Looking Back:
Retail in 2017

22.12.2017 Retail : Beauty : Technology

Democratising goodness, pollution-free spaces and chatbots rising are some of the stories that defined the retail sector this year.

The Trend: Accessible Premium

Just by Hampton Creek was rebranded to appeal to the mass-market consumer Just by Hampton Creek was rebranded to appeal to the mass-market consumer
Just. range by Hampton Creek Just. range by Hampton Creek
Hollar app Hollar app

One retail trend that came to the fore in 2017 was the idea of democratising quality and bringing premium products to the mass market through online dollar stores and well-designed private label offerings.

Hollar is one brand that is democratising quality by taking the business model of a traditional bricks-and-mortar dollar store completely online. With 80% of its shipments sent to locations outside New York and California, it celebrates the idea of making essential products accessible for Middle America.

Brandless is another online retail destination that is selling high-quality essentials for £2.39 ($3, €2.54) or less by removing Brand Tax, as it calls the premium paid for a branded product that is indistinguishable from a non-branded equivalent. Tina Sharkey, co-founder of Brandless, said the company’s offering ‘is about the true democratisation of goodness’.

The Big Idea: The Rise of Chatbots

Tacobot by Taco Bell Tacobot by Taco Bell

While the past few years have given rise to considerable chatbot experimentation, in 2017 chatbots moved from a gimmicky iteration to a real business benefit. As a result, chatbots are projected to be responsible for cost savings of more than £6bn ($8.04bn, €6.81bn) a year by 2022.

One way in which chatbots are being harnessed is as virtual employees. Kit, a chatbot acquired by Shopify in 2016, functions as a marketing employee. It can set up and manage advertisements on social media, promote products and discount codes, and provide performance reports and insights on sales.

Taco Bell is another brand making chatbots useful, launching its TacoBot via instant messaging service Slack. As well as being able to answer customer questions and customise orders through to purchase, the bot’s success is aided by its embodiment of the brand’s conversational tone of voice within a social setting.

The Space: Dr Jart+ Filter Space

Dr. Jart Flagship Store by Betwin Space Design, Seoul. Photography by Yong-joon Choi Dr. Jart Flagship Store by Betwin Space Design, Seoul. Photography by Yong-joon Choi

Opening at the beginning of 2017, Filter Space is the Dr Jart+ brand’s Seoul-based flagship store, which combines high technology with high design to create a refuge from the city’s huge pollution problem, in which 25m South Koreans inhale unsafe levels of microscopic particles on a typical day.

The store comprises three floors, each level focusing on a specific element. Dedicated to water, the first floor offers a water bar with advanced filtering so visitors can wash their hands and rehydrate.

The second floor, dedicated to air, has filter pipes that pump filtered air into the space, and the third floor, focused on light, is designed so that it is entirely naturally lit.

The Campaign: Fresh Stories by U

Fresh Stories campaign by TBWA/Paris Fresh Stories campaign by TBWA/Paris

In May, France-based supermarket chain U used the ephemerality of Snapchat Stories to prove to consumers that its fish were genuinely freshly caught.

Created by advertising agency TBWA/Paris, the campaign printed Snapchat QR codes onto the retailer’s origin labels. Customers could scan these codes to trace where fish had originated via the Snapchat footage, which through the 24-hour lifespan of Snapchat Stories, demonstrated it had taken less than a day between the fish being caught and ending up on the counter.

The film, Fresh Stories, was captured through the eyes of a fisherman, sales manager and fishmonger using Snapchat Spectacles.

The Interview: Joseph Pine II on moving from experience to transformation

The Institute Presents: Neurosociety, Pace Gallery, Palo Alto The Institute Presents: Neurosociety, Pace Gallery, Palo Alto
The Institute Presents: Neurosociety, Pace Gallery, Palo Alto The Institute Presents: Neurosociety, Pace Gallery, Palo Alto
The Institute Presents: Neurosociety, Pace Gallery, Palo Alto The Institute Presents: Neurosociety, Pace Gallery, Palo Alto

In our exploration of the changing meaning of experience, we outlined how pivotal it is for retail brands to move beyond simple branded activations. In this interview, Joseph Pine II, who coined the phrase ‘experience economy’, discusses the bastardisation of experiences and why their future lies in transformation.

‘An experience has to rise to a level of memorability,’ he explains. ‘If you didn’t create a memory, then you didn’t create a real experience.’

On transformation, he explains that by staging experiences designed for a particular person, a transformation has the potential to take place within a person. ‘The experience itself becomes a raw material to guide people to change,’ he says, ‘to help them achieve their physical, mental or spiritual aspirations.’

Download the Future Forecast PDF

Now that you know the best in the year for retail, find out what is on the horizon for 2018. Download our Future Forecast 2018 report here.