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I recently had an interesting discussion with a crowd of 150 people about why retail in NZ is so poor. This conversation took place right after I had expressed my adulation for a craft experiencing a renaissance.

 Internationally, retail is in a period of renaissance, but if my weekend shopping experience is anything to go by, NZ customer service alone may be enough to kill any hope of us following in our overseas friends’ footsteps. (Do you have our Health 2000 loyalty card? “No I don’t”. “Ok then that will be $59.95”. Huh?)

Many from within and outside of retail have claimed that this fine industry is dying. On its last leg. ”Who is going to go shopping when the window to the world is at everyone’s fingertips?”

But the cynics are being proven wrong. The only thing they had right was that mediocre retail would die – that trend continues. However ecommerce has created a catalyst for change and a retail renaissance has emerged.

I was delighted to read the blog that follows from one of my favourite retail gurus, Jon Bird, from his visit to the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where retail was recognised as part of the creative love fest. Globally, retailers are  aspiring to greatness, and are delivering on it with verve.

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July 6, 2015 - Jon Bird

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For some, the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is a throwback to the glory days of advertising. Oceans of rose are drunk, the freebies are plentiful, and scam ads are still concocted in the desperate hope of scoring a coveted Lion (mercifully though, most fake entries are spotted on the way through and the creators discredited).

Dig a little deeper though and you find some fascinating stuff going on at Cannes, which has just wound up on the French Riviera. And some of the more interesting developments are in the fields of retail and shopper marketing.

This year, for example, there was a ‘festival within the festival’, with Lions Innovation. One of the keynotes was titled, ‘How Robotics are Reinventing the Retail Experience’, with a case study on the robot sales assistants being tested in Lowes, the US home improvement chain.

On the final awards show night too, retail and shopper marketing took centre stage. These are five of the Lions winners – each remarkable in how they harness the power of retail in fresh new ways.

1.     “The Gun Shop”
Created for the ‘States United To Prevent Gun Violence’ in the US. The concept was to establish a pop-up store selling guns (both in real-life and online). Once a customer had engaged with the sales assistant, the true horrific story behind each weapon was revealed. This case is all about affecting shopper behaviour (and ultimately consumer behaviour), but by de-motivating, rather than motivating, a purchase. I thought it was brilliant.

2.     “Monty’s Christmas”
Created for UK department store chain, John Lewis. The annual Christmas commercial for John Lewis is eagerly awaited by the British public. Last holiday season, ‘Monty the Penguin’ was the central character, and he was featured brilliantly, all the way from the heart-warming TV ad to a plush toy for sale on the department store shelf. This is a superbly integrated and original Christmas campaign that had both a strong cultural and sales effect.

3.     “Rabbit Race”
Created for Media Markt, Germany’s biggest electronics retailer. How do you get away from the traditional Easter retail symbols of eggs and cuddly rabbits? By turning those rabbits into red-hot racers and staging a bigger live television event than the semi-finals of the soccer World Cup. This is a great promotional spin on a seasonal retail campaign, which raised traffic to stores by more than 18 per cent.


4.     “Make-Up Genius”
Created for L’Oreal Paris. Digital both instore and out of store is now an integral part of shopper marketing. This application allowed customers to accurately try on L’Oreal make-up in a “digital mirror” (their smartphone screens), in order to increase trial and generate sales.


5.     “Emoji Ordering”
Created for Domino’s. The idea here is to enable customers to order from Domino’s via Twitter by simply using a pizza emoji. Whether it was a legitimate hit with customers or not, I am a big fan of how innovative Domino’s has become over the last few years with ordering via mobile.

So, the Cannes Lions is no longer just about ad men and their ads. We can now also raise our glasses of rose to retail, and the clever ways in which marketers are inspiring customers and influencing shopper behaviour.

Jon Bird is MD of Labstore Global, Y&R’s worldwide retail and shopper marketing network. Email:jon.bird@yrlabstore.com. Twitter: @thetweetailer. Blog: www.newretailblog.com

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