Retailers consistently look for new ways to innovate for their customers and beat the competition.
From diversifying subscription offerings to further blending online and offline experiences to meet customer demand, retailers are exploring Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS) trends to grow their customer base. Retailers like Walmart, Costco and Amazon have already leveraged this approach to expand into financial, healthcare, travel and auto services, among others.
The Evolution of Retail-as-a-Service: Transforming to Better Meet Consumer Needs
Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS) is a business model where companies provide retail infrastructure to brands and varying services to consumers. Initially, RaaS mainly involved brands buying capsule space in a storefront to sell their product inventory while the RaaS provider would take the real estate risk. It allowed emerging retailers to establish a presence without the traditional complexities and expenses. A startup brand could rent shelf space, utilize point-of-sale systems, reach target consumers and receive a range of support within an established store. This has evolved to a “retail can provide more” model as companies diversify their offerings to meet increasingly dynamic customer needs.
For example, Walmart’s efforts to build up its health and wellness business since 2019 have significantly benefited customers. Amid the economic instability during the COVID-19 pandemic and historic inflation, Walmart made healthcare products more accessible and affordable to its customers through a strong mix of branded and generic prescriptions available at its over 4,000 U.S. locations. The company also recently hosted a summit to celebrate the success of “Walmart Marketplace,” its fast-growing online marketplace where third-party sellers “of all sizes can offer customers the items they need and love.”
This shift is revolutionizing the way consumers interact with businesses by presenting various benefits that enhance their shopping experience and redefine convenience. From shopping in stores to browsing online marketplaces, consumers stand to gain from this new retail frontier in numerous ways — particularly through subscription services.
RaaS-inspired Subscription and Membership Models Offer Variety and Flexibility
In many ways, personalization, convenience and cost-effectiveness have become standard expectations of consumers, and retailers with subscriptions and membership plans want to meet them. Online U.S. subscription sales are expected to see “double-digit growth” over the next couple of years, climbing to $43.13 billion by 2024. Subscription and membership-based models allow customers to access a wide range of products and services as needed. This flexibility empowers them to try new products, receive recommendations and access savings.
Retailers like Walmart and Costco have demonstrated the necessity of innovating accordingly to better serve customers. Costco’s affordable tiered membership system offers food, clothing, furniture and gas discounts to those signed up in addition to great savings through its travel and auto services, making the store a cost-effective, one-stop shop for members.
Walmart’s success in these services and its Walmart+ subscription plans can be seen in its recent earnings reports, which showed a 24% jump in online sales in Q2 for the big box retailer. On the other hand, competitors like Target have been slow to adopt responsive RaaS offerings, which may partially explain its 5.4% drop in sales in the second quarter along with a gloomy outlook for the remainder of the year.
Additionally, these models can allow consumers to access premium products and services at an affordable price. Amazon’s Prime subscription helped subscribers around the world save over $1 billion on deliveries in the last 12 months. Its newly-launched healthcare clinic also presents affordable and convenient ways for members to see a doctor virtually with 24/7 availability, upfront pricing and no insurance needed.
Consumer Demand for RaaS Models Are Incentivizing Competitors to Step Up
Customers are liking RaaS models a lot, and they’re fueling even more competition in the already hot retail market.
A 2022 report by Recharge – a leading subscription management service — shows that brands with existing subscriptions had grown their customer base by 31% in the previous year. By gathering data on consumer preferences, behaviors and purchase history from subscriptions, brands can also curate personalized shopping experiences and make recommendations that appeal to individual tastes and needs.
This personalization has enhanced consumer satisfaction. A 2020 McKinsey report found that brands offering personalized experiences saw a 20% increase in customer satisfaction rates, a 10 to 15% rise in sales conversion rates and a 20 to 30% rise in employee engagement.
Companies adopting the Retail-as-a-Service framework must continually innovate to retain subscribers, members and satisfied customers. This heats a dynamic marketplace where consumers benefit from access to the latest products, features and services — stimulating an environment that requires constant improvement.
As the RaaS model gains momentum and further evolves, consumers find themselves at the forefront. With personalized experiences, cost savings and unmatched convenience, this approach is poised to reshape the retail landscape and provide consumers with more rewarding and enjoyable shopping. Whether it’s in clothing, furniture or everyday essentials, the RaaS approach is already positively transforming the way we shop and interact with the brands we love.