any potential issues.

1.         You and me = "co". The prefix "co" will be everywhere. We will seek to "co-parent" and "co-produce". To be a "co-preneur" versus an "entrepreneur" will be the new aspiration. We'll also push to a higher level of intimacy with others, transitioning from "coworkers" to "co-creators." Retailers need to present their offering to capitalize on this.

2.         Make solutions, not problems. Don't talk negatively. Instead, frame issues in terms of how to solve them. For example, retailers should say: "You didn't know you needed this product or service. Here you go!" Increasingly, people do not want negative events and approaches. So talk less trash about competitors and place an accent on the positive aspects of products and solutions. Find your happy place. Frugal

3.         Austerity living with double-dip frugality. There will be more sites like Renttherunway.com and options like Zipcars. People will aspire to a fraction of ownership or engagement. Notice how the storage business is booming: it's because we have more things than we can fit into our homes. As a result, we are starting to ask ourselves, "Do I really need to own this stuff?" We will still buy electronics but there must be a positive message about them. And content will migrate from paper we can hold in our hands to digital content we can access anytime, anywhere, anyhow. That is why the tablet is the new "cloud catcher."

4.         Alternative economies. Cash is taxable. Trading and bartering will become more popular, as will dumpster diving and the freegan movement. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the traditional retail model. Cash will still be used but will come with the expectation of a premium-level service or product.

5.         Rethinking imperfections. Photoshop, cosmetic dentistry and even SAT tutors transform how we look, smile and perform on standardized tests. We live in a world where products are showcased in the retail environment and everything is perfect. But perfection is not human. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and allowed to be more real. We see this with the Dove campaign for real beauty but apparel stores still have mannequins with unattainable figures. 

6.         Dads as the new moms. More men have opted out of the economy. It is a total stereotype reboot. Watch out for more daddy bloggers and companies to market to them (everyone does a bad job right now). Men want solutions; women go shopping. Try to buy breakfast at a supermarket and see how many different areas of the store you have to visit. This doesn't work for dads. You have to throw out the standard approach and streamline for these consumers.

Dads will also be creative about how they get things done around the house. Overall, there will be more gender neutrality in advertising and promotions. Dads will be at school, have part-time jobs, do job swapping and sharing, etc. Retailers have to reach them in all these different places. Plus, they have to remember that dads are different consumers than any we've seen before.

7.         Constant schooling. With education now being a mere click away, we will attend school for our whole lives. Leaving college with a degree is no longer good enough. Furthermore, we can all be educators, as you will be able to sell your expertise to others looking to learn.

8.         Tiring of fatigue. We are on overload and don't know where to turn. "Respite" will be a new personal goal. Zen-like environments will be developed and promoted by retailers, airlines and others. We will still want maximum experiences but with minimal challenges. Start planning for the redesign for your retail outlets now and think about products and services you can offer while still being true to your brand. What kind of premium could you charge for friction-free transactions?

9.         Quality of life. What is the number one city in which recent graduates aspire to live? It's not one of the major markets. The winner is Austin, followed by Portland. To offset the hectic pace, we will be interested in slow cooking, slow eating, slow courtships, slow colors and scents, etc. Consumer overload will cause us to freeze up and stay home, in an uncluttered and unstressed space. There will be no more sensory exhaustion. Rather, we will romance the single idea of an object. Your offering and your marketing will have to demonstrate how you solve the problem.

10.        Place-making. Brands will be redefined in four ways: person, place, purpose and passion. The biggest driver will be place. Consequently, we have to incorporate "lore" in the stories we tell about products. Place is a magnet for people looking for others like them. What place do your products evoke and how can you adapt advertising and other marketing to reinforce this the lore?

11.        Native. This trend jibes with the others. Things that are natural and ground zero are those in which we can believe. We will want to know more about where things are from and what they are about as part of a "nature culture." Essentially, we want to be rooted will embrace the authenticity of the past. Retailers need to focus on what is native and real about their offers. In response to consumer preferences, retailers will over-label: what are the contents, where they are from, how they were delivered for production and more. African Drum

12.        The rise of Africa. This may be the next consumer marketplace—the next Asia. It could be very big in the global economy. The African middle class will be major buyers of what North America makes. The working population will overtake over China and India as we outsource to Africa. As far as retail is concerned, you can already see in stores like World Market and Pier One some African sensibility and influence on products.

13.        Big, Big Cities. Cities of more than 15 million people create big problems, including pollution, terrorism, extreme violence, lack of education and more. We will be talking about them and discussing solutions. Nashville and Memphis will come to be more desirable than Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Sixty percent of people will live in small to medium-sized cities. Think about how can you appeal to this new preference for downsized cities. Should you transition from "big box" to "good things come in small packages?"

Whether you agree with all 13 or not, one thing is clear: from the macro to the micro, all of these trends have implications for our businesses. And even if you are not seeing signs of these emerging preferences yet, you are probably identifying with them on a personal level.

What trends do you anticipate and how will you deal with them while driving success? Are there any predictions that will impact retail negatively and what would you advise?


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