Interview with Michelle Grant on the latest Customer Experience survey from Salesforce
In this interview I spoke with Michelle Grant on the latest Customer Experience survey published by Salesforce in November 2021. This report is based on a survey of over 1600 industry professionals every two years so considering how the world has changed over the past 2 years this is a good look into comparing pre- and post/during-pandemic comsumer shopping behavior.
The key themes of the report include How shoppers are pushing the envelope on engagement with brands and retailers, the importance of loyalty in differentiation and success, the concinuing focus on evolving and improving their experiences both instore and online and the importance of the physical location, which is probably the most noticeable trend change from 2 years ago when almost everyone was banking on the continuing demise of the physical store in the total retail mix. You can find a link to the full report below the transcript.
Darius 0:00 Welcome to the retail tech podcast. My name is darius Vasefi, producer and host. My guest today is Michelle grant from Salesforce. She has been in the retail space for many years as an analyst and researcher, thank you so much, Michelle, for joining me.
Michelle Grant 0:14 It's my pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me back.
Darius 0:17 Please tell us about yourself and the work that you're doing right now.
Michelle Grant 0:21 Yes. So I am the Senior Manager of strategy insights within the retail and consumer goods verticals at Salesforce. And as part of my role, I keep track of the trends that are impacting those industries worked on and produced the connected choppers report. And this is the fourth edition of this report. And it was a pleasure of mine to really dive in to the data. We surveyed more than 1600 global shoppers and more than 1000 retail executives around the world to understand how their shopping habits have changed in the light of the pandemic.
Darius 1:03 This is an ongoing series, correct? Yes.
Michelle Grant 1:07 So this is the fourth year or the fourth edition, I should say at this report
Darius 1:11 that it's released every every two years in the fall. A lot has happened since last time this was done then two years ago. Yeah. Let's talk about some of the key findings in this report.
Michelle Grant 1:24 Yes, definitely. I think one of the biggest changes that we saw in the report is we asked people to estimate shoppers to estimate what percentage of their transactions are done in six different retail types. So we asked physical stores online marketplaces, brands, digital properties, or retailers, digital properties, a delivery apps, and then other digital channels. And in the previous reports, we never asked about delivery apps. Because most of the delivery apps are focused on ride sharing. But we did see his significant pivot in 2020, for Uber Eats and DoorDash to move out of their traditional verticals and start delivering products to people's homes, because of the health and safety issues around going into the store. And the you know, in some cases, your retailers are closed. So they're able to in these deals in order to send out non essential goods from their stores to home. So that was that was one of the biggest changes, including delivery apps, the retail channel, and we saw in the data, your 5% of transactions are estimated to go to that channel globally in 2019. And that jumped to 7% in 2021, so that channel gained at two percentage points in just two years, and it's sticking. When we asked about where the transactions will happen in 2023, consumers said that, you know, 7% of their transactions will be with those delivery apps. So that that was kind of interesting to me as far as what's sort of evolved over the different additions that we've done.
Darius 3:26 So this is, is this like a continuation of the Super App phenomenon that you know, is a lot more prevalent in China. But our apps actually like let's say Uber or delivery apps are actually starting to get into other businesses.
Michelle Grant 3:47 Yes, I would say it's more vertical expansion than Super apps. Although Pay Pal if we want to go down a different route. Pay Pal is definitely keen on becoming a super app, they just launched their relaunched their app in this this fall and it has a lot more shopping capabilities than it did previously. But for the delivery apps right now, in the last it's all about vertical expansion. So going from either food service like DoorDash into your product delivery if your Uber you know it's not ride sharing its food service and product so it's more about vertical expansion on the existing app in the west and then know when it comes to delivery. And then you know, PayPal is using obviously their wedge and payments to capture more of the the shopping actions like actual purchases and couponing.
Darius 4:48 The entry point is a really a key differentiator
Michelle Grant 4:52 delivery apps really, really accelerated their vertical expansion in 2020. And we can see That has resulted in them gaining share in 2021, compared to 2019. And people are now using those apps for more than just what the original premise was
Darius 5:10 something that I see from the report that I'm looking at, by the way, I'm going to include a link to the report in the show notes. So that's going to be available if for anybody who wants to actually get access to it, we see a major change between 2019 and 2021, which of course, we kind of not know why. But between 21 and 23, there is not much of a like nothing significant of a change between the two, like, you know, from physical stores going from 42% actually go up a little bit to 43%, do you think we're just out of that phase now, and the trends are not going to change that much anymore?
Michelle Grant 5:48 It's difficult for anyone to protect their behavior. So we are asking consumers in this question to project what, what they expect their shopping habits to be, I think from the board production to yours. I think the store rebound is of note that people do expect to go back into stores, but not to the same degree as 2019. So in 2019 57% of the transactions are going through stores, and then in 2023, consumers expected to only be 43%. So that's a huge share drop, just over the span of four years. And that's kind of what we've seen in the long term is that E commerce is a growing share of retail overall. And it's probably just been accelerated a bit because of the pandemic. And it's also some of the gains from ecommerce by ecommerce during the pandemic, where, because stores were closed and health and safety was a main concern. And now that there are vaccines and other mitigation efforts that people are a little bit more optimistic about store. However, we're not out of the woods yet, you know, Europe right now is experiencing a very strong surge in cases and things are getting locked down again, including the store closures. Australia, New Zealand just came out of a really, really strong lockdown to, in order to keep contain COVID. So I think the digital behaviors are here to stay, and will be closely linked to how the pandemic evolves over time. So I think people were predicting no winter surge, I don't think anyone was predicting it really to the degree that we saw that we're seeing in Europe and the reactions that they're having. So I think going forward, we could still see these abnormal growth rates in digital channels because of the pandemic, outside of the systematic growth of E commerce as a portion of retail. And so that's, that's kind of the store in 2023, people are a little bit hesitant to say I'm going to go shopping in the stores like I used to. The other thing that I found interesting was that other digital channels is expected to increase its share by one percentage point. So those would be you know, social media, messaging apps, voice assistants, gaming consoles, live streaming. So all of these other types of places that are now being enabled with commerce capabilities, people, consumers do expect to be shopping more on those others in the next few years. And, again, I think that can be tied a little bit, you know, accelerated to the the pandemic where people are, in some countries now back into their homes, unable to go out and are going to spend more time on the internet. And a big portion of that time will be spent on social media, and messaging, and that's where they'll be able to do their shopping.
Darius 9:12 So let's, let's move on. I mean, this is a pretty comprehensive report. And I would like to touch on some of the key parts from every chapter. So let's move down to the almost to the conclusion of the first chapter about what I think is about the discovery and the shoppers journey. And yes, yeah, let's let's talk about that. Let's talk about that. And what were the key findings that you saw from from that part?
Michelle Grant 9:46 It's a great segue, right? I was talking about how people expect to be shopping more on these emerging digital touchpoints and we talk about this at Salesforce a lot. We call it shopping at the edge because these are new places, edge edge cases where now more shopping is happening. And we asked our respondents by their parts of their shopper journey discovery, buying and service, what what kind of channels or touchpoints are using. And it's no surprise that social media is really prominent in all three parts of the shopper journey. So 46% of respondents said that they use social media to discover and evaluate products. And kind of tied to that is the number two response, which is influencers. 22% of people are turning to influencers for product discovery. And then when it comes to buying, you know, 40% that they're using a mobile wallet, and that sort of speaks to that Super App that you were talking about earlier, in particular, India did over index on this. And, of course, Paytm, and others have, you know, super apps, but we also see that cash app, becoming more of a shopping destination, rather than just a peer to peer transfer. And as I said earlier, PayPals new app is more, you know, as a mobile wallet, but with a lot more shopping capabilities in that. So that's fascinating. And then 39% said that they're making purchases within email. So that's not being redirected to a website, it's actually making the purchase in the email. And Yahoo has been very strategic about partnerships with retailers to enable shoppable emails, they have a partnership with Walmart, so you can do grocery shopping within the email that you that you get from Walmart, and then 15% are making purchases on social media. And then when it comes to service, it's really all about kind of text based service. Now 20% of people are using chat bots and chat to get their service inquiries fixed. 23% are using social media. So either in the comments or in the DMS, and then 22% are using messaging apps. So lots of different behavioral shifts when it comes to channels during different parts of the shopping journey. But looking at the data, it's really just incredible about how important social media is in part of it for all three parts of the shopper journey.
Darius 12:41 What's interesting, is that I don't even see search included in the list here is search, not even in the top five,
Michelle Grant 12:50 this, these are just for the top five shopping at the edge searches in the results. But because it's sort of a standard way of finding products, we just didn't have that in the slide. But if like, let me see. So this
Darius 13:09 is in addition to search, I guess, and is that how we should translate it?
Michelle Grant 13:16 Right. So these are just the top five shopping at the edge category. So and then for example, you know, we did put a search engine in and 65% of consumers are using a search engine. So that makes sense. And 57% Use a physical store to evaluate products. So those still are very dominant ways that people of how people find and discover and evaluate new products. But we really wanted to focus on these emerging touchpoints that are gaining traction. And so that's why we took the top five, what we consider shopping at the edge channels.
Darius 13:54 Okay, so that's, that's good, because I kind of like, suddenly got worried for Google, but you're doing fine. Okay, we don't have to worry about them. All right. So now, the other thing that's important, I guess, to remember is that the combination for each shopper is different, right. So, like, one thing that I see is that like, you know, for myself as as a consumer, I have different preferences at different times of the day, even sometimes. So. So if you look at the combination of all of these one shopper, one consumer is going to be is going to this is like a it's like a spaghetti journey, right? It's not a straight journey where some people only use social media and that's it. Or so that's
Michelle Grant 14:53 your Yeah, you're correct, which makes it very difficult for retailers and brands. You know, to really have to map out their shopper journey, and be able to react quickly when that changes because of new platforms or new consumer behaviors.
Darius 15:12 Yeah. And then the other really interesting channels I see that you have is that live streaming and voice assistants at you know, rather significant percentages live streaming at 13%, voice assistants 10%.
Michelle Grant 15:34 Yeah, again, with everyone at their homes, and turning, you know, not being able to meet in person, people turned to the internet. And obviously, the retail and brands, retail industry. And brands have been paying attention to what's gone on in China and how popular and significant live streaming is. So we saw a lot of innovation in the social media companies launching live stream, enabling that live stream with commerce capabilities in 2020. And that's continued throughout 2021. In fact, Walmart just announced it will be doing a live stream, the first one on Twitter, on Friday for Black Friday. So there's a lot of both consumer behaviors, spending time online wanting to interact with people in a live matter, as opposed to just watching something that's pre recorded, and from the industry to offer those experiences. And so it's becoming, you know, more important way for people to discover and evaluate products. And yeah, voice assistants, you know, 10% use them for discovery and product evaluation. And then 7% of people are using voice assistants to buy things, which is impressive. And I think part of it might be we were, you know, we just said voice assistant, and I think some things that people, you know, we might just have our minds that, you know, it's just the Alexa or the google home without screens. And that's just not the case anymore. There's so many devices now that use voice plus a screen, that would make it easier for discovery and purchase because you can talk to it. But you can also see things and then make the purchase through that device. The other thing that I think goes on to notice when we talk about voice is that many apps now are voice enabled. So again, when we say voice assistant, we didn't specify like, you know, Siri, or Alexa, it was pretty vague. So I think in some cases, our respondents were thinking about their behaviors and apps. So I can go to the support app, and I can use voice to search for products. And that has been that's slowly becoming kind of a standard feature of an app is being able to use Voice Search in order to, to search for products. And I think, you know, if we think broadly about consumer habits and in my own behaviors, right, as I talk to my Roku all the time to find TV shows or the the, you know, streaming service I want so it's becoming, you know, talking to things to get results is is not just that Google Home and that Alexa device or your phone with Siri or Google Assistant, it's becoming a new voices permeating a lot of different devices that make it easier to evaluate and purchase products.
Darius 18:48 Yeah, that's so very, I mean, that's a good point. Because I think maybe it in the next report, you might even remove assistance and just say voice. Yeah. Because in two years, I mean that that capability is probably going to be a lot more prevalent than even now.
Michelle Grant 19:11 Exactly. I agree.
Darius 19:13 Interesting. Yeah. The Okay, well, let's move on to chapter two loyalty.
Michelle Grant 19:20 Yeah, this was a fun one. I think you know, what stood out to me is that we had two questions that weren't in the loyalty section. These were just about influencing your what influences a shoppers decision to make a purchase. And we asked of you know, of these you offerings, what makes you more likely to buy from a brand or a retailer. Not surprisingly, free shipping and free returns are the number two saying, oh, number one, number two things that people want in order to make a purchase. And then the third one loyalty rewards programs. And then the second question we asked, which is, which is true of your favorite brand. So even ignoring retailers, what's true of your favorite brand, and the number one response was offers a load program, I think we often talk about like loyalty program for fatigue, and people don't use it. In to degree that that's probably the case. But I think that there's again, a consumer behavior shift that they just expect everyone to have a loyalty program. And you know, they'll use it, but maybe they won't be super active. But the loyalty programs are getting, you know, so technically advanced that you can use it quite passively, you know, you can just sign up and then anytime you make a purchase, you're going to get points for it. It's really, really easy. And so I think people just kind of expect that if they're going to shop with you, they want to be rewarded in some way and have that program. And so I think that kind of goes against this sort of narrative that people will only, you know, have a certain amount of loyalty programs and have those little HC programs, only a few of them will actually the consumer will actually be active in
Darius 21:17 Did you have any kind of like an age, I guess, factor? In the research, I'm interested to see if loyalty is more popular for a certain age group?
Michelle Grant 21:31 is a good question. And we did break it out by four generations. So let me see. Again, I came prepared with the the data. And let's see offers. In fact, for loyalty program, it's pretty standard across all age groups, except the older customers a Gen X and site and the baby boomers slightly more inclined to shop with a brand that has a loyalty program. But when it comes to brand or retailer, it's pretty much the same. It's kind of interesting, Gen Z, under, under, under represented in in loyalty programs as far as whether or not that influences their way to what they purchase, when they really over index in his unique product collaborations, limited edition, customized products, and exclusive shopping events. So that's kind of the you know, you know, of those loyalties, still a loyalty program is still more important. But when it comes to other generations, they're not as impressed by loyalty program.
Darius 22:56 Okay, so that's, that's really interesting to know. The type of events that you mentioned, are actually really, like different from what the the older generations are used to.
Michelle Grant 23:15 Right? Um, I mean, if you think about it, it's very fascinating. You know, I would never think of going to a, a store. Well, let me take that back. I guess. In recent years, I've, I've been to store events, whether it's for a speaker, or even like Apple where you take classes. And that has really resonated with younger consumers, they do want to go to stores for special events, whether it's, you know, maybe a makeup artist at Sephora or a skincare specialist there, they really do see retail as, as not just a place to to make product purchases. Whereas I think the older generation didn't grow up with having kind of special events, and you know, these types of new product influencers that they would want to meet in person. So there's maybe a different notion of what retail is between sort of the Gen Z, one end and the baby boomers at the other.
Darius 24:25 Yeah, there's, there's definitely a lot of complexity in these numbers and these findings, which, you know, we're gonna have to figure out this is this is really a really good way to look at and actually point you in the right direction of where to dig. So as as an I'm thinking as like a retailer, or a brand. Because of you know, of course, nobody can go into all of these, all of the channels and apps and everything. So you You have to like, pick and choose. And this this type of data can really help on that. So
Michelle Grant 25:09 I will thank you, I appreciate it. Yes, that's that's our aim. And I also agree with you that there is so many channels, I mean, and a different research report by, by Salesforce. Consumers are touching nine different channels during the shopper journey, from pre purchase all the way to post purchase. So you have to really understand your consumer and where they want to interact with you so that you can be there where your consumer wants you. And yes, that'll look different across each retailer and brand, which makes it complicated, but exciting.
Darius 25:50 That's a good way to put it. Yes. All right. So what's the next chapter? Customer experience?
Michelle Grant 26:00 I'm so sorry. Yeah, customer experience is that is the next chapter. So speaking of, again, all of those touch points, you know, how are brands and retailers living up to the expectations of consumers. And I think one of the data points that really jumped out was that 80% of shoppers will abandon a retailer after three bad experiences, but the bulk of it is actually 62% will leave after two bad experiences. So we have less patience for mistakes than we used to. When it comes to retail and customer experience. However, when we talk to when we surveyed the retail executives, fewer than half of them had a completely defined customer experience strategy, have been rolled out to their whole company and understood well and executed against. And, you know, the top barriers for them, which we hear echoed when we talk to people in the industry is, you know, a lack of organizational alignment and processes for all of these different channels that we're talking about. And from that comes, you know, the complexity of the data that you get from your consumers through these digital interactions. And then, you know, these are billion dollar companies. And they're not necessarily as agile as they need to be to turn that data into insights and take action, to respond to all of the changes that are happening with consumer behavior and the digital landscape.
Darius 27:38 Yeah, that's, that's definitely, you know, one of the one of the challenges. And, you know, one of the ways that I'm hoping that platforms will help more in the future, and that agility, and you know, we'll get into it a little bit after we're done with the report, I want to ask you some questions about really what's happening at Salesforce and the commerce side. So. Yeah, so that was like, really interesting points. 66% of customers will drop a brand with two bad experiences. And, and the bad experience is defined as
Michelle Grant 28:22 anything is really open ended. Right? Because it can, you know, it can stem from, you know, poor return policy or lost either insufficient service at the store, or long hold times. For service on the phone or, you know, unresponsiveness Yeah, so we kept a pretty broad
Darius 28:46 is, yeah, I mean, the probably the website being slow or
Michelle Grant 28:52 key, right. Your payment method not being offered. There's there's a lot of things that a trip that upset consumers.
Darius 29:00 Yeah, they are. Or I should say we are fickle.
Michelle Grant 29:06 Yes, we are very fickle, and very demanding.
Darius 29:10 So, yeah, so this is yeah, I mean, this experience is a common theme across all of retail, not just online, of course, right, even in the store. The talk is all about this experience at the shopping center. The talk is all about the experience. So I think that's a now with the metaverse, I guess. Where is this concept of experience moving for us? That's, that's a big question for me is like what do we do now? And how do we look ahead on the concept of the experience?
Michelle Grant 29:57 I agree right. In kind of echoing what I said earlier is it is really important to understand your consumers and what they want and where they spend their time. So it's no surprise to me that we see a lot of brands that are very digitally savvy, being prepared for the next frontier, which would be in the metaverse. I think Nike and its partnership with Roblox is a well thought out well developed way to insert the brand where its consumers are in a natural way. And then, but not forgetting that the real world still exists. So there is I remember correctly, there is a there is a real world component to the roadblocks. News, so I think that's the important thing is yes, you know, the experience is going to evolve, and it evolves very quickly in a digital world, but we're all still people in the physical world. And so bringing bridging those together, is going to be important, and you can't neglect one for the other. Because if you don't have a robust, great experience in store, which is the best representation of your brand, because someone walks in, they talk to an associate, they can touch and feel the merchandise, you know, you can you see the visual brand cues in that store, that's just going to be the most rich and immersive experience that you have, even if people are spending more time online. So you need to make sure that your stores are up to, you know, the standards that consumers expect, and your digital experience is also up to that as well. So it's very, again, very complicated, very exciting, and can be will can be very expensive to have to maintain and manage both both channels. And I think sometimes, unfortunately, people prioritize one over the other when you really need to be thinking of them together as a flywheel that feeds into each other.
Darius 32:24 Yeah, yeah, I mean, the the the equation is continuously getting new variables added to it. And that's, I remember in in school in engineering school, you know, these calculus equations and you know, like the retail equation is kind of like reminds me of that but with the change that you're like constantly getting new variables added to it. So yeah, definitely
Michelle Grant 32:53 and I just looked it up to the the Nike land experience in in Roblox will also be brought to life at the Nikes house of innovation store in New York City or house of innovation are yet in New York City with a special Snapchat buttons. You have basically three different players bringing this to life you have Nike or Roblox then you have Snapchat and and then like I said, you know, Nike isn't neglecting its stores to build this digital experience. They're, they're making sure that the store is a part of it in some way.
Darius 33:31 So maybe the metaverse is not just all digital.
Michelle Grant 33:38 That would be my opinion, is that it needs to you need to figure out a way to unify bolts, and I think the jury's still out on you know how that's done. And it could be done multiple ways like hot Who would have imagined that, you know, Nike would not have you partner with Snapchat on this. I could also see you know, we saw and I've been tweeting a lot about QR codes right? So a lot you know, there you can use use QR codes to scan things at the house of innovation. So why not have like no special product from Roblox there or product? You seen store that you could scan your QR code to put in your Roblox universe? So yeah, I do think that there's a lot of different ways that you can unify these two physical and digital universes. And you know, Nike is a great leader in in retail. And that's what struck me the most about this announcement is that it's not just a virtual world there. They're going to connect that to the real world. And I think brands and retailers who think like that will be well positioned to the future.
Darius 34:54 Yeah, that's a really good example. Thanks for bringing it up. So
Michelle Grant 35:01 my pleasure, Stuart are still important.
Darius 35:05 Well, you know, it's a, it's like email, you know, like, every, every few years, somebody will, will predict the death of email. And it comes back even stronger. Right? So all right, let's talk about that. For chatter, which has a very interesting topic, the unified shopping experience.
Michelle Grant 35:28 Yes, speaking of stores, we just have these these great transitions. And, and like I said, you know, we, the store is still important. You know, 43% of transactions will happen there. Like I said, it's the best manifestation of your brand that you can have. But it's got to change, right? Well, we just talked about how the house of innovation, which is a relatively new concept is now getting Snapchat lens. So everything needs to be all evolving, you know, constantly and a little bit more sort of short term was just all of the omni channel features that this that retailers had to implement during the pandemic, because there was such a shift to, you know, online ordering. And then how do you get that product in a healthy in a healthy and safe way? But also, how do you get a product that might be locked in a store, that's, that's not open. So, you know, you know, 57% of shoppers that we surveyed, purchased a product online and picked it up in the store. And then when it was fascinating, so that was like, the most popular response when it came to blurring the physical and digital, from a shoppers point of view is just being able to buy online and just get at the store. And then the next two, were actually in store behaviors, which is, you know, 29% of shoppers have researched a product online using a mobile device with an in store. And 25% of shoppers scanned a QR code to learn more about that product while in store. So yeah, the store itself, you know, has a product you can touch and feel them, which is a main reason to go to the store. But people are doing even more in that store, researching it either just kind of looking at by their phone, or using a QR code as a shortcut to learn more about that product. So you have, again, these shifting consumer behaviors that really, you know, blurring the lines between physical and digital. And then another thing that we we asked about was, we saw this acceleration of again, all of these digital features happened. So we wanted to know, Okay, what did you have before the pandemic? And then what did you introduce during the pandemic, and the most popular thing that was implemented during the pandemic was curbside pickup, it had existed the drive throughs curbside pickup, you know, 40% of retail executives that they already had it to wasn't truly something new or innovative. But the pace that it was rolled out across these huge fleets of 1000s of stores was just incredible. And 2020 30% of retail executives said that they they implemented curbside during the pandemic. So that was, that was pretty interesting. And then the second most or most popular feature that was introduced during the pandemic was contactless payment. So again, these things around health and safety were the priorities that retail executives rolled out into their stores do the pandemic and the third, there's a tie for third. And we talked about this one before, which is that partnership with third party delivery apps, so 36 of retail 36% of retail executives, you know, launch those partnerships with, you know, these delivery apps to get that product home to people's homes, so they could avoid the store. And then the other thing was appointment scheduling, which I don't think we talked about too much, but 36% of retail executives rolled out these appointments scheduled so you could go into the store, you know, at a time get service from a store associate. And that way, you're not sort of wandering around looking for help. You can get in and get out quickly achieve your purpose. And so that was something that was really popular to do.
Darius 39:43 Yeah, those are really interesting points. And the first one by online, I guess pick up in store, or bullpens or curbside. curbside is somewhat different but it's almost the same right?
Michelle Grant 40:01 Yes, so curbside. So violent pickup in store would mean that the shopper goes into the store to read the to retrieve the packages. Whereas curbside would be you get to stay in your car. And a store associate brings the product out to you to put in your trunk usually, and so that the difference is someone going into the store, you obviously have an opportunity to sell them more items, which help covers the cost of that, that free service. And then curves, they don't really have that opportunity to upsell them, because they're not coming into the store. And this reusing some really creative digital notifications and add to cart type of prompts. And then you have a little bit more labor costs, because you have a store associate, you know, walking out and walking back and that time spent is servicing that is time that's not spent doing something else. So you know, just the fact of it is kind of like that last 10 feet can make it can make a difference, whether or not that person is walking the 10 feet into the store to retrieve their packages, or if it's a store associate walking on those 10 feet to put the package in your car.
Darius 41:22 Yeah, and what I've seen in from my experience, it's, it seems like the curbside pickup is a lot more popular with grocery than other types of products. I don't I have no idea if that's even close to reality. But that's what I've seen, like around myself where I go, I see people doing a lot of curbside pickup, maybe maybe it's because the the like the clothing stores, for example apparel, they just don't offer it. Okay,
Michelle Grant 41:56 yeah, it could be I mean, so like Target and Walmart, already were trialing curbside. So I think they were in a good position to get it to work. And then the nature of the product, right groceries can be quite heavy through shopping for you know, a family of four, you're doing a weekly shop. So getting those products, you know, brought to your car, which I think you know, based on my own shopping habits, many times I've seen store associates help people who, you know, you're elderly and carry those those bags out to the car. So I think the nature of the product is that much people would much prefer, aside from health and safety issues to have someone carry that stuff out to their cars. So they're not, you know, bogged down with eight different bags, and then they have to return the shopping cart themselves. So then I can imagine that it may pick up in the winter, too. I live in Chicago. So I could imagine having someone else block out in the car to walk to the car to put my bags and would be would be a great perk.
Darius 43:03 Absolutely. Yeah. So the the interesting part also about this data is that I see a lot of things like really growing, you know, during the pandemic, but they were already popular with retailers before the pandemic. So, you know, like you said, I think a lot of these things were actually available, but they just picked up the pace. And that's a good thing, from my point of view is that the retailers were already working on these different initiatives. Even before the pandemic, they almost like it was a really good coincidence for them that they already were working on these.
Michelle Grant 43:55 Oh, definitely. I yeah, I think you know, everyone said, the five year roadmap was just condensed into five months. I don't think we've seen anything truly novel come out as far as technology is concerned. Because of the pandemic, what we've seen is just an acceleration of these features being rolled out by companies and an acceleration of consumer adoption. Now one of the two things that we did ask about was augmented reality and virtual reality. And a lot of people did implement those during the, during the pandemic. And again, I think it's more sector specific. So it doesn't rank really high across all of retail but if you looked at fashion or beauty, they would be much higher if we drilled into the data a bit deeper. And but what we did see is that they have some of the highest retention rates going forward. So you And that, again, the augmented reality and virtual reality, those things we've been talking about for, you know, probably almost a decade by now. And that technology keeps getting better and better. And so that's, that's something that maybe was truly novel is that people were kind of like, Oh, what are the use cases for AR and VR? But well, if you can't touch your cosmetics, because there's no sampling, or you want to buy more your cosmetics online or your sunglasses, then that's a pretty strong use case. And that really accelerated the adoption of those technologies.
Darius 45:40 There's another really interesting part of the the report about store associates what what what did you learn about that's changing on that front?
Michelle Grant 45:55 Yeah, I agree. Um, so we talked about how stores have evolved. And that just means that, you know, the store associate has to evolve that role. So one of the things that we saw is that they now have multiple, multiple responsibilities as one is, we talked about online order fulfillment now, whether that's, you know, curbside, or in store, lots of sources are now more doing more order fulfillment from that store. And then in some cases, they're actually doing last mile deliveries on behalf of their retailers getting paid to make those deliveries. And we talked about that, you know, appointment scheduling, well, you know, there's, there's also been a shift to doing virtual styling, so their virtual stylist, so instead of going into the store, and having that appointment or wandering around asking looking for service, you can actually book a virtual appointment and get a virtual stylist, you don't even have to leave your home, to have a store associate help you. They've also taken on customer customer service tasks. So they'll be able to again, help you while they're at the store in the backroom, or even at home via chat or text, video or voice so you don't have to receive service in the store from associated they can be delivering it from anywhere. And in one of my favorites is the social influencer role. And there's a great example on tick tock, it's Cameron from Walmart, his his, his tic tock handle and he started out at the beginning of the pandemic, you know, Walmart stayed open any downloaded tic tock and was doing all these fun dances and gained quite a following. And he was working full time at Walmart. And now he's part time worker at store associate at Walmart and also an official social influencer on behalf of Walmart. So he, if you go to his his tic tock, he'll do different videos showcasing brands and a paid, you know, ad for that brand. And I'm sure in jointly with Walmart, and he has 5 million followers on Tiktok. So he went from, you know, probably a few 100 in the beginning of 2020 to 5 million, almost at the end of 2021. So, and instead of just saying no, you can't do that Walmart has embraced Cameron and others and put them through official social media training and are, you know, paid and permitted to be social influencers on behalf of the retailers and brands.
Darius 48:45 So he is probably making a lot more money off of that than his Walmart job now.
Michelle Grant 48:51 Yeah, I would imagine. That's why he doesn't have to be full time anymore.
Darius 48:59 So this is this is really interesting. I mean, it's it's an interesting, I mean, really important case. But to be honest, you know, we need millions of people working in retail stores, right? How many of them are gonna be influencers? And then, you know, are you still gonna pay a minimum wage? You know, I mean, it's not just the role that's changing. I mean, compensation has to change with that.
Michelle Grant 49:26 i Yes, I agree. And I think you're right that you know, not, not everyone is I'm not, you know, I would do poorly in Tik Tok, I cannot dance. So, but there are a few, but I think the the change is that, you know, companies would shun that type of behavior and really worry about their brand, and, you know, not allow people to do that and the mentality is, wow, we have employees that understand our product, understand your stores, who understands social media, let's embrace it, and let's give them the platform and the tools to be successful. So I think that's the important mind shift is that, you know, instead of being super protective, and only corporate can talk about our brand, online, embracing the people, the store associates who you understand the day to day to that, and allowing them and compensating them for that talent. And I, you know, Cameron seems to be early in his career. So I could see him, you know, rising in the ranks of the social media department at Walmart or other retailers and see, you're really has a feel and understanding for that. So I think that's another point and important point to make about the rise of this Omni store associate is that you can, in some cases, brands are you know, your two days on the sales, floor selling two days doing customer service. And then one day, you know, doing online order fulfillment, so it gives variety to the associate, and they can really figure out what, you know, part of the role or responsibilities they really like. So maybe your your great selling in person, and you don't really like customer service. And so, you know, you kind of rotate off and you you lean in more into selling online, but I think it's great that people on the floor, get exposure to all these different aspects of the business. So I think, you know, you will understand the retail business even better, because you're been in each department, you can, you know, and you're living the day to day, so you can suggest recommendations for improvement. But then you can also have a greater understanding of where your career path in the retail industry will lead you.
Darius 52:11 Yeah, that's, that's one of the one of the ways that I see things really having a, like a paradigm shift in the in the store. Experience is really the staff and the people. I mean, I think you have a really interesting photo in the report, where you have the Salesforce, teddy bear, or I don't know what the name of it is, that's not camera. Is that Astro case? Dot Cameron, right. You could use, you could probably replace that with Superman, or one of the Avengers, you know, with all these different things they need to do. So, definitely, yeah. And then, you know, the other part of it is that even as far as like, you know, five years ago, the general thing was just being behind the POS, just ringing people up. And that's completely out in the future and the POS all it's all going to be self checkout. So the store associate is just there to help and not necessarily rain, the sales.
Michelle Grant 53:25 Yeah, I agree or this or the the, you know, the store, we talked about the the store associate, you know, being untethered from the checkout. So either the consumer, the shopper can check themselves out using the app or different methods, or just walk out technology like Amazon and others have, or the store associate has, you know, a mobile device that allows them to do a lot of things, you know, look up your past history on orders, understand your loyalty status, and you know, and check you out on the go. So that, you know, they aren't kind of sitting stationary buying to checkout and just providing that service, but they can actually be out on the floor and helping people and doing other activities. You know, always from the cash wrap.
Darius 54:19 Yeah, it's very interesting how this part of the store experience is changing. So POS is of course another part of the key. I mean, you know, part of like being in the store is you know, taking care of the payment without hopefully waiting in line for 15 minutes or more. So that's probably where the evolution in the POS and self checkout is going to be. You see a lot of that happening in non grocery
Michelle Grant 54:55 Yes, I do. I especially like In high touch items like apparel, and jewelry, I do think and you know, and soft goods. I mean, it already kind of happens, right and large furniture stores, right, you're not going to ring up, you know, that sofa at the checkout, been helped by an associate who maybe rings you up there but has information and takes you to the checkout. So I do think that that yes that all retailers and brands will embrace sort of this mobile checkout, whether again, it's you know, the consumer doing it, or the store associated doing it in, in service of the customer. Because, I mean, if you think of some of the, you know, the large store formats, right can be very hard to find a checkout that's open. After you've done all your shopping, so it's much easier if you can find a store associate or during your course of being helped by stores. So associates to complete the transaction right there, I would kind of my final prediction would be that the cash wrap just sort of goes away and is there for certain things like if people are paying in cash, you need to be able to take that cash and make change. So you'll always have that on site, but it will be the main point for people to checkout at.
Darius 56:33 What do you think is the the role and the future of the shopping centers in how retail is changing?
Michelle Grant 56:45 That is a good question. Um, I do you think that there is a role for shopping centers? Again, you know, I'm a big believer in the importance of the store. And that the shopping center is a great, you know, marketplace of stores, right? So it's, again, it's all about understanding who your customer is, getting the right brands to be in that store. And not just retail brands, you know, whether that's services like gyms or spas, and food service, and with that you can attract the right customer who wants to, you know, still go out and enjoy shopping. And to use it as a leisure activity, you know, shopping centers that are kind of based on the premise of, you know, commodity products are probably not going to make it because those commodity products are being bought online, or not bought at all, because the consumer has has changed. So I do think that, you know, the shopping center and the the malls are going through an evolution just like the physical store is. So you know, we've seen some, you know, indoor, you know, middle tier malls have difficulties, but outdoor, Open Space Centers, strip malls, and luxury malls, mall centers do well, so it's, it's really a mixed bag of what's going on. But I think if you understand your consumer, what drives them, what makes them get off their couch and not just buy online while watching Netflix, then you'll have a great, you know, a great business and a great experience for those those shoppers.
Darius 58:46 Yeah, and one of the reasons that I asked that question is that shopping centers are also experimenting with ucommerce
Michelle Grant 58:56 Yeah, definitely. I mean, they, again, that was something that also had to be sped up during the pandemic, because you know, that curbside adoption, a lot of the malls really just aren't set up for that. And they had to remain close because they were non essential. So that I think that was one of the big digital features that also necessitated a an E commerce experience that allowed for curbside and nowadays, no rush to build it. During the pandemic. It's all about refining that both from like that E commerce standpoint, and then the fulfillment options that people are expected to are expecting nowadays and I do think that there's some cool things going on. On the E commerce side and then we've also seen the the big mall players partner with afterpay and Klarna. So even on the payment side of things, really adopting these new financial instruments to be relevant to to customers and Getting them access to stores within the malls, advertising within the malls of this financial payment. You know, it's that's another area of innovation that we've seen.
Darius 1:00:14 I can see the advertising side of it, but it's kind of a bit difficult to see the financial model of shopping center partnering with afterpay. Because, you know, the cost customer is not purchasing the item from the shopping center. They're buying it from the retailer. So how does the mall actually get into the middle of that transaction? With something like afterpay?
Michelle Grant 1:00:42 Yeah, I don't I don't know what the what the financial agreements were between these Buy now pay later providers and on the malls? That's a good question.
Darius 1:00:54 Yeah, the ecommerce equation that the malls are, you know, working on is an interesting one. There, you know, there is there shall be something there. But we don't know enough to know what exactly. So I'm hoping that this experiment will actually end up. And it's not short lived, just because if it doesn't succeed in the first first or second try, because that's how experiments work, right? You can't just try once and say, Oh, it didn't work. We're not going to do it anymore. We're giving up. Right, exactly. That's what a lot of retailers do, unfortunately. Or people in retail, they just, they think experiments are like, well, you know, you tried once and if it didn't work, it's that's it? You know, the idea is not good. So,
Michelle Grant 1:01:42 yeah, I think that's that's definitely a philosophy. Because things change, right? And you may have been too early, or your consumer behavior change, or the technology changed. So there's, so yeah, you can put it away for a while, but then maybe you should be revisiting it. I mean, my favorite example of this is a QR code. And the biggest comeback in the West because of the pandemics since people had to use a QR code to scan their menus. And now people are more comfortable with it. And you see it everywhere, on televisions on billboards, and posters and on packaging. And, you know, I was surprised by 25% of consumers saying that they're using QR codes in the store to look up more product information. So yeah, if you thought QR codes were dead in the West, which was a great assumption. You're wrong now. Because because of the pandemic and it changed things. So it's always important to, unfortunately, again, very complicated to keep track of those failures, and then revisit them to see if you know something was different. And now it can be successful.
Darius 1:02:56 Yeah, the cure and cure code is a really good example. And I should confess, I am probably one of those consumers that did not pick it up early. But just like you said, because of the restaurant menus, now I'm starting to use it more.
Michelle Grant 1:03:14 And then I've also noticed, because I've been tracking it, is that the QR experience in my in my camera is actually getting better. So Apple, and I guess some of their software updates and now shows you Okay, you've got the QR code, it's going to take you to this link, it's going to take you here, there's little nudges that make the QR code scanning, a bit more detailed than it was at the very beginning of the pandemic. So again, even Apple is upgrading the experience because so many people are doing it.
Darius 1:03:50 So I've as if you've probably noticed that I've gone wrong Rogen, you and I'm asking you questions outside the report. So I hope you don't mind. What do you think about any any thoughts about the role of blockchain in retail?
Michelle Grant 1:04:11 Oh, I have a lot of thoughts. How much time do you have? I think, first of all, I remember when Walmart IBM and some of the big food manufacturers probably about three or four years ago got together and announced an initiative to put the supply chain on the blockchain. So if there's a lot of inefficiencies in the supply chain, there's no as far as like communicating where things are, are where things are from. And so people are still using, you know, fax machines and Excel documents and they're all prone to human error or being lost. Especially if you're using I mean, in some cases, the handoffs are still using pen and paper cheaper and most good, you know, throw accidentally. So we haven't really heard too much about the blockchain and supply chain. So I'd be interested in to hear kind of if that initiative is still going on, obviously, there's a lot of things happening in the supply chain. And maybe that's been deprioritize because of the other more pressing matters. So I think that's an area of blockchain that is still viable. We're still fascinating, and I'm not quite sure where the state is. And then I think for blockchain, I think we're gonna see a lot of use around loyalty programs and in developing loyalty programs based on the the blockchain that allow consumers to you know, earn cryptocurrency, or to be redeemed at you know, either cashed out into us or into fiat currency or redeemed at other partners. I think that's an interesting use case for the blockchain and then kind of, not specifically the blockchain but non fungible tokens, NF T's I see a lot of a lot of opportunity there. Again, when it comes to loyalty programs, but digital twins of physical products, unlocking special experiences are even just some of these brands have so much cultural cachet and history behind them, and have true fans of the brand. So like, what would you know, I do think like, an ad T of like, you know, famous sketch done by a famous designer, would be great, would really resonate with with consumers to have access to that sort of the digital digitized version of that if you know, the owner, the true owner, the brand owner doesn't want to give up the physical document, but they could digitize it. And then of course, we talked about Metaverse and how. And so again, I think there's a lot of room for experimentation around blockchain and its components to be part of that universe where you can have your digital skins and wear them in any sort of gaming system or new rule that has not been created yet.