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Smart insights: Retail

The pace of change in the retail industry is driven by digital advancements: more touchpoints, more product reviews and comparisons for consumers to access anytime, anywhere. And more variety in the path to purchase of shoppers.

To stay competitive and relevant, retail businesses need to understand evolving shopping behaviors and target group demands. They need to apply this knowledge to create differentiated experiences across both digital and physical environments.

Our retail industry research experts provide the insights to support you at every stage: from measuring your shoppers’ experiences and paths to purchase, to monitoring retail performance and trends.

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    • 07/17/17
    • Retail
    • Geomarketing
    • RegioGraph
    • Geodata
    • Picture of the month
    • Global
    • English

    Map of the month: Forecasted stationary retail turnover, Europe 2017

    Europe's largest and most developed economies offer fruitful conditions for retailers, but they can also be fiercely competitive, and in some cases, are near saturation. Results from GfK's recently released European Retail Study bear this out: As a general rule, the greatest growth in brick-and-mortar retail turnover for 2017 is forecasted for mid-sized European markets, such as the Ukraine (+12.3%), Romania (+9.8%), Norway (+6.2%), Hungary (+5.7%), Estonia (+5.5%), and Poland (+5.3%). By contrast, projected growth for the larger economies such as Germany (+1.0%), Italy (+1.2%), France (+2.0%), and Spain (+2.9%) is much more modest. These insights help retailers pinpoint new opportunities for expanding their market share. GfK's Map of the Month for July illustrates these forecasted 2017 growth rates for retail turnover in Europe.
    • 07/05/17
    • Retail
    • Consumer Goods
    • Connected Consumer
    • Global
    • English

    Conquering the Connected Shopper and their multiple paths to purchase

    Conquering today’s connected shopper is a battle. Consumers’ expectations of convenience, choice, price and experience are continually escalating. Whatever you make or sell, the true power rests in the palm of shoppers’ hands. The “always-on” culture of connectivity puts both manufacturers and retailers under intense pressure to stay relevant and create “fans for life”. This is a cut-throat, slim profit environment that is further endangered by emerging hyper-competition from global marketplaces. Conversion is more key than ever. No retailer or manufacturer has a free pass to success. No existing business models are guaranteed. For instance, in the recent past, the generalists and the manufacturers that supplied them were all-powerful. Today, specialists and global market places like Amazon are squeezing the generalist model. Clearly, whatever the sector, whatever the scale or geography, all players must constantly re-evaluate their strategies and tactics to ensure they win the connected shopper’s business. It is essential to constantly be on top of your shopper by focusing on the right touchpoints at the right moment throughout the whole omnichannel path to purchase. So, if you’re serious about conquering the connected shopper, you must understand today’s retail environment and anticipate tomorrow’s trends to plan and prepare for the future.

    The connected retail transformation: Two very different routes to purchase

    Retail is transforming to keep pace with the connected shopper and their demands. We believe that in the future, shopping will either be functional, rational and efficient, or it will need to offer an emotional connection or be an experience. Our two future scenarios for retail in the connected world are rooted in our extensive knowledge gained from researching consumers. What is common to them all is that the shopper is front and center, and has more control than ever before of how they shop and what they buy.

    One: Staying in

    Here the smart home of the future takes over the functional aspects of shopping, ordering and replenishing supplies as they run out. Never fear, this won’t disengage shoppers from brands, as virtual and augmented reality will come to the rescue. For fun, connected shoppers will be able to try on clothes, trial appliances and test drive cars – all from the comfort of their home.

    Two: Going out

    If you leave the comfort of your home to shop, there will be two very different options. On the one hand, much shopping will become uber-convenient, super-fast and easy with in-store GPS navigation, pick up points, automated payments (no queues) and minimal browsing. Mobile phones will have a key role to play, becoming hand-held shopping trip assistants. On the other, retailers will offer experiences, where shopping will be seamlessly integrated into socializing and entertainment. The smartphone will be the connector of the personalized digital and physical retail world, for chatting, browsing, sharing experiences and paying. Whether shopping from the home or when out and about, manufacturers will increasingly focus on their own omnichannel retail concepts. They will want to get closer to their shoppers and find personalization-driven business models where this can deliver a profit.

    Getting up close and personal with the connected shopper

    There is no one “connected shopper”, every consumer and every purchase is unique. For a 360° perspective, you need to evaluate the key target audience segments in detail. How do they behave, what are their need states, how can you meet their expectations? From Gen X, Y and Z to iBrains, Millennials and Baby Boomers, we’ll help you identify and reach your audience with the relevant product, service and experience at the right point in their purchase journey. With more consumers than ever saying they feel overwhelmed by choice, understanding and helping shoppers find the products they really want will become a core tenet of the successful retailer. Relevance and persuasion will become more important as key success factors. As a result, many retail marketing budgets are shifting to content and attribution marketing to be closer to the shopper during the moments that matter. The focus will be less on where the purchase happens, and much more on how you can influence it. Having an in-depth customer understanding is essential if you are to offer shoppers the all-important personalized product or service, such as H&M’s customized dress designed with Google. And it’s most definitely key if you want to anticipate their needs to increase their basket size and grow loyalty.

    Reinventing business models

    Achieving a profit requires a laser-like focus on logistics and operations, constant innovation, relevant marketing, perfect customer service, excellent customer and market intelligence… the list is infinite. By focusing on the connected shopper and building a true picture of buyers of all sorts of products and services, you can identify the business models that give you the best chance of success in the retail transformation. Marco Wolters is Global Industry Lead Fashion, Home & Lifestyle at GfK. He can be reached at Marco.Wolters@gfk.com. hbspt.cta.load(2405078, 'a7c49c12-21d2-41fc-a305-57b021074f75', {});
    • 07/03/17
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Consumer Goods
    • Connected Consumer
    • Global
    • English

    Introducing the iBrains: Understand how to reach tomorrow’s shoppers

    By 2020, 40% of consumers in Europe, the US and BRIC markets will be “iBrains”, or Gen Z. The first generation fully immersed in smartphones and social media, these digital natives will drive disruption in retail. Always connected, they live in the fast lane. If you are to succeed in the future, you will need to identify, predict and meet their needs. And you’ll need to grab their attention to maximize the opportunities they offer retailers and manufacturers. Here’s how.

    Meet the iBrains

    You’re already familiar with Millennials, but the iBrains – the “selfie generation” – are different. They don‘t know a world without smartphones and social media. While Millennials are tech-dependent, iBrains are always connected, intense social media users and live through technology. They expect brands and retailers to do the same in a seamless, authentic way. They want an identical brand experience, whether they are in-store, online or on their mobile device. For many brands, this represents a goal still to be achieved. The iBrains:
    • are aged 19 or under, most live at home
    • have little spending power, but, with 93% of parents saying their iBrain kids hold sway over what they buy, they are powerful influencers of purchase behavior
    • readily share details of their lives, likes and dislikes across dozens of platforms online
    • expect to engage in two-way conversations with brands in this virtual world
    • will happily share their brand allegiance with others and are more likely to trust their peers than marketers

    How to reach the iBrains

    So far, we’ve shown that iBrains present brands and retailers with many growth opportunities. Compared to Millennials, they are more open to buying in-store, and in general they see no difference between online and offline. So, how should retailers prepare for the arrival of the iBrain wallet? Firstly, it’s key to be available 24/7 across all channels and devices. The mobile is the handheld personal life assistant of iBrains and they reach for it first when thinking about making a purchase. It connects the physical and digital worlds and holds the key to the personalization you need to offer to win over this group. Anticipate the iBrains’ needs and issues, and provide the solutions before they themselves identify them. Achieve this, and you’ll make fans who are willing to publicize their brand loyalties. Social media is extremely important to iBrains when deciding what to buy and where – according to our FutureBuy survey*, 59% in APAC and 34% in Europe say it’s an important source of information for making the best product choices. For iBrains, previous experience with a retailer is key for 57% when deciding whether to make a purchase (versus 49% of Gen X). So too are the opinions of family, friends and colleagues (50% versus 35% of Gen X). They also much more likely to search other shoppers’ online reviews (46% versus 30% of Gen X). Speed is also essential to iBrains. They will accept a “good enough” product or model and have it now rather than wait for a better one. Of course, you need to react fast to grab their attention – iBrains are super multi-taskers. Or, to put it another way, you only ever have their parti­al – never full – attention. Also, don’t ever ignore the fact that they are more impulsive than Gen X. Brands that get their offer right can really maximize on this trait. Finally, it’s worth noting that iBrains are not loyal to any one brand. They browse intensively to find the best deal. This is the case for 60% of iBrains in APAC and 55% in Europe. However, brands that involve them in shaping products can win vital brownie points – particularly from iBrains in APAC where 64% favor this option versus 53% of Gen X*. In Europe, 46% of iBrains value this involvement versus 36% of Gen X.

    The iBrain shift

    • The iBrains herald a new era in retail – in fact, it’s a revolution. Retailers must think differently. They must shift from offering new things to buy to new things to do, from telling a story, to conversing. They also need to move from making a perfect product slowly to making a better product quickly with iBrain collaboration. Here are some other pointers:
    • Be visible online and on social media. iBrains prefer peer-to-peer social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram over Facebook. Use social media and online advertising to get their attention.
    • Keep their personal information secure. Concerns about the security of personal information rank high and are a primary factor in their preferences for shopping in-store. Make sure you protect their financial and personal information.
    • Share diverse images. Make sure your advertising, window displays, website and social media accounts include images of diverse customers, and treat all customers with respect, no matter their age.
    • Let the music play. Incorporate music into your store experience if you want to attract Gen Z.
    • Help their decision-making. An iBrain’s shopping journey typically includes lots of online and offline research, getting opinions from peers in real life and online, and looking for the best value and price. You could describe iBrains as “feedback fanatics”. Stay with them during the process.
    • Experience matters. Retailers must create places – stores, websites, online communities – where iBrainers feel welcome walking in and just as wonderful walking out. Brands that help iBrainers to define and express their individuality and lifestyle will succeed with this group.

    Retail is on the brink of a revolution

    Retailers and brand owners need to fundamentally reconsider their proposition if they are going to capture the hearts, minds, wallets and attention spans of this constantly connected, partially attentive generation. A generation of consumers who will determine and dominate future shopping behavior. Marco Wolters is Global Industry Lead Fashion, Home & Lifestyle at GfK. He can be reached at Marco.Wolters@gfk.com. hbspt.cta.load(2405078, '16d3b306-a448-4b8a-ab3a-96cd639045fa', {});
    • 06/30/17
    • Retail
    • Travel and Hospitality
    • Connected Consumer
    • Global
    • English

    Why travel brands shouldn’t forget about the role of the store

    You may be forgiven for thinking that high street travel agencies are a bit of an anachronism in today’s world. After all, who would go to a retail outlet filled with paper brochures while a uniformed member of staff tapped your details into their computer, when it’s possible to book a package or even tailor-make your own bespoke itinerary without leaving your home? Well, research from GfK suggests that the answer to this question may surprise you, with younger travelers and Leading Edge Consumers actually more likely to visit stores as part of their vacation purchase journey.

    A need for physical travel stores

    Of course, online retailing has been accounting for an ever-larger chunk of consumer spending for many years, but despite this many analysts feel there is still a place for physical stores, as a place you can actually look at and touch products before buying, as well as get advice from experts. While the former aspect is not one that is so relevant for travel, the latter certainly is, and could help explain why there is a continued consumer need for physical travel stores on our high streets. This phenomenon first came to our attention when looking at some research on the travel sector we’d done here in the UK. We asked consumers which sources they’d used when deciding what kind of holiday to go on, with 20% mentioning high street travel agents as part of this process. Interestingly, however, this figure was higher (23%) among Travel Leading Edge Consumers, who are market mavens with a particular category passion according to GfK’s proprietary definition. What’s more, the figure was even higher among those aged 25-34, at 29%, as opposed to lower among 45-59 year olds, at 11%.

    The presence of in-store travel agents

    These figures suggest that users of high street travel agencies may not be who you’d initially suspect, but in fact there are compelling reasons in both cases. Category passionates are always on the lookout for new places to go, and want to maximize the enjoyment of their holiday, while younger consumers may also be less set on going to a particular destination and would value some help and advice. In both cases, the presence of in-store travel experts is likely to be a boon. After all, buying an overseas holiday could count as one of the biggest purchases in a shopper’s year, and the level of expectation placed on a big vacation could be considerable. We know from our GfK Consumer Life data that 44% of global consumers spend quite a lot of time researching brands before making a major purchase. Another consideration, raised in a recent article extolling the virtues of the high street travel agent, is the simplicity and luxury of getting someone else to do the hard work and put together a great holiday. While consumers do now have the online tools available to them to book all the various aspects of a holiday and in some cases save money, there can still be a lot of virtual legwork required to find the cheapest flights, most convenient transfers and nicest accommodation. The increasing realization may be that lowest price doesn’t always equate to best value. Indeed, four in ten global consumers are prepared to pay a premium for products that make their life easier.

    Vacation curation starts with a conversation

    It also seems that travel agents themselves see the benefits of a long term commitment to retail stores. One prominent example is Kuoni, the luxury tour operator, who say that “it all starts with a conversation,” and highlight the fact that their holidays are tailor made by experts who will use their detailed knowledge of a destination and take into account the individual customer’s needs to curate the best break for them.

    The in-store experience: An opportunity to wow

    The in-store experience can also be augmented by interactive touchscreens, virtual reality headsets and more to immerse the customer in the process and bring destinations to life. According to GfK Consumer Life, the percentage of global consumers who say that virtual interactions with people or places can be as good as being there in person is steadily increasing, from 21% in 2011 to 30% now. This development highlights an opportunity for innovators in the technology sector to partner with retailers in travel and other categories to develop in-store experiences that will wow jaded customers. There are surely valuable learnings here for retailers in all categories. If even a category like travel, with no tangible product to display, finds brick and mortar stores to be an important part of the retail mix now and into the future, there’s bound to be a place for them elsewhere. Considering the role that only physical stores can play and the consumer needs that they address in your category could help you stay ahead in a highly competitive omnichannel environment. David Crosbie is a Director on the Consumer Life team at GfK. He can be reached at david.crosbie@gfk.com.
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    Brands are under pressure to develop emotional connections and relationships with consumers and business decision makers.  Brands need to respond in-the-moment, to enrich the customer experience – and develop strategies that influence ”moments of truth” throughout individual brand journeys.  

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    Consumer Panels

    Your business is all about your consumers. So understanding them is essential in ensuring your products and services meet their needs, and in identifying opportunities for growth.

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    When consumers shop, search, communicate, gather information and engage with companies or brands online, they behave differently depending on which device or screen they are using. They expect a consistent experience regardless of the channel or device they are using.

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    Point of Sales Tracking

    Retailers and manufacturers are under pressure to develop products and services that maximize sales and profit and to keep customers coming back.

    Success relies on having the most up-to-date sales data, combined with robust analysis to understand which products and services are performing well in the market – and which are not. With this information, clients can set clear strategies for commercial growth and increase return on investment.

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    Digital continues to open up new paths to purchase, changing how and where people shop. More and more data becomes available every day, as shoppers embrace multi-channel brand experiences.

    To stay competitive in this big data, multi-channel environment, businesses need to identify and leverage the most relevant data along the entire path to purchase. With this, companies can optimize each step of the shopper journey. 

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