From adaptive store layouts and product designs to partnerships with new technology and specific hours to make in store shopping more comfortable for all, we are in the midst of a retail revolution that embraces diversity, equality and the beauty of catering to every customer’s unique needs. In this blog we will explore just a few tactics and initiatives employed by retailers to cater to a more diverse client base, the transformative effect of inclusive practices in the retail sphere and how employing these practices is allowing businesses to open the doors to a whole new customer demographic. Introducing a shopping experience where everyone is not just welcome but celebrated.
Sensory Friendly Shopping Hours
US Grocers Walmart have introduced sensory friendly shopping hours between 8am-10am at all their stores in the US and Puerto Rico. During these hours, the stores will have dimmer lights, no music playing and no overhead announcements allowing for a more inclusive shopping experience for people who get over-stimulated in stores.
Sensory processing disabilities can be common among people with ADHD, dyslexia, PTSD and autism among other conditions which means a significant portion of the population may find traditional conditions at grocery stores unpleasant for long periods of time. The move will also allow parents of children with sensory sensitivities to be able to stay in store for longer and have a more stress-free experience. “Every brand should want their customers to feel like they’re in a safe place,” says Rebekah Kondrat, the founder of Kondrat Retail.
Not only does this move make the shopping experience more pleasant for its customers, it also offers the potential for the business to gain access to a new segment of consumers that otherwise may not have been captured, and the introduction of this initiative could inspire other retailers to follow suit.
Here in the UK, Aldi has already been testing sensory friendly hours at nearly 100 stores across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. If the scheme proves to be successful, it will be rolled out across all of its stores.
Free-from Aisle in Sainsbury's
Sainsbury's are the next supermarket in line to introduce a dedicated Free-from aisle to showcase their range of gluten-free products. With 20 stores initially to include the aisle with new signage and displays, the layout is likely to expand across the brand. The aisle will be home to the company’s Own Label and branded products across fresh, ambient and chilled including gluten-free beers, free-from ingredients and snacks, making it as easy as convenient as possible for customers to exclude specific allergens in their weekly shopping trip.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson commented, “We’re passionate about providing ‘Good food for all of us’, whatever our customers’ budgets, tastes or dietary requirements.”
AI Powered DIY Assistant 
Kingfisher have launched their first AI-powered assistant in the home improvement sector to offer support to customers with their DIY projects. Launching initially at Castorama, France, the assistant will be able to communicate conversationally in several different languages and answer questions and provide step-by-step advice on a range of home improvement projects.
Soon the assistant will also be able to analyse photos to perform visual searches and answer visual queries including using the photo to identify a particular part. Tom Betts, Group Data Director at Kingfisher said, “Our new virtual assistant is designed to simplify the world of home improvement, making DIY projects easy and accessible for everyone. Whether you’re a DIY novice looking for advice getting started with a project, or an experienced DIYer in need of a technical answer quickly, our assistant will be on hand to support 24/7. We’re hugely excited by the potential of this technology and look forward to seeing the response from customers.”
NIVEA x NaviLens
NIVEA, the world’s number one skin care brand has gone into partnership with NaviLens, a technology which empowers people who are blind or partially sighted to navigate retail environments with more efficiency and ease.
NIVEA are the first skincare brand to trial NaviLens on their products, with the QR codes being enabled on 90% of NIVEA’s gift packs in the UK until the end of December. Smartphones with the NaviLens free app installed can scan and interpret information embedded in codes on the product, providing information audibly and in large clear print text. The QR codes are able to be detected at more than 12 times further than regular QR codes and at extreme angles and in all lighting conditions. This technology allows users to access crucial details on products including ingredients, location and usage instructions, enhancing the independence of the shopping experienced and fostering a more inclusive society.
The brand’s commitment to the customer’s wellbeing from physical to mental health cements NIVEA as an accessible brand. Paul Price, General Manager Northern Europe at Beiersdorf said, ““We are delighted and honoured to be working with NaviLens. We have come to understand the challenges that visually impaired consumers may face when it comes to shopping. In particular, the busy stores in the build-up to the festive season can provide a sensory overload, making it extremely difficult to find gifts for friends and family. We hope that with the NaviLens technology and app, we can improve the shopping experience and allow people across the country to locate, understand and enjoy NIVEA products this festive season.”
Visually impaired influencer Claire Sisk, aka canseecantsee, added, “For blind and visually impaired people, the experience of going shopping is incredibly overwhelming and difficult. As we get closer to the festive period, there will be more people in the shops and buying gifts for loved ones becomes so much more challenging. As a disability advocate, it’s amazing and exciting to see NIVEA embrace technology to support the experience of its blind and visually impaired customers. This partnership will have such a huge and incredible impact on people across the country and help them to enjoy NIVEA’s great range of gifts this festive season.”
These inclusive practices in retail, along with many other practices already in place or fast approaching in the future, are weaving a narrative that intends to resonate with every customer, giving them a sense of belonging and safety within the retail sphere. In person shopping should be accessible for all and the power of representation cannot be underestimated. By considering thoughtful designs, innovative technologies and curating a sense of empathy for all, the retail space can reflect the beautifully diverse world we live in and create a comfortable and enjoyable experience for all.