Future trends and prospects

2020 . 07 . 03 | written by Silvio Levi

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The last few months have necessitated that we all take interest in the global pandemic, along with its effects on brands, retailers, and consumers. Our editorial team has written many articles about it and we asked our Advisors and experts to tell us about their experiences in our #COVIDCHRONICLES section.
In the next phases of coexistence with the virus, all of us must reinvent how to deal with the new reality, which we currently do not know how to foresee, while at the same time we face an impending threat of a possible resurgence of the infection that could require new lock-down periods.
Essencional.com will continue to monitor the most interesting initiatives and the most ingenious solutions that will be put in place.

Among the various current topics, I would like to focus on a few in particular:



Certainly, these activities aimed at retail can no longer be carried out as before. Doing on-site training, with the restrictions that will remain in place, will be almost impossible because shopkeepers will be much more focused on welcoming customers and recovering turnover rather than dedicating space, resources and time to training after months of inactivity or reduced income.
Organizing events, inviting customers to presentations, and offering buffets or cocktails, with the spacing rules now in place, is all out of the question.
One could think of virtualizing these activities. Certainly, there is no shortage of software or technical means to do it, but the problem is that the level of interest, feasibility and priority for retailers is certainly low.

Brand to Consumer
On the contrary, for end consumers the interest in BTC (brand to consumer) contact seems to have developed a great deal, and there has been a great growth in the offer of webinars, courses, and interviews that tend to increasingly develop a direct interaction between brands and online consumers.
However, this has occurred during a lock-down period and we cannot know for sure if consumers will make as much time for such activities in the coming months.
It is however certain that there will be an increasingly high tendency for the public to prefer contact with the brand and to access information provided by those who created and produced the products, rather than by spokespersons or bloggers. There is a greater presumption of authenticity if the brand puts its face on it.

Future implications

Maintaining and developing this type of virtual BTC social contact implies the need for retailers to boost their knowledge of what they propose to the clientele to be sure their staff isn’t at risk of being less informed than their customers who will have very carefully learned about certain selected brands and products from among the many on the shelves of their shop.

I believe that this phrase by Christophe Laudamiel told in an interview to Perfumer Flavorist must be carefully considered on how retailers present perfumes:

"And the way fragrances are talked about in retail doesn't make sense to me. You don't deconstruct a cake by Heston Blumenthal and say it's made of flour, eggs, sugar, strawberries, cream ... that would be a very weird way to present an elaborate cake. " *

Retailers’ information and involvement has often proved to be lacking and many brands have rushed to cover it. From now on, it will be necessary not only to give technical details about the products but also to suggest how to maintain contact with your audience, fuelling their curiosity with quality on a consistent basis. It is necessary to totally change the way in which retailers are informed and to encourage them to develop consultation services and 1 to 1 assistance, even virtual, which will become an indispensable activity for brick & mortar. Even the physical showcase will have to be largely replaced by the virtual one, to which more aesthetic attention and more dynamism will have to be dedicated. The virtual activity must consistently and efficiently ignite the customer’s desire to visit the physical store for an emotional and engaging experience.

2) Digital native vs Brick & Mortar

A tough comparison is underway between digital-native retail businesses and brick & mortar physical stores that have less activity in e-commerce. In this period the former often had sales increases, with high growth rates and substantially no real operational problems, while the latter had to face problems including the drop in turnover and the loss of physical contact with the customer, in addition to total or partial closing periods.

How can we avoid the confrontation from leading to an all-out war where the physical stores will find themselves diverting huge resources towards the enhancement of their e-commerce in a conflict that sees them left at a clear disadvantage? Instead, wouldn't it be better to enhance the experience, using technology and services that can only be provided in a digital form and which have in their analogical format an added value for customers? Maintaining the direct relationship, cultivating, and strengthening it by creating virtual relationships directly with customers, and making those moments as similar as possible to an in-store experience, is probably the most logical solution.

With the use of reservation systems, both for pre-booked visits to the shop and for individual consultations, you can propose to send samples in advance so the customer can evaluate them at home, and then comment on them online together with the shopkeeper to end by selecting an item to purchase in the shop during an appointment, and then deducting the cost of the samples sent in advance off the total purchase.

Apps will become more and more useful to stores be it to book a consultation, a service, an event, or a personal shopping appointment, they will facilitate the scheduling of labour and they will improve the customer-shopkeeper relationship in terms of effectiveness and hospitality.

3) New digital consumers and migration of loyal consumers

According to some sector surveys, there have been increases of up to 70%, and sometimes much higher, in the number of digital consumers. This trend is supposed to continue in the coming months, and it is reasonable to think that this increase was partly due to new consumers, probably among the younger segments of the population. In addition, there was certainly a high contribution from those who used to shop in physical stores that had not already used e-commerce or who were forced to resort to e-commerce during the lock-down to be provided with a functional service that could guarantee deliveries.

So how will shopkeepers act to recover customers who have turned elsewhere during the lock-down? Artistic perfumery has the advantage that most of the brands, and even the customers, do not overlap with the main marketplace, so it is likely that the customers will remain loyal and ready to return when they emerge from lock-down.

Although eCommerce giants have been able to develop various offers and strong CRM initiatives to overcome this difficult moment, the cost of participating in these programs is sure to go up, and the programs overlap from one provider to another and, moreover, participating in these programs could backfire on small businesses if they have to share their client lists, so is not wise to count on these actions as solutions.

Great attention will be given to the increased focus on smaller and independent brands, very oriented towards exclusivity and creativity and which often have a greater commitment in their mission towards sustainability in all its meanings. This increasingly attracts the interest of consumers who have intensified their own attention towards ecological ethics so promoting these products in situations where they can be better appreciated can prove to be a competitive advantage.

Diversity and uniqueness can have a significant weight and effectively counterbalance what has so far always been the leading topic in purchasing decisions: the price.

I believe that we will witness a faster recovery of turnover in niche sectors, with controlled and selective distributions compared to the mass-tige, because they can offer more exclusive, special services and experiences, in unique locations that the others cannot do. The signs coming from the Asian markets, which first came out of the lock-down, seem to be going in this direction.

I hope that our Study Centre can confirm and document how global this trend is, and that for once, research and development and the courage to dare, indispensable sources of the future development of the whole mass-tige, will be rewarded and their role recognized as essential

Silvio Levi


* https://www.perfumerflavorist.com/fragrance/application/multiuse/Christophe-Laudamiel-Perfumer-of-the-Future-437027313.html