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Trends

One of 2019’s Top Retail Trends: Drop Culture

Jennifer Bosavage
February 06, 2019

2 minute read

From burger joints to boutiques, savvy retailers are focused on pampering their customers and not simply meeting — but exceeding — their expectations. Too much same-old, same-old makes retail seem stale. The drop model, one of the hotter retail trends in 2019, creates a buzz about products even before they are launched. Special releases are available for only a limited time, creating a customer atmosphere that is meant to be controlled chaos: fun and surprising with a clear purchasing goal. Some customers find drops irresistible — and even a little bit addictive.

Creating a trendsetting atmosphere

The most successful retail trends are those that are customer-centric. Product drops are an event designed to encourage the competitive shopping mindset. Consumers are used to having TV shows, movies, etc., available on demand, and they expect instant gratification as well as almost constant entertainment. That, coupled with the desire to be among a group of rarefied trendsetters, creates the atmosphere for product drops to be incredibly successful. The drop model has been used to hype every consumer product from burgers at Shake Shack to B-Series sweatshirts from Burberry.

For example, last April, Supreme and RIMOWA partnered on a red aluminum case that sold out in merely 16 seconds, with a price tag of USD $1,800. The item was announced on Instagram only 3 days before it became available. The company successfully created demand, a sense of urgency, and the appearance of (potential) scarcity. The strategy is a great way to spark interest especially at a lull — such as the first few weeks in January.

Product drops with a twist

Brands such as Burberry and Nike have dropped product with a twist. Burberry has put drops on a schedule. The strategy takes the timing element out of the surprise and replaces it with anticipation of the regularly scheduled drop event. Burberry customers look forward to the 17th of each month because they trust the brand won’t disappoint. Meanwhile, Nike has experimented with virtual reality. For example, the drop of the Nike SB Dunk High Pro Momofuku sneakers required potential customers to point their smartphone cameras at specific locations around New York City to unlock an interactive 3D model of the footwear before they were given the option to buy.

Even fast-casual restaurants are adopting the product-drop strategy. Shake Shack, for example, is using the model to increase app installs. Customers who download the app are offered exclusive menu items. Shake Shack has launched 6 new items through the app, using it as a method of testing new items before formally introducing them into restaurants.

Overcoming bots

Like all retail trends, product drops face challenges, and a significant hurdle is overcoming bots, which learn through artificial intelligence. Therefore, if a drop involves buying online, bots may try to buy more of the product than actual customers do. Requiring customers to go to a specific location as Nike did, or having them unlock product details via apps, may be complicated, but it helps brands beat the bots. The complexity also lends an aura of exclusivity to the most dedicated shoppers who are willing to invest the time as well as money to obtain the item.

In a competitive retail landscape, retailers are constantly looking to offer customers fresh experiences that position their brands as unique. The product drop retail trend positions retailers in an exciting light to those customers who value exclusivity. Most of all, the drop heightens the shopping experience and creates an excitement that can be tailor-made to each event.

Jennifer Bosavage
Jennifer Bosavage
Jennifer Bosavage is a Connecticut native and has been writing about technology since the fax machine debuted. While Jen has covered IT, retail, and customer satisfaction for many years, she also has an undercover history as a Secret Shopper.
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