What is the future of convenience?

Katie Littler

In a year that may well be defined by the changes likely to take place in retail, and in society at large, Katie Littler, Communications Director at him!, outlines her thoughts on the trends that may impact on the convenience sector this year – and what they could mean for your business.

by Katie Littler

Last year will go down in history for many reasons. We’ve lost many heroes: from David Bowie and Alan Rickman, to our very own industry super-star Ewen Chisholm. The UK has chosen to exit the EU. America has chosen a reality TV star. The big question is, what will 2017 bring?

Shopper sentiment right now seems to be ‘Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst’ with consumer confidence wavering but shopping habits actually currently remaining pretty stable.

Many are focussed on simply surviving rather than thriving, but that’s not our philosophy at him! We are firm believers that if you listen to your shoppers, and of course react to what they’re saying, then they will want to – even need to – support your business and remain loyal to you.

That’s what our annual Future of Convenience event is all about. This year attendees will be looking at the mega-trends emerging in the coming 12 months and beyond.

Shoppers are increasingly concerned with ethical and moral issues, so expect a focus on eco-responsible packaging and reducing wastage. Consumers will place their trust in brands that epitomise ‘honest imperfection’, who say: “we’re not perfect, but we’re doing something about it!”

The casual connoisseur may not be how you think of the generation glued to their smartphones, but they’re likely tapping in to a wealth of information, and making very real buying decisions based on that fund of knowledge.

Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about interests, cuisines, nutrition, experiences – information is at their fingertips and they’re not afraid to use it. There is a rise in ‘crowd intelligence’ where people are trusting other consumers rather than ‘experts’.

Diversification of the health trend is very likely to be a major debating point in the years to come. We’re seeing a shift from focussing purely on healthy body, to healthy mind. How we address health will need to change as we further understand that health isn’t generic across life stages.

Experience over product is not a new concept, but it’s gaining more ground as traditional life fulfilments, like home ownership, become less attainable, at the same time as simple luxuries appear more frequently on the shelves.

Millennials are favouring experience over material possession. They’re still going to need a pint of milk and a newspaper, but winning retailers aren’t just selling products, they are providing a service to their customers.

The people who walk through the door aren’t transactions, they are living, breathing individuals who are happy to spend money to make their lives easier, to save them time, to help them stay healthy, to cheer them up on the way home from work, and a myriad other reasons to express themselves. You get the idea.

Fast Consumption, personalisation, instant gratification, and economic uncertainty have all contributed to the ‘One Swipe Generation’. Things are getting faster and easier and more convenient. We have more time to squeeze even more things into our daily lives. Have you seen Amazon Go? The concept merges lots of wireless technologies to create a convenience store where customers walk in, select their items and walk out. No human interaction, just electronic, and all charged to their account.

The future of convenience? Perhaps or perhaps not, but certainly part of the future.