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Christmas 2014 Retail Themes


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Creative agency True Story visited 300+ stores across London, Paris & New York to understand the major retail themes this Christmas and how retailers are encouraging customers to shop with them at this crucial time in the retail calendar. Themes include: Emotion & Inspiration, Reward, Convenience and Personalisation. This is an extract from a more in-depth document "Once Upon a Christmas: Blurring the lines between shopping & storytelling", available in January 2015.

Published in: Retail
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Christmas 2014 Retail Themes

  1. 1. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS
  2. 2. 2 retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014 introduction True Story is a creative agency for retailers and brands. Every year, we send a team out to discover the best Christmas retail shopping experiences across London, Paris and New York. For Christmas 2014 we visited more than 300 stores and identified four major retail themes: Emotion & Inspiration Reward Convenience Personalisation Take a look at our findings here. The full Christmas report will be available in early 2015 and will include the top 10 retail shopping experiences plus the trends in visual moods and themes. If you’re interested in seeing the full report, please contact Carrie Eames
  3. 3. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 3 Emotion & Inspiration Creating an emotional connection with customers is an ongoing ambition for retailers and brands, but this is never more vigorously pursued than at Christmas. We saw some key themes to ignite emotions – from the rise of the rich, tactile Christmas shop through to embracing the spirit of Christmas with selfless giving and positioning retail as a leisure activity. Finally, what could generate emotion in a customer more than being part of the story and starring in a brand’s campaign? Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014
  4. 4. retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 1. Dedicated Christmas shop space Merchandise it all together or spread it store wide? This year sees a real mix, with John Lewis, Selfridges and M&S taking the lead with dedicated areas. Impactful, seasonally inspired spaces designed to showcase breadth, depth, increase dwell time and drive multiple purchasing: this approach thrives or dies based on a strong and brilliantly executed visual idea which seamlessly links the in-store experience with the online one, plus strong navigational cues to guide the customer to the relevant area. Careful space planning to encourage browsing whilst showcasing differentiated ranges such as personalised gifts and quirky customer service are at the heart of the Selfridges experience. Spreading the Christmas ranges across the store can help customers feel more comfortable with buying early in the season, but then totally relies on the whole store to deliver that festive feeling, which can be tricky in a large space. Therefore, retailers that embrace the dedicated Christmas Shop must ensure that the in-store Christmas treatment serves to get shoppers in the festive spirit when elsewhere in the store. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 4 © Copyright True Story. December 2014 Once Upon A Christmas
  5. 5. retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 2. Involving customers in the campaign Inviting customers to be in the campaign is a smart move. Reward loyalty, further drive brand advocacy, leverage word of mouth and drive social media engagement all at the same time. Waitrose’s unique approach to creating their TV ad soundtrack not only enabled customers to ‘donate’ their voice online in order to join a virtual choir, but raised valuable funds for Age UK, The Trussell Trust and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital via a virtual Waitrose green token online. Westfield’s simple idea of inviting customers to visit the in-centre photo booth for a weekly chance to win a place in the Christmas campaign drove thousands of shares and social media likes. It’s a great way to really get close to the target consumer group and understand more about them. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 5 © Copyright True Story. December 2014 Once Upon A Christmas
  6. 6. retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 3. Random acts of kindness Weaving a CSR element into a Christmas campaign is clearly nothing new, but this year there’s been an interesting surge of retailers and brands embracing the emotional benefits of selflessness and celebrating the joy of having special people in our lives. Interflora’s Flower Chain and Waitrose’s Bake It Forward both used the simple concept of treating one person then asking them to nominate the next person to benefit, linked to their core product offerings and leveraging social media channels to bring them to life. @thetwofairies from M&S performed random acts of kindness, starting two weeks ahead of the TV ad so there was no obvious link back to M&S. When the TV ad broke, they invited customers to nominate deserving people, communities or causes. From food treats for hospital night shift staff through to bigger initiatives like Britain’s most southerly school receiving a winter wonderland experience, the fairies have travelled across the country Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 6 © Copyright True Story. December 2014 Once Upon A Christmas bringing a sense of community and local relevance. Little details like handwritten tags and the use of playful, magical language meant the execution has felt genuine, warm and emotionally rich. There have been a mass of more mainstream charitable giving programmes too, however in our view some retailers failed to truly capitalise on the opportunity to raise both awareness and funds. Messaging was often hidden deep in websites or was lacking in store and felt more like a box-ticking exercise than anything else. CSR collaborations are one way to create a more obvious point of differential for a retailer, as demonstrated by the homeware retailer West Elm - customers could add $1 for charity at the point of sale to light up a bulb on the over-sized Christmas trees - a simple yet effective feel-good initiative.
  7. 7. retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 4. Language The evolution of Christmas retailing is clearly driving new language requirements – what retailers are saying and how they are saying it is as commercially crucial as what it all looks like. Not only have most major UK retailers universally adopted the ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ labels for their activities (a useful comparative approach for consumers that’s simple to understand), we’ve also seen a series of new labels emerge such as Sofa Sunday*, Boomerang Wednesday* and Manic Monday*. This is all related to American influences and the deliberate neutrality of the ‘holiday season’. It may also be reflective of a trend for the disappearance of the seasons. Retailers like Next, Banana Republic, Karen Millen and Apple have all followed this lead and embraced a less overt approach to their Christmas message – actively playing down obvious verbal and visual festive cues. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 7 © Copyright True Story. December 2014 Once Upon A Christmas We’ve also seen some brands and retailers in the slightly more premium space – such as Hobbs and Cath Kidston – going in the polar opposite direction and using tried and tested (but not unique), Christmas headlines such as ‘All wrapped up’. Arguably unoriginal, some retailers have pulled it off by combining it with a fresh visual theme – for example Bloomingdales. The language of gifting is again prominent this year, with brands looking to evoke the emotional associations of finding and giving the perfect gift – Burberry’s simple ‘With Love’ line being amongst the most subtly effective examples of this. * ‘Sofa Sunday’ (online shopping (between Black Friday and Cyber Monday), Boomerang Wednesday’ (3/12, consumers returning products bought on Black Friday and Cyber Monday), ‘Manic Monday’ (£750m predicted spend online, driven by consumers wanting to secure purchases and delivery in time for guaranteed Christmas delivery deadlines)
  8. 8. retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 5. Retail as leisure Consumers want lifestyle experiences not just transactions. Time is precious and so the trend for hybrid retail spaces, fusing art, education and entertainment together is set to flourish. From exhibitions, installations and meet the designer seminars to hands-on workshops, all brands have a story to tell and these events can be invaluable throughout the seasons to tempt back existing consumers and inspire a new breed. This Christmas we’ve seen the world’s first department store cinema at Selfridges with their campaign to support the release of the new Paddington film. The original Paddington story was inspired by the purchase of a bear from Selfridges, so it made absolute sense to seize ownership for merchandise with The Paddington Curiosity Shop in their concept store area, complete with film props and archive material. In addition to showing the film and the retail space, they’ve cleverly woven in their CSR element by having 50 statues designed by Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 8 © Copyright True Story. December 2014 Once Upon A Christmas internationally renowned celebrities and launched The Paddington Trail across London to find them. Proceeds go to NSPCC and ChildLine. There’s a theme called ‘Gallery Creep’ coming which combines retail and art. Printemps Paris showcases art installations in its store opposite Le Louvre while Le Bon Marché themed its Christmas floor as The Imagination Gallery, with a definite a nod to the gallery scene. Printemps has also long maximised its retail space by bringing theatre and interaction to the heart of its product offering – this Christmas saw choirs, free makeovers, cake making, greetings cards workshops and writing letters to Santa. Creating relaxation spaces in stores is also coming through as a trend, inviting customers to linger. BHV has retro computer games and rest areas around the store and Opening Ceremony New York has given space to a café and library to provide customers with downtime in its stores.
  9. 9. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 9 Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014 *Survey of 1000 UK shoppers undertaken by Retail Week and Microsoft Reward It’s long been the case that customers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. Consequently retailers and brands continually seek ways of delivering new and attractive incentives that meet and even exceed expectations to create ‘brand love’. However, reward wasn’t all about added value this year – with price cited as the biggest driver of shopping behaviour* this Christmas, it’s no surprise that Black Friday was a record-breaking event in retail history.
  10. 10. retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 1. Black Friday Black Friday burst onto the UK retail scene in 2013 and in just 12 months has become firmly embedded into the retail calendar, with 65% of retailers planning promotions (survey by Barclays). It was a record-breaking four days – overall online spend rose by 37% and John Lewis recorded the biggest sales week in its 150 year history. In the UK, Black Friday superseded Cyber Monday sales, the more ‘traditional’ high spend date. Most UK retailers are newcomers to the Black Friday scene, but those who have participated previously undertook a new approach to gain the competitive edge. Amazon showed deals before they went live and allowed customers to sign up to a waiting list. It seems a winning strategy, with the online retailer amassing more than 5.5m orders on the day. However, despite these headline figures, it wasn’t a complete success. Websites crashed, there was chaos in stores (with even the police called in some instances) and many retailers experienced issues with delivery. Yodel subsequently suspended delivery citing Black Friday delays as the reason. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 10 © Copyright True Story. December 2014 Once Upon A Christmas Considerations for retailers for 2015 include: Impact on the overall trading period: Experts predicted that Black Friday would have a direct impact on trading for the following two weeks. Retailers will need a strategy to keep footfall and spend steady Use of content to support pricing communications: Price may be the key driver, but brand engagement is still critical. As an opportunistic promotional event, it may have a finite lifespan – US sales were down 11.3% year-on-year across the 4-day period The importance of mobile and tablet usage at the pre-research stage – clear strategies for content and communication are required Ensuring a seamless communications approach across online and in-store including integrated plans for customer services issues – customers may be after a great deal, but they still expect a consistent customer experience
  11. 11. retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 2. Added value ‘Added value’ reward can be used over-and-above price to help to secure loyalty and nurture 'brand love'. Loyalty cards: Debenhams, House of Fraser, Liberty and many of the US department stores leveraged their points system, offering double and bonus points for threshold spend, whilst John Lewis Partnership card holders were offered an exclusive cotton Monty bag for life. Advent calendar campaigns: Advent calendar reward events abounded: Jo Malone offered Frosted Treats via an email campaign – a different free gift (for example a miniature fragrance) every day with every purchase made online. Asos created an advent calendar competition using social media, while TopShop ran 24 different events in its flagship store across the month of December, from braid bar to editable selfies. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS 11 © Copyright True Story. December 2014 Once Upon A Christmas Instagram: It’s recently been reported that Instagram has overtaken Twitter in terms of use, and savvy retailers, particularly those engaging with younger customers have leveraged this with inspirational competitions. West Elm, Ted Baker, Barneys and Asos to name but a few, all rewarded social media users if they used the brand’s chosen hashtags – often this was a competition which allowed web traffic to be maximised without necessarily having to run a margin-undermining promotion. For example, Ted Baker tapped into its consumer’s love of all things retro by giving away a free Topp Trumps style game #TedsElfie in store with purchases and then created an online competition to find the missing elves by looking out for clues on Twitter and Instagram to win one of 150 prizes.
  12. 12. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 12 Convenience We’re becoming ever more transient as consumers. In order to grab consumers’ attention it’s imperative for retailers to make shopping as convenient as possible, using well-placed destinations, technology in store and out as well as innovative services. All about the here and now, retailers must identify the gaps and appear at times and places when they can achieve the required cut-through. This is never more important than at Christmas, when a leisurely shopping trip is unlikely to be on the agenda – in a recent survey* convenience was cited as the second most important factor in determining where customers would choose to shop for Christmas 2014. *Survey of 1000 UK shoppers undertaken by Retail Week and Microsoft Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014
  13. 13. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 13 1. Relocating retail Pop ups continue as a trend but the pressure is on to make more impact as they become mainstream. This can be achieved through sophisticated use of digital, doing ‘one thing really well’, or sheer theatrics. While not traditionally festive, the December pop-up in Spitalfields Market from backpack brand Eastpak made gifting simple with its large touch screens alongside a showcase of bespoke designer backpacks being auctioned for charity. Burberry’s 1920s Rolls Royce pop-up, seen in London, Paris and New York was a theatrical, luxurious statement for its fragrance offering and a great example of one thing done really well. Transport hubs were important destinations this Christmas – railway stations, tube stations and airports are all accustomed to the transient customer and are timely for retail redevelopment. John Lewis, Fortnum & Mason and Argos have extended the reach of their Christmas campaigns with small format stores aimed at commuters and tourists – as a relatively new retail destination it will be interesting to see how the offer from these early adopters will evolve. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014 Retailers considering a relocation strategy need to focus on creating an aspirational brand and product offer in a smaller format, maintaining excellence in an increasingly complex supply chain and efficient data capture to ensure the relationship can be continued wherever the transient customer may end up.
  14. 14. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 14 2. delivery Delivery has moved from a mundane housekeeping issue to a centre-stage showstopper this Christmas. Unsurprising when it’s estimated that 290 million global shipments will have been made between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. Click & Collect has quickly become a given in the UK, with more emphasis on it here than elsewhere. The importance assigned to it in the UK can be demonstrated by the drop in M&S share price being directly linked to problems with its Click & Collect service. By early December, £2.3bn of goods had been delivered using Click & Collect and now retailers are looking for ways to add value. House of Fraser rolled out a ticketing system letting customers browse rather than queue for their goods, whereas Harvey Nichols introduced a Click & Try service in a specialist lounge. Interestingly, Click & Collect has helped ecommerce benefit from bricks and mortar. November 2014 saw Amazon open its first store in New York, and eBay gained more of a physical presence with its Home Retail Group collaboration. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014 The race was also on to offer faster delivery services at this key time of year. House of Fraser launched an early morning delivery slot and Debenhams used its ‘Order by 10pm for next day or evening delivery’ message on advertising. However, it’s imperative not to overpromise – last year consumers cited late delivery as one of the main reasons for a poor customer experience. But the award for most inventive delivery goes to Toys R Us in Paris, who worked with Tok Tok Tok to bring one hour delivery in the city and suburbs in the run up to Christmas Eve... via rollerblade.
  15. 15. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 15 3. Surprise & delight services Convenience can also surprise and delight, as proven by Macy’s. With a high tourist footfall, the New York store has introduced a mezzanine floor with automated, multilingual ticketing machines enabling visitors to book for a host of events around the city. A really valuable service for consumers, with the added bonus of a 20% off voucher to use in the store, helping drive footfall and conversion. Shopping centres and retail parks are also embracing the trend. They benefited massively from increased footfall and spend over Black Friday, with many customers believing them more convenient than the high street. Westfield London has a range of services to make shopping as easy as possible for customers; Hands Free Shopping, a Gift Wrap Service and a Collect+ 'trying-on' lounge. Technology innovation is crucial to successful convenience services. eBay has shown itself to be on the front foot with two innovative partnerships: 1. In designer Rebecca Minkoff’s New York store, an interactive mirror lets customers order a drink, select items from a look book and book an appointment with a stylist. A text message then confirms when everything is ready. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014 2. At a Californian shopping mall, they provided customers with an interactive map of the mall and details of events, services and store deals. When a customer chooses a store, the directory maps the best route there. And on a more mainstream level, we’ve seen a plethora of imaginative online gift finders, using fun and quirky ways to help customers find great gift ideas quickly and simply.
  16. 16. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 16 Personalisation Brands and retailers, across the full of spectrum of quality and reputation, are finding ways to give their customers a more personal experience. Some are customising their products, allowing customers to add their own individual touch to everything from designer handbags to jars of chocolate spread. And the demand for uniqueness also extends into the shopping experience, with brands building inter-connectivity into their social media offering that allows them to recognise and respond to the gifts they know people are looking at – essentially co-writing their customers’ gift lists. More personalised shopping experiences also sees customers invited to participate in, capture and share their in-store experience – with increasingly innovative ways to harness the trend for selfies. Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014
  17. 17. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 17 1. Customised product Retailers have responded to a customer need for uniqueness. The ability to add a personal flourish to a product is clearly reaching a breed of customers not content with an ‘off the shelf’ solution to gift giving. At the higher end of the market Henry Bendel dedicated a large in-store space to applying customised monographs to bags (on both the embroidery and buckles). G Wonder are offering a similar service, while Louis Vuitton’s central campaign message is celebrating the individualisation of their bags through monogramming – as well as a bespoke screen printing service in their Paris store. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS Brands are also finding increasingly inventive ways to personalise their product – from Cole Hann’s customised shoelace detail to Matlan’s alphabet scarf campaign to Selfridges personally named Nutella jars.Tellingly, the offer of personalisation does not come at the cost of convenience, and many stores provide a ‘while you wait’ personalisation service. Many, like ecological artisan brand Oree in the Conran shop, also offer complimentary personalisation. Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014
  18. 18. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 18 2. selfies Recognising the ubiquity of selfie culture, brands are finding ways to actively join that social conversation with an approach that enhances the customer experience and showcases their in-store offering. From sharing a moment with Monty the Penguin to crowning yourself as the King or Queen of Ted Baker, customers are being encouraged to capture and share how they engage with a retailer’s in-store campaign. Many brands, recognising that participation isn’t simply guaranteed, look to incentivise customer engagement. Debenhams drove their Found It campaign through asking customers to take a selfie in store with the perfect gift they have just ‘found’, share it on social media with the campaign hashtag and be in with a chance to win £1,000 every week. Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS Some retailers are finding more innovative approaches to participate in selfie culture. Uniqlo launched their #SelflessSelfies campaign that asked 600 customers from four countries to make a pledge to do good, as well as acknowledging people who give back to their communities every day. They showcased these selfless declarations with a 3D printed selfie display in store – an inventive way to celebrate the altruism of their customers. The selfie culture seems set to stay and more and more brands will find ways to harness this for the benefit of both them and their customers' experience. Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014
  19. 19. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 19 3. Social listening Retailers are taking an innovative approach to socially inspiring customers, not only through their own content but through listening and analysing other conversations. Tesco Clubcard created their Secret Scan-ta app, a function that allows customers to enter the Twitter handle of a person they are buying a gift for. The app then analyses the conversations and interests of that person and generates personalised gift inspiration. Customers are then able to click directly through to the website to buy the recommended items. It’s not just retailers with a vast and varied offering taking advantage of this personal social inspiration. Michael Kors have launched Retail themes THIS CHRISTMAS Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014 technology that allows them to link Instagram directly to their online sales. So if someone posts an image of a Michael Kors product using the hashtag #InstaKors they’ll be automatically sent an email with a link to purchase that item. A different twist on this theme is for customers to use social and digital to give a not-so-gentle nudge to the people who will be buying for them. The Harvey Nichol’s ‘Could I Be Any Clearer?’ Christmas app allows customers to generate and share Christmas cards that unequivocally spell out what they want for Christmas.
  21. 21. retail themes HIST CAHIMRSST 21 This extract is taken from our wider report 'Once Upon a Christmas: Blurring the lines between shopping and storytelling.' To register your interest in receiving the full report in January, email Carrie Eames Once Upon A Christmas © Copyright True Story. December 2014
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