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Sam Langley-Swain, Strategy Director

The Green Room team attended the latest Stylus Innovation Forum themed around ‘Wellbeing’, exploring how this topic drives commercial success and business growth.

The ‘retail response’ address was entitled ‘The Supportive Sell’. We’ve picked three key insights from this presentation to share with you.

The background to the chosen theme is the ‘VUCA’ world in which we live (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, Unilever parlance that’s becoming more commonplace), retail concepts helping to deliver support through community, education or by acting as a supportive enabler can encourage brand loyalty, respect, and the subsequent financial reward.

Collective commerce: community matters

There is an expectation amongst consumers that this should be a fundamental part of a brand “Globally 59% of Gens Z and Y wish brands could create more platforms to bring people together” (Cassandra Report, 2016).

Consumer Psychologist Paul Marsden shows that there is significant benefit for brands in fulfilling this consumer desire to nurture community;

“We only remember tiny fractions of our lives, and brains essentially need to be memory-makers to gain traction. This means physical community spaces, even if fleeting, really matter; experiences with meaning – think sponsorship rather than advertising”.

Mothercare has capitalised on new parents need for support, reframing stores as venues for face-to-face connections and parenting events.

Mothercare foster face-to-face interactions with cafe

Mothercare foster face-to-face interactions

Nike’s SB Garage is a collection of ramps and rails exclusively for those skateboarders holding a Nike+ account. The concept has helped a resurgence of interest in Nike’s Skatewise app – where users can build showreels of their skateboarding antics, which are judged by the community, the winner then appears on the central e-tail site.

Nike SB garage

SB Garage for exclusive use by Nike+ account holders

Fostering community through competition, Nintendo’s New York flagship hosts ‘competition consoles’ in a challenge zone, releasing new and challenging content alongside an accompanying leaderboard.

Nintendo World Store NY - 'competition consoles'

Nintendo World Store NY – ‘competition consoles’

Paul Marsden, Stylists consumer psychologist, was keen to point out that adding a physical home to digitally bred community competitions reap major rewards.

Act as an enabler offering self-steered support

Today’s consumers are seeking 24/7 in-depth, highly personalised brand-enabled support. Retailers able to deliver against this desire will see the benefits.

Brisbane-based ‘Shoes Feet Gear’ sells footwear and activewear from leading sports and lifestyle brands. Their differentiator is that they also run an in-house certified podiatrist clinic in which they can even 3D laser scan soft prescription orthotics on site while you wait.

ShoeFeetGear - in-house podiatrist

Shoes Feet Gear – in-house podiatrist

In a similar vein, Under Armour partnered with IBM’s ‘cognitive technology’ division to provide customers with an ‘athlete operating service’. This service is fledgeling but provides tools, research insights, and academic articles to help participants achieve their goals, be it running a marathon or losing weight.

Under Armour Healthbox App

Under Armour Healthbox App

Canadian brand MTS have launched an interactive, demo-centric retail outlet. Their aim was to target the older generation who were struggling to understand how they could incorporate technical products into their daily life. We’ve highlighted the importance of demonstration in our Consumer Electronics insights report.

MTS, Canada - interactive, demo-centric retail outlet

MTS, Canada – interactive, demo-centric retail outlet

Support progression

Consumers have an appetite for skills and knowledge; “20% of UK consumers said they want more education in their everyday lives – their fourth priority after money, energy, and time” O2 Business, 2015. Presenting yourself not only as a vendor but also as an enabler has tremendous weight.

Examples of education as a core aspect of the retail experience are plentiful.

German and Swiss DIY chains, Hornbach and Bauhaus, both offer women-only DIY workshops in for example on, kitchen installation or laying parquet flooring.

Hornbach "Women DIY" workshops

Hornbach “Women DIY” workshops

Apple is using its retail stores as temporary classrooms to teach coding as part of the US project ‘Hour of Code’.

Apple's 'An hour of code'

Apple’s ‘An hour of code’

Office supplies retailer Staples partnered with an American marketing company to hold free professional skills workshops in self-promotion and online marketing.

Staples workshops in-store

And Bank of America has partnered with e-learning specialists Khan Academy, on the creation of a ‘Better Money Habits’ platform, addressing the financial aspects of desires such as ‘I want to buy a car’.

Bank of America "The Better Money Habits" app

Bank of America “The Better Money Habits”


The takeaway – brands can position themselves as indispensable agents of support, helping to connect the dots of consumer’s complicated lives. The physical presence at retail adds real value, solidity and human interface to the offering.