The latest annual edition of the Retail Report from John Lewis & Partners (How We Shop, Live and Look) has landed, providing a valuable insight into the trends that influenced our shopping habits and lifestyle choices in 2018.
It appears that it was the year of the eco-friendly water bottle; one that saw a rise in popularity of both veganism and leopard print and one in which we ditched the alarm clock and DVD player.
2018 also saw us supersize our televisions to an average 70 inch screen (nearly double the 36″ of 2010) and invest in tech-advanced smart doorbells. Out went the trouser press and traditional door knocker.
Overall however, 2018 was one of the toughest ever for retailers, as Brexit negotiations dragged on and consumer uncertainty continued.
So what are the key findings of this report and more importantly, what kind of a portent are they for retailers today?
The defining moments of 2018
According to the report, 2018 was defined not only by an increased interest in sustainability but also by a number of key events.
For example, the extreme weather at the start of the year – the Beast from the East – saw the sale of boots rise by 63%.
The World Cup precipitated a 249% increase in the sale of 60″ TVs whilst the summer heatwave in June and July drove sales of BBQs up by 40%.
Meghan Markle’s fairy tale marriage to Prince Harry firmly sealed her new role as a style icon, with a significant increase in the sale of the Mulberry Darley bag (up 327% after she was spotted carrying it) as well as yellow dress sales, which quadrupled.
Elsewhere, the Love Island effect spurred increased sales of inflatables and water bottles. And even the thong has seen a resurgence in popularity, along with suspenders!
What are the key messages from ‘How We Shop, Live and Look’?
Technology continues to develop apace and user behaviour changes at an incredibly fast rate as a result.
Shoppers have increased the size of their smartphones and 42% of people (more than ever before and, most significantly, overtaking desktop for the first time) are choosing to browse using their mobile rather than tablet or desktop.
Interestingly, the way in which they shop has also changed, with customers being more specific in their searches, including the increased use of search words and filters.
Simon Coble, Trading Director at John Lewis & Partners, said “How we shop is changing at incredible speed and shops need to combine the very best in service and experiences with unique and fantastic products. And the mobile phone is vital in both as a means to browse and research but also as a place to buy.”
The report also noted that shoppers were becoming increasingly personal in their purchasing habits, with a corresponding rise in quirky, eye-catching homeware.
Simon Coble continued “Identity was a major theme across all shopping trends this year and it is no coincidence that the idea of identity is central to John Lewis’s long term plans – our strategy is firmly about dialling up what makes us different so that we remain relevant.
“It is our job not only to celebrate what makes us stand out as a business but also to help our customers celebrate everything that makes them unique too.”
What will the future of retail look like?
2018 has undoubtedly been a tricky year for many in retail. And one of great uncertainty. And of course, predicting the future remains inherently difficult.
What is clear is that technology is constantly evolving and that consumer behaviour follows suit.
Consumers are now much more likely to browse and purchase on the move instead of waiting until they get home to their desktop.
Future trends are predicted to include the transition from the smartphone to transhumanism, using smart contact lenses to transmit information about what is around us. Voice searching will become the norm. And personalisation of the whole shopping experience could one day see customers share their DNA with shops in return for a truly personalised service.
In the meantime, however, the report concludes that “to thrive as a retailer now, let alone in the future, you must not only stand out from your competitors but you must also stand for something more.”
How can the learning from the 2018 John Lewis & Partners Retail Report be applied to my business?
1. Invest online
The report clearly illustrates the importance for high street businesses to invest online. Not just in e-commerce but also online marketing channels in general, including for e.g. social media.
Indeed, John Lewis has encouraged its own staff to share their experiences through social media, in order to generate a more “authentic” and “personal” voice.
Business elsewhere should therefore carefully review their online presence and consider how they can improve the overall customer journey. Websites should be mobile first, given increasing numbers of customers use smartphones to browse online.
2. Keep it individual
The report reiterated the importance of identity and the individual. So it’s worth considering how you can go that extra mile to offer an as individualised a service as possible to your customers.
A number of high street retailers have recently invested heavily in differentiating their offering through their excellent customer service. Could your business do the same?
3. Monitor the trends
2018 was defined by key events such as the World Cup, the royal wedding and a couple of extreme seasons which without doubt influenced consumer buying patterns.
Keep an eye out for similar trends in 2019 – the birth of Prince Harry’s first child for example – and anticipate how your business could best be positioned to take advantage.
4. Be flexible and responsive
The ability to adapt to change will determine who survives in what is still predicted to be a challenging landscape for retailers for some time to come.
So if you see an increase in popularity for thongs and suspenders, you might just want to reduce that order of big pants…
Need a hand with your digital marketing?
For further help with implementing any of the recommendations in this article, please contact Paula Alexander at The Content Marketing Team.