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Liebmann spotlights innovative formats, consumer demands at virtual NACDS Total Store Expo

On day 2 of NACDS’ virtual Total Store Expo, attendees heard from WSL Strategic Retail’s Wendy Liebmann, who highlighted what consumers want and some innovative retailers who are meeting those consumer needs.

On the second day of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ virtual Total Store Expo, WSL Strategic Retail’s Wendy Liebmann addressed attendees, sharing insights about how consumer demands have been shaped by the pandemic and highlighting innovative retail offerings from around the world that deliver on these demands.

“What you need to be thinking about right now, as we’ve been working so hard to move things forward … is that shoppers have come to a point in the pandemic where they are very clear about what they want to achieve in their lives for the future,” Liebmann said.

a person sitting at a table using a laptop

Namely, what WSL Retail has heard from shoppers is that they want an easier, meaningful and well life. Breaking down the three elements in that statement, Liebmann noted that for shoppers, “easier” means both a combination of fast, easy and safe shopping, with a big focus on offerings that save them time, as speed moves into a prime spot, often even eclipsing value in terms of consumer wants.

“What’s really interesting about all of this,” Liebmann said, “is people are actually willing to shop at many more places and in more ways to achieve all this.” She noted that there has been a rise in spontaneous shopping — consumers making purchases anywhere that will save them time.

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“This notion of complexity of shopping seems antithetical to the idea of ‘easier,’ but it is not,” she said. “For the shopper ‘easier’ is wherever I can find it, which means the complexity — all the places that you need to be and all the competition you may have — is growing because shoppers want it to be easier in their lives.”

“We can't take our eye off innovation and think just because we created a service or a new experience it's enough. It’s not. On every street corner, we're seeing these new, evolving concepts around same-day health.”
—Wendy Liebmann, CEO and chief shopper, WSL Strategic Retail

When it comes to “meaningful,” shoppers — in particular younger shoppers — want to shop retailers that reflect their values, including sustainability and inclusiveness, Liebmann said. “This notion of meaningfulness is now increasingly ingrained in what people expect from us, and ingrained in very nuanced ways.”

In terms of wellness, shoppers are no longer just after a self-care product. Rather, they are focused on mental, emotional and financial security. “Well life — not just sick care or self-care — is mental, emotional and financial security,” Liebmann said, adding that this is not just a trend among young shoppers, but also among higher-income shoppers, who want to ensure their money is spent well. 

Liebmann highlighted several innovative approaches from retailers around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. In the United States, Amazon Fresh’s approach focuses on value and sustainability efforts while also creating a welcoming environment for diverse consumers, emphasizing convenience and offering various omnichannel shopping options. Also highlighted was a 7-Eleven’s Lab Store in Dallas, Texas, where the convenience retailer brings omnichannel payment and shopping options to stores with healthier and more natural options alongside traditional convenience offerings.

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In Australia, Aldi has launched its Corner Store format and U.K.-based ASDA has launched its Sustainable Store in Middleton, Leeds. Liebmann also highlighted some of the merchandising and in-store signage at London’s John Bell & Croyden pharmacy and the innovative offerings at the Mecca flagship store in Sydney.         

“This is why we can't take our eye off innovation and think just because we created a service or a new experience it's enough. It’s not,” she said. “On every street corner, we're seeing these new, evolving concepts around same-day health. All of these concepts that are developing ... around the country and around the world are challenging us in the drug store, grocery, mass merchandiser, club and small format businesses to think even more boldly.”

Liebmann closed by quoting a recent guest on her Future Shop Podcast, Stephan Kanlian, chair of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s master’s program in cosmetics and fragrance marketing and management. He noted that the question for retailers when the pandemic subsides will be “What role do you want to play as citizens in the community?”

“That’s what shoppers expect of us now,” Liebmann said. “That’s the wonderful opportunity we have and that’s what retail innovation looks like now as we move forward. Because guess why — shoppers demand it.  

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