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Shopper Trends|February 25, 2021

8 Signs of the Future, Now: WSL’s “From Chaos Comes Clarity”

WSL’s latest research shows a more defined path to 2024, and while it no doubt will lead to more normalized activities – think working and social life – retail’s road signs indicate some departures from the normal. We’ve boiled them down to eight pivotal behavioral changes and accelerations, in our latest Future Shop report, “From Chaos Comes Clarity”.

The Future is What We Expected, and It is Not What We Expected

If retailers want to be prepared for the unexpected of tomorrow, they need to think and act as revolutionaries.

Retail’s future has the marking of a revolution, marked by disruptions, acceleration, and aberrations. This is made clear in our latest How America Shops® shopper report, Future Shop 2022-2024: From Chaos Comes Clarity. As WSL CEO Wendy Liebmann put it at a recent presentation of the report for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores: “American shoppers have moved on, because that’s what they do.”

But what does moving on from near-total disruption look like?

Ready? This is the Future

Here are eight behavioral shifts: Some are new and unexpected; others are behaviors that were just getting their legs before the pandemic and have recently experienced a kick-start.

  1. “Flash moments” will recede, but some changes will stick. Work and social life will resume to an adjusted “normal,” but Shopping Life® will remain changed for good, as shoppers have acclimated to tech-enabled services that were quickly and widely made available during the pandemic.

  2. The value of speed will accelerate. A significant percentage of shoppers told us they will change where they shop in order to get in and out faster but don’t think this need for speed is all related to avoiding the virus. For several years shoppers have been making faster trips for the necessities so they can spend more time doing what they want to do. More than half pick stores that save time.

  3. The omni store is omnipresent. Store trips continue to shift to the internet – both stock-up trips and quick trips. We tracked omni-shopping activity across a number of retailers, and all have recorded increases.

  4. Attention to wellness will move from a bonus to a standard. Despite financial concerns, a significant percentage of shoppers are willing to pay more for healthier choices, and more – 37% – are accessing telehealth services.

  5. Caring is a key performance measure. Trust is now proven through acts of caring. WSL asked shoppers to rank retailers across a number of characteristics and came up with “caring scores” that will define retail’s future. Meanwhile, trust in national brands continues to decline.

  6. “New” values will take root. Just as more shoppers are pursuing speedier trips, the percentage of shoppers who will pay more for sustainable and “clean” brands also is rising. Today safety also is a value – as most shoppers think it is important to avoid germs when shopping. We predict the attention to germ-free environments to be a long-term focus.

  7. Young shoppers are faster and more powerful than their predecessors. Fast-adapting Gen Z and Millennials will power greater influence. Younger shoppers are more likely than older shoppers to pay more for easier, faster, and socially committed goods.

  8. Retailers will need to revolutionize. As the author, Joshua Cooper Ramo wrote in his 2009 book “The Age of the Unthinkable”: “In a revolutionary era of surprise and innovation, you need to act and think like a revolutionary.” For brands and retailers, this means asking at every turn – are we changing orthodoxy, or we merely doing enough to get by?

“Enough” won’t keep retail in pace with its shoppers. Shoppers will lead us to the future, but we have to pay attention to the steps they take as they move on – with or without you.

WSL’s Future Shop report and virtual presentation, “2022-2024: From Chaos Comes Clarity,” will align the various departments in your company behind the shopper and on the same path toward a more profitable future. Learn how to access the full report here or contact us for a presentation.*

Watch excerpts from WSL CEO Wendy Liebmann’s presentation, “Future Shop 2022-2024: From Chaos Comes Clarity” to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), on this clip:


*Note: Annual subscribers to How America Shops® can access this Future Shop® report by logging in to our Shopper Insights Library. Not a subscriber? It’s not too late to sign up!

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