What will the next iteration of retail and shopping look like? How will products be displayed? Can’t we buy everything online and avoid the lines? Don’t we have smartphone apps that make ordering and delivery painless?
I am glad to report that the demise of brick-and-mortar stores has been greatly exaggerated. However, these stores are missing significant opportunities: branding, service, contact and retention. The brick-and-mortar shopping experience is not being replaced. It’s being enhanced by alternative channels.
Sometimes the shopping experience is closer to a journey, as in the case of STORY, an innovative retail experience in New York that measures “experience per square foot.” STORY uses retail as media. Clearly, the retail experience is evolving. Some futurists, like McCann Truth Central, see it as moving toward entertainment — a continuation of the rides, miniature golf and other diversions featured in today’s largest malls.
Others retailers are doubling down on shopper experience. Confectioner Mars has built the gold standard with its experiential M&M’s World — the retail showcase stores and the online shop – where shoppers get much more than just an opportunity to restock their candy jars. Technology has impacted buyers, sellers and landlords so significantly that the mundane part of shopping is receding into memory. For example, the need for a “shopping list” is becoming redundant: Our pantry knows what is low, and we have gift ideas logged on our phones.
“Experience” is the key to success. The smartest retailers and brands have recognized the value of experiential marketing: putting the shopper in an immersive environment and offering a host of product options that meet a broad range of buyers and their lifestyles. A recent Harvard Business Review report sponsored by Disney captures the upside of “advancing the customer experience.” Simply put, a better shopping experience for the consumer leads to higher profits.
What’s the takeaway? All this attention to heightened shopping experiences has expanded a unique pathway where the physical store or mall or lifestyle center is the “third place,” after home and work. Retail as entertainment is not new, but the pace of change and evolution of concepts is. To execute successfully on this new model, however, tenants and landlords alike need to embrace an immersive customer-centric model.
Avoiding smart creative, innovative concepts will not save on operating expenses. But it will ensure greater traffic and sales for your competitor.
Anjee continues to be an insatiable collector of all things retail. She’s a student of culture living next door to future shoppers, whose fleeting trends constantly change the retail landscape … driving retailers, landlords and developers crazy!