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    Retail Therapy in the Age of Social Distancing: My Life After Lockdown

    Retail Therapy in the Age of Social Distancing: My Life After Lockdown

    Luring back consumers into physical retail spaces will be shaped by how effectively brands create ‘Signature Moments’ says Charu Aggarwal.

    By Charu Aggarwal - Jul 13, 2020

    Remember the notion of a “hunter-gatherer society”? Lockdown for me was a step back into that era with old folks and kids shielded at home and the strong ones out and about to gather the basic necessities.

    Even online shopping felt nothing less than hunting where we piled up our shopping cart as bait, patiently waited to catch a delivery slot and when we did find one, it demanded nothing short of a victory dance!

    With Singapore and all other South East Asian markets coming out of the lockdown, I left the lure of this digital hunt behind and ventured out to say hello to the world. As I prepared for my journey donning full battle gear against the virus the new reality of what a shopping journey entails quickly made me re-access the mirage of Revenge Shopping & Retail Therapy that’s being promised as a panacea.

    I’m all for a positive outlook, but the reality is that today I have to jump through hoops to even get to a neighborhood grocery store forget the malls or luxury brands.

    The mere thought of venturing out, comes with a full preparation routine, a cautious journey where you are watching and trying to manage distancing with other fellow commuters, the queues and check-in procedures to enter malls and every shop, a patient waiting game at aisles to keep a safe distance while looking at products and not to forget a full-blown sanitizing routine once you return home. It’s clearly not a journey for the faint-hearted.

    The whole process is conditioning me to evaluate every journey and step out only for the most lucrative experiences. The lure of stocking at a click of a button quickly winning over the anxiety, effort, and time cost involved and for moments when I crave more human interaction & tangibility there is Community Shopping to the rescue!

    Community Shopping & Live streaming are doubling up as real-life versions of Facebook and amazon combined, I can discuss product quality, review user feedback, share shopping list, and pictures.

    I’m all for a positive outlook, but the reality is that today I have to jump through hoops to even get to a neighborhood grocery store forget the malls or luxury brands.

    All this, while banding together with neighbors and friends across estates and condominiums to buy ice-creams, bubble tea, or anything else that catches fancy. It ticks multiple boxes from lowering the cost of delivery to supporting local produce and creating an effervescent community moments pre, during, and post-purchase.

    So, there are multiple options to replace the arduous journey to the physical retail spaces today. Even across markets like Indonesia and the Philippines, these options are complemented by the private shopper services with local drivers doubling up as your eyes and arms to visit the shopping malls and select what you need based on real-time pictures/ video chats.

    Given these shifts and the multiple options available, marketers and brands need to shape strategies to lean-in to this new world of social distancing. Be it supermarkets, malls, restaurants or the local mom and pop stores, they all have to look at a world where brands are competing not just against other brands but also in which context or channel the consumers choose to interact with them- virtually or in the real world; in first person or via a third party.

    Three opportunities for brands to connect with the hearts in the age of social distancing:

    IS your BX X PX > Time Cost X Effort Cost X Anxiety Cost

    Our ability to lure back consumers into physical retail spaces will be shaped by how effectively we integrate our BX (Brand Experience) with PX (Physical Experience) to create ‘Signature Moments’ that are unique to our brands and the physical spaces they are delivered in.

    Think Burger King Crowns and extra Onion Whopper- it’s a treat that’s best relished in-person and in the vicinity of the outlets or Café Rothe in Germany distributing hats with Swimming Noodles to reframe social distancing and build a new twist to the café experience. We will see that brands that win hearts are the ones who are integrating their brand signature into every interaction and reflecting the tensions and behaviors of daily lives.

    Today, consumers are seeking a Vi-Real shopping experience where there are no borders between physical and digital retail.

    With the heightened security concerns & the ease of online transactions, these kinds of in-person connections are at a premium and need to be reimagined as special treats that cannot be replicated anywhere else. The Havas Prosumer Study on retail also shows that APAC consumers are way ahead of their global counterparts in reimagining the signature physical experiences. More than 60% of Indian, Indonesian, and Filipino consumers expect the physical retail spaces to be transformed into Stress Test Zones in the future.

    Spaces where they walk-in and test the products like trying out an outdoor jacket at -15 degrees C or testing their desert boots while skidding on the dunes. While 72% of Indians & 79% Filipinos want the physical retail spaces to open a gateway to more meaningful experiences like cooking shows, participating in fashion shows, or even learning new skills.

    Organize my life as I sleep: With all the elaborate safety practices involved, physical retail visit is not about access and stocking essentials anymore. It’s a chore that’s much rather completed while I sleep.

    With 78% Prosumers in APAC saying that in the future AI will be able to predict when refills are required and place the order automatically. This is an opportunity for the new Bricks and Clicks model to refine and apply.

    Interestingly, this need is much higher for the more populous countries in APAC as compared to the global numbers that stand at 65% as the population numbers would impact traffic on roads and in stores making the journey even more arduous. The markets that are highest on this score are Indonesia at 90% followed by India at 86% and the Philippines at 81%.

    VI-REAL Spontaneity

    Covid has fast-tracked consumer familiarity in meshing Virtual and Real worlds and they now want to enjoy VI-REAL experiences whenever they are out and about. Think pop-up stores and experience zones created with AR and VR in additional spaces beyond the regular structures – be it in real-life spaces like a parking or within a gaming environment like animal crossing.

    Or even opportunities like a Shazam for retail that allows instant digital try-on of a lipstick shade you see someone wearing on the street, with 86% consumers in APAC demanding immediate buying through smartphone for anything they see, like nearby physical retail is no longer about a fixed space but about zones that pop-up and allow for spontaneous interactivity with brands.

    Today consumers are seeking a Vi-Real shopping experience where there are no borders between physical and digital retail. While the roles of both spaces are distinct in reigniting unexpected experiences they need to make transactions spontaneous and invisible.

    This need for Vi-REAL spontaneity is higher now more than ever given we all are operating within cautious boundaries. Reimagining the physical spaces and creating ‘Signature moments’ would mean addressing the tensions of modern life and adding a long-absent element of enchantment to retail spaces so that people like myself have a new reason to go in and indulge in the much-needed Retail therapy, interact with salespeople across the plastic shields and engage with brands in the first person within the physical context.

     

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