When was the last time that you felt really, I mean really happy? We are online 24/7, both at work and at leisure. The online feed is full of good and unfortunately also bad news. For many of us it is very difficult to get unplugged and just enjoy the moment. We seem to look bigger events and emotions and more of them all the time. This can be seen also in retail. Prior online stores the best experiences were sought from the hypermarkets and supersized malls. Now the product heaven is in the web and the ultimate experiences will soon be received by VR. The challenge is that human brains are insatiable – we are like the rats, which have their brains manipulated so that they are always hungry and finally they eat themselves dead.
Some wise person has said that the more digital the world gets the more people value small moments and face-to-face meetings with real people. Our brains have been developed to the current status in 100 000 years, so it is understandable that they are not capable of change in just about 30 years, when we have had the internet in wider use. This information/experience overkill opens doors to new kinds of retailers – small, easily accessible, not very high-tech, in the neighbourhood located stores and services. In a way the retail is going back to its roots. This is clearly visible in food offering: street food, gastro bars and small café’s are popping in every town. Clearly the potential is bigger in the big cities and the trend is that population is concentrating in the big cities, meaning that there is demand for these.
The re-cycling ideology opens opportunities to many services from bike repair shop to shoemakers and tailors. The small stores of this new era are often combination of café, multi-selection shop and maybe a meeting point for local people. In these stores the star is not the selection, which can be quite small, since products are either ordered from the web or 3D-printed in the store. The star is the place where you can meet people and enjoy the moment and feel that you belong to the local community. These stores, street food joints and service points offer the possibility for small, easy and safe face-to-face meetings, without the pressure for buying stuff that you do not need. You can notice this development also in the malls. They will increase their experience offering, since the stores do not require that much space as they used to have.
This does not mean that the traditional stores – whether discounters or department stores – are vanishing totally. But there will be less of those at least in the developed countries. In developing countries there still is pull for hypermarkets and IKEA’s since they are in a different phase in the economic development. But since the trends spread nowadays very fast, it may be that their blossom time will be much shorter that it has been in the developed countries.
I believe that this development is a kind of counter reaction to the world, which is built totally on consumption and eternal growth. We still need products and services, but maybe less than earlier. We buy stuff only when we need it and that is good news for the nature. Retailers should develop new, small retail concepts that match these customer expectations. They also should invest on good personal service, to enable the face-to-face moments. I strongly believe that in the near future small is really beautiful.
And why I ask the question when you have last time really being happy. That question is based on a touching moment, which I heard from a case in Nepal: a small boy, untouchable (casteless), did get the chance to start going to the school and said: “I am the most happy children in the world:” That made me wonder, when I have last time being really happy. Think about that and cherish those moments.