Retailers who pivoted to digital during the pandemic had to make another quick shift in 2022, as shoppers flocked back to stores in droves. But unlike pre-pandemic times, consumers are now looking at brick-and-mortar as an extension of retailers’ online offerings, rather than a siloed part of the business.
Nearly every major retailer is rushing to build an omnichannel strategy. Online direct-to-consumer startups like Frida and Hims & Hers have partnered with wholesale partners to expand their customer base. Meanwhile, larger household brands like The Home Depot and Dicks Sporting Goods are building out online capabilities and blending them with their physical store experience.
The industry goal is the same, but the strategies to get there are very different. Some of the most innovative brands like Nike, Walmart, and startups like Tradeblock are developing new ways for consumers to shop in-store and online. Many retailers are also striking partnerships with the right A-list influencers like Wisdom Kaye to build a stronger following.
This year’s shopping vertical, part of Insider’s 100 People Transforming Business in 2022 list, features 11 innovators that embody all of these trends and are advancing their companies within their respective sectors of the retail industry, from e-commerce and health to grocery.
Some of their contributions to the retail industry over the past year are highlighted below.
A new kind of in-store experience
Classic cookie-cutter store concepts may soon be a thing of the past, with companies like Nike, Amazon, and Walmart leading the way.
Jaclyn Pangilinan Safley, head of retail concepts at Nike, oversees two of the sportswear giant’s growing store formats — Nike Style and Nike Live. Each is unlike the company’s previous retail stores.
Nike Style stores, for example, aren’t broken down by gender. They also include digital experiences such as QR codes linked to augmented-reality features and content studios for creatives. Nike Live, a smaller-format store concept, is stocked with merchandise popular with local residents.
At Walmart, Scott Eckert oversees the company’s Store No. 8 incubator. At any given time, Store No. 8 will house five to eight “portfolio” companies, or startups that help Walmart stay on top of shopping trends. Portfolio companies eventually leave Store No. 8 and become part of the wider Walmart ecosystem.
“We focus on things that are in early stages and need to be tested, iterated, and built into a technology that makes sense for customers,” Eckert, Walmart’s SVP of next generation retail, told Insider. “Then by the time we have proven it and gotten it ready for scale, we roll it into Walmart.”
For online DTC brands looking to make the jump into brick and mortar, retail-as-a-service startup Leap looks for ways that brands can use data to ensure that their digital and physical retail channels work together, according to co-CEO Amish Tolia.
Leap secures leases, designs stores, and manages operations for brands in exchange for a monthly fee and percentage of sales. The company works with 55 brands to date and operates 80 stores across 11 US markets.
“It’s without question that they’re going to need to address the physical retail channel to meet the consumer where the consumer is,” Tolia said of retailers. “In today’s world, it’s really important that those brands think about every channel — including that of retail.”
E-commerce growth creates opportunity for influencers
While most purchases are still made in person, e-commerce continues to be larger percentage of retail sales, according to Census data.
New platforms and influencers have capitalized on this trend.
LTK, an app with a large network of influencers and brands, helps customers discover fashion, fitness, home decor, and beauty products. Creators earn a commission on sales generated by posting on apps like TikTok and Instagram. According to Amber Venz Box, cofounder and president of the LTK, 200 of the influencers on the platform are now millionaires.
Of course, creators can also strike gold on their own. Kaye, a TikTok influencer and model, became famous for his fashion-related videos during the pandemic. He has a social media following of over 10 million and was named “TikTok’s best-dressed guy” by Vogue. Kaye quickly became a coveted partner for both luxury brands like Tiffany and Coach and mall retailers like American Eagle Outfitters.
“What sets my page apart, and what has contributed to my growth, is that I show the limitlessness of fashion,” Kaye told Vogue in 2020. “I make videos that disprove myths, like you can’t wear navy blue and black, or boots with shorts.”