How do you please a customer who doesn’t yet exist?

From banks to bakers, we all know the best businesses are the ones that give their customers exactly the products and services they want, just when and where they want them.

But when your team’s planning for 2023, how can you identify what your customers themselves don’t even know they’re going to want? How do you please a customer who doesn’t yet exist?

The answer: identify new needs.

Today’s most successful businesses study their customers carefully to understand their evolving pain points, attitudes and expectations – and extrapolate their future needs.

The retail sector provides a great example.

Shoppers’ needs are evolving as major technological and social changes make their impact felt. Customers are looking for their retail experience to deliver ever more: convenience to community, entertainment to emotional fulfilment.

The speed and scale of these changing demands can be daunting for even the most responsive of retailers. But change offers opportunities at least as much as it does threats.

The retailers who are getting it right – studying their customers and anticipating their needs – are reaping the benefits today.

Here are ten of the best.

 

Adidas: Suits you

Adidas have implemented body scanners that allow consumers to try clothes on virtually. They’ve even started producing 3D-printed shoes tailored to the needs of each individual runner’s foot. The store’s also launched a new app platform for women, aimed at consolidating all an individual’s lifestyle and wellbeing needs in one. The “All Day” app serves up ideas, techniques, and inspiration from experts across four areas of performance: movement, nutrition, mindset, and rest.

 

Ali Baba: From online to omnichannel

Omnichannel is increasingly being seen as a smarter approach than pure play e-tail. China’s e-commerce giant Ali Baba has found a clever, low-cost way to grow its real estate. It’s doing deals with China’s six million independent convenience stores. They’re offering their sales platform as a free and rapid upgrade to the traditional ‘mom and pop’ shops in return for signage, profile and, importantly, customer data.

 

Amazon: Prime time for fashion

Amazon is keen to grow its online clothing sales, and its Prime Wardrobe service could be the answer. Launched in beta last summer, the concept should roll out later this year. Shoppers choose a ‘wardrobe’ of up to 10 items and try them on for a week before making choices and paying up, with shipping free both ways. Amazon was inspired by  subscription box services like those in the grocery and beauty sectors, but is pioneering the concept in fashion, alongside boutique fashion retailers like Stitch Fix and M. M. LaFleur.

 

Foodary: Personal services

In Australia, the forecourt cafe chain Foodary has made a name on freshness, featuring barista-made coffee and a local salad bar chain, Sumo Salad. To deliver even greater value, and drive loyalty, it has added a range of delivery and out of home services. The geography ‘down under’ sees people driving long distances and the thought of a single stop for commuters that provides meal kit deliveries, laundry and parcel collection is highly appealing.

 

Hervis: Retail rentals

Hervis is one of Austria’s leading sports goods stores. It’s recently launched a service catering to the growing desire for access-ship over ownership. Mieten Statt Kaufen (‘rent instead of buy’) lets shoppers hire more expensive products, such as bikes, trampolines and camping equipment, that they might otherwise be cautious to buy. Not only does it position the store as future forward, it’s a great way of attracting new customers who couldn’t afford the purchase price on many goods.

 

Kroger: Leading Edge

Kroger, America’s biggest supermarket chain, is rolling out a digital system to replace the familiar paper labelling on shelves. The tech, called Kroger Edge, displays pricing and nutrition info and can change instantly to reflect promotions. In future, the system aims to interact with shoppers’ smart phones as they work through their lists, highlighting favourite products down the aisle and offering deals based on behaviour.

 

Lululemon: When Lemon give you life

When retailers offer truly immersive, experiential and instructive experiences, they can build lasting loyalty. High end sportswear label LuluLemon has been providing communal events and classes instore. In recent years, it’s expanded out of store. It began by creating ‘Sweat Life’ festivals: among the most popular of the increasingly popular ‘fitness festivals’. It’s now started running public retreats, called simply The Immersion. The wellness-based weekends provide workshops, guidance and a chance to meet other enthusiasts. And, of course, offer a great showcase for the brand’s sportswear.

 

Mashable: Retail mash up

An inspiring development in ‘searchable image’ shopping sees influential magazine website Mashable team up with eBay. The pilot partnership allows readers to buy products they see in any of the photos accompanying Mashable’s articles. A price tag icon embedded in images invites readers to ‘click, learn and buy’. Echoing Asian messaging apps like WeChat, the service enables readers to buy without leaving the Mashable site: a first for the normally proprietary eBay.

 

Muji: Shop ‘til you sleep

Minimalist store Muji is launching a full shop and sleep experience with next year’s Muji Hotel. The building, in Yoko’s Ginza district, will host a flagship store at street level. But its minimalist aesthetic will also extend to four floors of guest accommodation above. Rooms will feature all-Muji products, from furniture to toiletries, giving guests a chance to really ‘try before they buy’.

 

Wheelys 247: Robot retail

Swedish store, Wheelys 247 began as a coffee stand on a bike. It now works as a fully automated, staff-less convenience store that never closes. Once customers download an app, they use it to enter the store, browse, scan and pay for items. The only human involvement will occur when an employee has to re-stock products. The founder believes unmanned stores will be the norm soon and is launching his first store in China this year.