When ‘Nothing’ is most definitely ‘Something’

As Chief Digital Officer of Geometry Global, the world’s largest shopper marketing and activation agency, I have access to one of the smartest strategic insight resources around. Her name’s Kitty—she’s almost 16, and she’s my daughter.

For instance, just the other day Kitty overheard me whilst on a call with a colleague, during which—as I have done a thousand times before—I used the term “social media.” To my genuine surprise, these two words prompted a most generous round of those exasperated teenage huffs that parents have to contend with during those arduous adolescent years. Naturally, I was keen to know what I’d said to evoke such a reaction, to which Kitty answered, “Well, I just hate it when people your age use the term ‘social media’. I find it patronising.”

Oh, this is good, I thought. So I said, “O.k., I think I get that, but what do you call it?” Her reply was magnificent: “Nothing!”

In that moment, I got it. And I felt a genuine thrill for the challenges ahead. I realized that when we at agencies talk about ubiquitous technology and physical/digital integration, we’re in the right ballpark. But maybe we don’t really know the half of it. Because to this next generation of shoppers, clearly all things digital have become so visible they’re invisible, so important they’re not important; they have been vaporized into their lives. “Nothing” is most definitely “Something”.

So whilst we still might talk in terms of archetypes, channels, and touch-points, the shopper of tomorrow does no such thing. Instead, she uses far more agile and dynamic terms such as connections, moments, and experiences, regardless of their physical or digital iteration.

The following week I had another similarly insightful experience with said teenage daughter. During a visit to shopping mall in London, she said she needed to go into the Hollister store, a retailer I had never crossed the threshold of.

Having been there, I have a recommendation to my peers.  All shopper marketers should visit a Hollister, as my initial impression was that this was less of a retailer and more of a visitor attraction. It has a smell, a soundtrack, a lighting state, even a nightclub-style roped queue at the door. At last, I thought, Apple and Nike’s grip on store experience is loosening.

But more striking was what was presented to me as a new set of shopper behaviours, exhibited by my daughter. After being in the store for about 20 minutes, she wanted to leave.

“Aren’t you going to buy anything?” I replied. To which she answered, “Definitely. But later today, online.”

Her reasoning for this was simple yet sophisticated. Visiting the physical store allowed Kitty to immerse herself in the brand for 20 minutes; smell the smell, hear the tunes and so on. But also to touch and feel the new ranges, to try one or two things on and really explore the consideration stage of this particular purchase journey. The deferred purchase rationale allowed her to gauge some opinion from those in her—dare I say it—social media universe, to rate and review.  Unbeknownst to me, a selfie or two had been taken in the changing rooms for the purposes thereof.

When sufficient approval is garnered, the purchases are made online, with all the added benefits of an excellent fashion e-retail environment and delivered to the door the next day.

It strikes me then, that the very truth and viability of our Continuous Commerce™ conjecture might lie in the hands of shoppers as yet too young to vote. Shoppers who, as they mature into homeowners and parents themselves, will only polarize to those brands and retailers who deliver a consistent level of omni-channel engagement across physical, online, mobile and social environments, where products, prices, promotions all match and where everything is always in-stock.

This is the new shopper behaviour, to move seamlessly across the multiple manifestations of the brands and retailers you love; to reach out and find them in the mall or in the palm of your hand, and to be able to buy, always. And to this new generation of shopper, facilitation of this is not a bonus or special or clever—it is absolutely mandatory and expected. Our job is to ensure that our clients understand this as we now do, and help them match this expansive new purchase behaviour with their multiple parts.

But in the meantime…Kitty, can I have my credit card back? 

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