John Lewis predicts the rise of the ‘master shopper’ and virtual reality

John Lewis has dubbed 2015 the year of the ‘master shopper’ – a phrase it has coined for a new type of consumer that sees shopping as a leisure pursuit and knows how to use stores, the internet and mobile devices to get the best deal at their own convenience.

In its third annual Retail Report, John Lewis says these consumers are using its shops as much as a social destination as place to make transactions. They are just as likely to be grabbing a bite to eat or getting a treatment at a beauty counter as shopping, it explains.

“While shops still serve a ‘need it, buy it’ purpose, they are increasingly linked to leisure time. An element of pleasure, inspiration and surprise has returned to the art of shopping,” says the report.

Master shoppers have also learnt how to combine channels to get the optimum shopping experience. Some two-thirds of John Lewis customers now use both its stores and online channels, while there was a 9% increase in the numbers buying from both channels. Meanwhile mobile devices now make up 60% of its online traffic.

That is leading to a shift in consumer behaviour from “I need it now” to “I need it how, when and where I want it”, says the report.

It reads: “2015 was the year shopping got serious. After several years of getting to grips with all of the different ways modern shoppers can browse, purchase and collect their goods in an ever-evolving omnichannel world, a new breed of supremely confident shopper has come to the fore. The modern ‘master shopper’ knows how to find the right product at the right price available how, when and where they want it, in the ultimate bespoke shopping experience.”

Much of this change is driven by social media, which is increasingly providing customers with inspiration and impacting how and what they buy. For example, John Lewis cites the international #wewantplates social media movement, which sparked an 18% sales uplift of plain white dinner plates.

Monty and Mabel, the stars of John Lewis’ Christmas 2014 advert, were its most popular purchase fuelled by social media.

“From working out to planning a showstopping wedding, this was the year that customers were their own stylists, their own interior designers and wedding planners,” the report also claims.

That has fuelled growth at John Lewis’ own social channels. Instagram saw the biggest growth with follower numbers up 338%. Facebook, however, remains its most popular social channel with nearly 870,000 followers.

John Lewis also predicted that virtual reality will become “a reality” soon and that kitchens will become “smarter” as technology enables fridges to ‘speak’ to consumers and tell them when their food goes out of date or whether they have run out of milk.

“We have been talking about it for a long time but next year virtual reality technology will become a lot more affordable, with more content becoming available in areas such as movies and gaming.”