Retail Innovations Blog Series: Trend #2: Interaction

Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Retail Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the year, we will explore the hot four trends (Smart Shopping, Interactions, Emotional Retail, and Responsibility) showcased in 2018 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

Trend #2: Interaction

As a result of globalization and a world increasingly merged on every level, (e.g., economically, culturally), consumers have evolved to strive for personalization in all aspects of their lives, including goods, services, and unique lifestyle choices. In retail, the interaction between customers and staff sets the scene for a personal shopping experience. The interaction in the store between products, staff, and brand is essential; it allows for more accurately identified customer needs and builds relationships and loyalty. In today’s blog, we will explore this trend under two sub-trends: Shop Socialize and Expertise.

Shop Socialize

Shop Socialize expands the shopping experience by providing a social dimension through interaction with staff and other customers. Establishing the store as a provider of social experiences or as a community hub to host those experiences which then tie customers emotionally to the brand. This can also be accomplished through anchoring the store in the local environment through mash-up concepts, e.g., bringing in the local hairdresser or bookshop.

Award-winning Innovation Case: B8ta, U. S. A.

B8ta is a San Francisco-based retail chain that shows and sells the latest tech products to consumers. The concept brings consumers and product-makers together, allowing makers to test their cutting-edge innovations at physical stores within days of release to gauge consumer interest before investing in a store base. Makers get instant customer feedback and consumers can discover, try, and learn about new tech products, which is very interesting for early adopters.

There are four stores across the U.S. and three Smart Spots inside Lowe’s Home Improvement locations.

trend2 - b8ta

Every store is unique and lifestyle-driven. Stores are designed for discovery and divided into four main categories:

  • Home (security cameras, smart home devices),
  • Play (toys, educational products),
  • Sense (VR headsets, audio products), and
  • Move (backpacks, electric skateboards, fitness gadgets).

Each store takes on its own personality based on trends in the area. No two stores are alike and each feature different tech products, with merchandise changed monthly.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment:

B8ta is a unique example of how brick-and-mortar is being reinvented to bring exposure to new brands entering the market, without having to invest in a permanent store base. This test-and-learn strategy works more like a pop-up for brands to gauge consumer interest and capture data without investing in further development.

Data is a key ingredient in understanding consumers and behavior. B8ta brings data and experiences to life by showcasing new and innovative products in a unique space that has become a destination for visitors.

Barnas Lekeland, Norway

The online Norwegian supermarket Kolonial opened its first physical store in 2017. Instead of replicating a traditional format, asked children what they want in a grocery store. The result was a children’s playcenter (without shelves and products): Barnas Lekeland, the Children’s Playcenter. Children can play while parents enjoy a cup of coffee and order their groceries online for pick-up in the same store, at another pick-up point, or for home delivery.

trend2 - barnas

By removing all products from the store, allows the retail space to be used for other purposes, tapping into the trend of shoppers wanting to spend their time on other experiences they value: children’s playtime and coffee breaks for adults. Families with children feel great pressure when grocery shopping, which is why they want it to be fast, simple, and seamless. Barnas Lekeland enables them to both handle the shopping and spend time with their children.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment:’s Barnas Lekeland is breaking the boundaries for what a grocery store is and can be. The online supermarket is giving grocery shopping a social dimension by providing customers with a physical space for social interaction, while showing parents that a trip to the grocery store can be a pleasant experience even with children in tow.


Expertise is driven by the employees of the store. With the ever-increasing devotion to e-commerce, personnel must fill a new role and offer customers what neither machines nor e-commerce can provide: engagement and relationships. By leveraging their expertise to educate, advise, train, and entertain, personnel can enhance the shopping experience with a sense of presence and support.

L’appart de Leroy Merlin, France

L’appart is not a store, but a place for meeting and learning. Leroy-Merlin, a European leader in home improvement, is known for its very large stores located in suburbs. L’appart aims at bringing the brand downtown, focusing on services and customer relations above products and purchase. Customers can design their projects with the support of “roommates” (which is what they call the staff members) and 3D technology, as well as participate in training and workshops. The product range in-store is very limited, but customers have access to the whole range through their website.

Only 20% of the space is transactional. The rest of the store is dedicated to training sessions, workshops, and customer relations. Digital capabilities are available, but the heart of the concept is human-based. The concept is, above all, about teaching skills; the more self-confident customers are, the more ambitious their home-improvement products will be.

trend2 - lappart

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment:

Many believe that stores of the future will be venues for engagement, more than for transactions. L’appart is a radical and credible example of this trend. It brings the brand downtown, creates new connections with customers and a wider system to improve customers skills, which helps them launch more advanced improvement projects. This is a great example of a retail format R&D.

J.C. Williams Group’s Expert Advice

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2018 Retail Innovations and Trends, but it can still be seen that interaction in the retail world can have a huge impact on customers. Creating and hosting social spaces can deep-root a brand into its community and build both lasting brand loyalty and trust in the brand’s expertise.

See 5 MORE Interaction concepts and more in 2018 Retail Innovations and Trends! Download your free copy now!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *