Whirlpool, Catapult Explore the New Retail Reality

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Whirlpool, Catapult Explore the New Retail Reality

By Erika Flynn - 01/30/2017

Answering the burning question of whether retail is dead or alive, Bill Beck, vice president of brand marketing, North America, Whirlpool Corp., said it is both. The key today is to think about retail in a completely different way because technology has forever changed how consumers shop, Beck said during a Path to Purchase Expo presentation in September.

For companies like Whirlpool, all the magic happens in-store, said Beck, noting that loyalty in the home appliance industry is less than 10%. That makes it more important than ever to talk to consumers along the entire path to purchase. 

Retail is not just a point of distribution anymore, Beck said. “It really becomes a point of media. How we tell our stories for our brands and get people to engage with them … we continue to see it reinvent itself, day in and day out.” Online shopping has completely changed the game, but as more people buy appliances online, a good story at retail becomes increasingly important. “That’s the place to experience our brands, kick the tires and really learn and understand what’s happening with our products,” he said. 

Millennials are revolutionizing the retail experience – but not in ways we might think, said co-presenter Stacey Rubin, senior vice president, account strategy, Catapult Marketing. Online still only accounts for 8% of total sales, and 82% of Millennials compared to 71% of total consumers actually prefer to shop in-store. 

Partnering with Catapult, Beck and his team identified the top trends affecting what Whirlpool needs to focus on every day. The six key trends driving the retail innovation are:

  • Millennials are constantly connected and “mobile first.” 
  • We live in a world of sharing and social media. If it doesn’t get shared, it didn’t happen. 
  • We’re seeking more immersive and multi-sensory experiences. 
  • We crave meaning and substance in interactions with brands. 
  • We are more demanding than ever in terms of convenience, value and transparency. 
  • We expect hyper-relevance.

“The store is no longer just a place to buy, but a place where shoppers go to experience the brand in ways they can’t elsewhere,” Rubin said. “Retail is not just a store but a media channel and, among many other things, a physical manifestation of the brand.”

Whirlpool’s proprietary research showed that while the store remains the No. 1 touchpoint for the moment of purchase, more surprisingly it’s also No. 1 for initial consideration, well above traditional media, and No. 1 or 2 across all phases of active evaluation. “When considering media budgets for next year, you may want to consider in-store as one of your media channels,” Rubin said. 

Research by Whirlpool and Catapult together and independently further helped the partners identified these trends that create a picture of today’s in-store landscape. Among them, experiential retail, or “the un-store.” Providing experiences that create an atmosphere and entertainment in-store can increase average purchase by 30%, raise in-store traffic by 33%, improve brand awareness by 48% and grow repeat buyers by 33%, according to co-presenter Sarah Davis, senior vice president and executive creative director, Catapult.

Another trend is using inspiration and influencers. The No. 1 thing people are looking for in their in-store experience related to major appliances is an easy way to access product ratings reviews, said Beck. “Brands and retailers are taking these trends and manifesting themselves in many ways today.”

Beck said manufacturers and retailers need to continue to rethink the role of the store. Retail is very much alive, just in a different way. “These role changes are uncomfortable for manufacturers and retailers because the economics are tough, but once we get through it, we’re going to like the outcome.”