Ahead of YMS19 LDN, we’re chatting to some of the youth marketing experts who’ll be taking to the stage about their passions, experiences and what they’re looking forward to at the event in April.
Today we’re getting to know Shakeel Sanghera, Assistant Head Coach at Nike’s flagship UK store. He shares his predictions for the future of retail and tips for how physical stores can keep young consumers engaged, even in the digital age.
What is Nike doing to keep young shoppers coming back to their stores, even as online shopping becomes more convenient and widespread?
It is all about experience and added value. The reality of retail at the moment is that it is much more convenient to order online without having to leave the comfort of your home and 90% of the time, you will find the product cheaper online if you take the time to search for it. With this being the case, bricks and mortar stores have to find an edge to bring people back into store and that is where the experience or “Retail Theatre” come into play. People need to feel special and Nike is doing a great job of this through the use of member exclusive activations and experiences.
If you are a Nike member, there are ways for you to increase your chances of getting hold of major new footwear releases, you can get customisation on apparel and footwear or you can take part in the cool experiences that are available in store, such as the ADAPT BB self-lacing shoe campaign that took place in January, or using the football trial space for an amazing experience of a cool product. The advantage that stores will always have over online is that the consumer will have the ability to touch the product and take it away immediately, which is a huge value. The trick is then to make sure that they have such a good experience in store through the person-to-person interaction that they want to experience it again. People are social creatures ultimately and that is something that online shopping will have a very difficult time replicating.
What can retailers learn from eCommerce trends that can be applied to the physical shopping experience?
Convenience and speed are everything! Retail has to get faster and easier when it comes to getting product into the hands of the consumer. To compete, a store has to be fast and also give the consumer an experience that they can’t get at home as added value and a reason for coming to the store. This is one of the reasons why we see more and more stores moving away from tills and using mobile terminals. In the retail world today and with the level of instant gratification, people desire retailers to be able to deliver quickly.
Influencers are King - knowing which influencers to use is key to creating a successful brand, and also knowing when to change and evolve the roster is also important. There are so many influencers now in every field that it is impossible to keep up for me, but big brands need to do so as making sure they are on trend is of the utmost importance. Having one person as the face of the brand for an extended period of time is an outdated way of looking at things and in today’s market constant evolution is necessary. It’s like the Red Queen theory from Alice in Wonderland - run as fast as you can to stay where you are!
Personalisation is a major trend in the clothing sector, which Nike has tapped into with the NikeiD design studio. Why do you think innovations like this resonate with younger consumers?
I think the pressures of social media play a huge part in the rise of customisation as there is a fine line between standing out and being different and customisation allows consumers to walk this line more easily. You can get a product that everyone else has, so the product is “safe,” and then make tweaks to it in order to make it different so that you stand out. It’s cool to be different but not too different as then you run the risk of being uncool, so it’s all about finding that balance.
I also think that with the growth of tech in the world in general, the creative process is a huge part of the fun as we have so many creatives in the world now. Whether it is through photography, graphic design, fashion, music or film, so many young people today have a creative outlet and the customisation process fits in with that and gives them another outlet to express themselves.
Which retail trends are you most excited to follow in the year ahead?
The continual growth of digital integration in the marketplace and what new crazy ways companies find to incorporate digital elements into store. Amazon are a great company to follow given the way they can innovate and some of the store concepts that they have. Pepe Jeans has done a phenomenal job of making the experience come to life in a meaningful way and not just through a gimmick - they have a Twitter feed on the wall, RFID that gives you outfit suggestions on the fitting room mirror, and the ability to request different sizes in the fitting room using the mirror.
The other area I am interested to see is the ways that big brands continue to add value to consumers through memberships and a sense of community. We are seeing a steady increase in activations and events that are exclusive to members as ways of generating loyalty and I believe this will continue to rise.
The year is 2030: What will be the first thing we see when we walk into a clothing store?
I definitely think the retail marketplace is moving towards two things:
More digital integration, removing all friction points that consumers have when visiting a store. No one likes waiting for anything and McDonalds had the right idea by putting in the digital screens to order food as one of the biggest things people hate is initially waiting for someone to be available to help them out. We are starting to see more and more retailers tackle this problem in creative ways that improve the experience for the consumer, whether that is ordering the product yourself through your mobile phone, using a digital screen to order, reserving it from home using an app. I think in 2030 that will be taken to a whole new level with a digital guide who can walk you through the store and talk you through the product, and you can try the product on using VR projection without having to go to fitting rooms etc.
Instant customisation - We are starting to see more and more stores move towards this as the current generation of consumers want to be different but not TOO different, so tweaking and styling something that is already popular with their own twist is very popular at the moment. I think by 2030 what we will see in stores will be the ability to have something created to the exact specifications for a consumer instantly while they watch it happen. Whether this is done through a digital app order or guided by someone in store, this will be the biggest trend that continues and will only improve as technology advances.
How have collaborations with sports stars and influencers helped to drive footfall to Nike Town?
In the sports world collaborations are huge and always will be. Consumers flock to the store to buy product that is from a player’s signature line or that has been worn by a key athlete whether that is football, basketball, tennis or running. It is also crazy to see how collaborations have had a huge influence on interest in products that are more lifestyle rather than performance, such as when Justin Timberlake wore the PSG Jordan Coach Jacket on stage. It made a huge buzz and drove consumers into a frenzy for the product. We’ve seen similar reactions with other collaborations such as the Travis Scott Jordan 4, Nigel Sylvester Jordan 1 and the list goes on and on. Seeding product to influencers is huge as they have a lot of power over the consumers of today, and this is evident in the amount of people that come into the store and show us pictures of public figures wearing products and asking if they can buy them!
And the questions we ask everyone:
What have you learned in your career that you wish you’d known when you started out?
Personal brand is everything - early when I started with Nike I was told that every second, every minute of every day is a sale and you are selling your ability to your team around you and the leadership team above you so you always have to be ready to put your best foot forwards and also manage the perception people have of you meticulously. Working in any field is about art and science - and most of the time the art is more important!
The science is everything empirical you have to deal with when working in a store - scheduling, product refill, making sure everything in the environment is in top condition ready for serving consumers. The art is everything involving soft skills, making sure the team are engaged, trained well and service is at a world class level. The science tends to be easy as most of the time something is either right or wrong, the art is infinitely more difficult as it is navigating individual people, thoughts and emotions which don’t have right or wrong answers. The fun part about it - the art is far more important and success or failure most of the time will hinge on your people and their level of engagement and commitment.
What’s your favourite app at the moment?
Twitch! My friend and I are working on a business with FIFA and Esports, and Twitch has unlocked a whole new level to it. Whenever we have tournament games happening, the players can stream the games and the other players in the community we are building can tune in and watch the games being played and comment on them in the moment, which is pretty cool.
What are you looking forward to at YMS19 LDN?
My talk as it will be my first time doing this in a setting external to Nike - I’m nervous but hope I’ll be engaging and give you guys some knowledge! I’m also looking forward to hearing from the Tempest Two about how to create meaningful content as this is something that will help me with the new business that I am working on at the moment.
You can hear more from Shakeel at YMS19 LDN, where he’ll be taking part in a live Q&A on how tech is fuelling creativity in the retail industry. Click here for full details and to secure your passes for the year’s biggest youth marketing event.