What’s trending now?
Retailers across the globe are turning business on its head, by giving away their merchandise.
Why it’s important?
Global connectivity and competition have fundamentally changed the retail landscape.
When consumers can buy whatever they want, from wherever in the world they want – all from the comfort of their own homes – retailers need to do something more than just sell merchandise in order to defend their place in the market.
Successful retailers of the future need to offer their customers an experience they cannot get online or through a shopping app.
Savvy retailers have already started to use generosity to build their brands. This means sacrificing some sales (or ‘hard power’) in exchange for positive brand sentiment (or ‘soft power’).
These retailers have realised the key to building a human relationship with their customers is give first, and take second.
In other words pushing product is not enough; stores also need to be unexpectedly generous – with their time or produce in order to delight their cliental.
After all, what is more delightful than getting something for free?
This is a radical departure from traditional commerce, which decrees companies should take as much money as possible from their customers, in exchange for as little as possible in order to remain profitable.
What’s the butterfly effect?
As the first revolutionary retailers embrace this spontaneous, unaffected generosity the bar is simultaneously raised for their competitors.
Cost-cutting suddenly becomes false economy in a world where customers demand to be delighted – not just serviced – in exchange for share of mind and share of wallet.
Pushing product, the way it’s always been done, is simply not enough to survive the new retail landscape.
Tokyo’s Harimaya Honten, is showing the world how to be generous. Harimaya has been giving away freshly brewed green tea and coffee – and his famous rice snacks – to anyone who visits his chain of Free Café Harimaya Station outlets since 2008. Then there’s Anthon Berg… The premium Danish chocolatier brought his slogan, ‘You can never be too generous’, to life with a pop-up shop called The Generous Store, launched in March 2012.
The Generous Store has a digital touchscreen interface that allows customers to ‘buy’ chocolates in exchange for nothing more than a promising to do good deeds – such as ‘Serve breakfast in bed to a loved one’ – on their social media profiles. This social accountability holds customers to their pledge to pass on the generosity – and gives the Anthon Berg brand name viral exposure at the same time.
The ‘give to get’ movement is not limited to retail outlets; big brands are also embracing the opportunity to be unnecessarily generous:
For example, Unilever, in conjunction with their creative agency, SapientNitro, recently set up smile-activated vending machines that gave away free ice-cream in exchange for nothing more than a big grin as a part of their ‘Share Happy’ marketing campaign.
The global hot spots
Tokyo, Japan, with retailers like Free Café Harimaya Station and Only Free Paper, a store dedicated solely to giving away free newspapers and magazines, is undoubtedly at the forefront of the global generosity revolution.
On the other side of the world, America also has plenty examples of uninhibited generosity: The vegan chain, Café Gratitude, and Panera non-profit bakeries both allow their patrons to ‘pay what they can’ (even if it’s nothing!) for their food. Watch out for the generous revolution: coming soon to a store near you.
By: Bronwyn Williams
Bronwyn is an insatiably curious avid reader and an amateur physiologist who takes a keen and amused interest in observing the human condition.
She is constantly astounded at how predictable the world is once one is aware of the underling historical cycles shaping the trends driving our society forward.
Image credit: Gallo Images/ Getty Images