The future of retail is something that has been up for discussion since the pandemic hit. It’s an exciting prospect underpinned by the new era of digital transformation, mixed with innovative retail concepts from the industry’s leading minds. But away from the latest VR systems and immersive experiences, another conversation is slowly beginning to make its way to the forefront of future plans. Discourse around inclusion is now more prominent than ever.
Research shows that compatible cultural identification is a priority for millennials when selecting brands to buy from, with 86% claiming they select brands that align with their values. As a generation with huge spending power – millennials spend more than any other generation per visit both in-store and online in the US and UK – this is a call that the industry has no choice but to heed. But with so many stories of virtue signalling in the press, what can retailers do to achieve authentic inclusivity?
The retail industry is being called upon to represent diverse mix of people, from billboard to boardroom. For brands wanting to resonate with a wider market, inclusion of all appearances and body types in their advertising will help customers to feel an emotional connection with the brand. But it can’t just end there. We’re also seeing pressure for a wider mix of people in the boardroom, with true decision making powers behind the brands. What’s more, promotion of businesses owned by minority groups will help to fill the inclusion gap further. Research by Mikinsey shows the financial benefits available to businesses that truly diversify. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to outperform those in the bottom. While those in the top for ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to outperform less diverse peers.
Ensuring products are designed with accessibility in mind increases a brands customer reach considerably. This could be something as simple as changing a flat button on an item to one that sticks out, making it easier to press. Inclusivity in products is something that the beauty industry has been called out on lately, leading to a number of trailblazers showing longstanding beauty brands how it’s done. Selena Gomez’s beauty line, Rare Beauty, uses packaging that makes applying the products easier for those with limited joint movement. Racial inclusion is also becoming a factor determinant to a brands success. Fenty beauty led the way by including fifty shades of foundation, exposing others for including only one or two shades for people with darker complexion.
Tailoring the in-store experience
Finally, the in-store experience will play a crucial role in ensuring our future retail landscape is accessible to all. Shopping in-store has become an anxious trigger for many, made worse by the prospect of virus transmission. While immersive retail focusses on stimulating the senses, this can be overwhelming for people who are neurodivergent. There are steps that retailers can take to create a more inclusive instore experience. For example, using detailed product descriptions for scented items like perfumes will reduce the need to physically test them in store. Lowering the volume of music in store can also help, as Abercrombie & Fitch learned, not so long ago. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard scheme, recently introduced in the UK, supports customers with hidden disabilities. The lanyards, supplied by stores, discreetly signal that the wearer may need additional support. Customers have cards showing sensitivity to smell, light or sound and staff are able to alter the environment to accommodate their needs.
The pandemic has been a time of learning for us all. Looking to the future of retail is an exciting prospect for many of us, but it needs to be a positive outlook for all in order for us to prosper.