Executive Forum Takeaways: 3 Keys in the Transformation of Retail

Alison Choe
Alison Choe

The retail industry is coming to grips with the need to abandon current expectations of the use of physical spaces, and this retail disruption requires even more customer-driven, experimental and innovative strategies and activations.

At last week’s 7th annual RetailNext Executive Forum, retailers, investors and pundits in the space gathered to discuss the current and future state of retail. The talks and panels highlighted several themes around taking an experiential, customer-centric and agile approach. Here are three key takeaways from the event:

1) Be bold and immersive.

Shoppers are looking for fresh experiences that are interactive and fully sensory. From merchandising to interactions with sales associates, every aspect of the store should be a unified and engaging experience.

Inspiration for such concepts can come from outside the retail space. Take the Museum of Ice Cream as an example. They fulfill the childhood dream of jumping into a pool of ice cream sprinkles, while offering samples from artisanal Californian creameries. When the museum first opened in New York last summer, its run of 45 days sold out in 3 days, leaving 200,000 on the waitlist.1 As such, the museum has used their space as an attractive marketing channel, with sponsors and brands such as Tinder, who see it as a better ROI compared to buying digital ads.2

Contrary to the media’s coverage on dying physical retail spaces, fret not. The physical store is still an important way to reach customers in an impactful way. Let the creative juices flow and be unafraid to create experiences that are out of the ordinary. This is what differentiates the in-store experience from the convenience of e-commerce.

2) It’s all about the customer.

While it is important to ensure that an investment is going to yield marketing and sales performance, first think about which ideas will create the most value and enjoyment for the customer. Will they have fun? Is it saving them time?

Cos Bar, a luxury cosmetics and skincare boutique, has their sales associates in charge of multiple brands. Instead of promoting individual brands, the associates focus on serving each customer with what is best for them, promoting loyalty and conversion with personalized help. (To learn more about clienteling, read Smart Store Clienteling in a Post-Omnichannel World.)

You’ve probably heard the mantra, “know your customers better than they know themselves.” But how do you achieve that? One way is through the qualitative observations and the “gut feeling” you have on what your customers want. However, quantitative data of shopper behavior in stores gives even more objective insights that you might not see. For instance, through the RetailNext platform, you can measure the engagement of shoppers with different areas of the store. More importantly, the additional step of anticipating what your shoppers want is a key differentiator. Learn more about how artificial intelligence can help to achieve this in Deep Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Your Not-So-Distant Future.

3) Test and quantify. Quickly.

Before allocating large amounts of resources to developing a concept, carry out mini experiments to test out these ideas. Pop-up stores are a great way create impactful micro-moments of a larger experience.

by REVEAL helps retailers set up a pop-up space to test brick-and-mortar concepts in strategically located spots. These 6-by-6 foot spaces are found anywhere from a city sidewalk, building lobby or park. First, by REVEAL works collaboratively with the retailer to understand the experience and brand story they hope to create, then helps to set clear goals and KPIs for the store. They then closely track and interpret shopper behavior and interaction with the space.

By reiterating and learning quickly through this testing phase, more engaging and transformational spaces can be created.

All in all, the Executive Forum drove home the point that we need to abandon current expectations of the use of physical spaces. This disruption of retail requires us to be even more customer-driven, experimental and innovative.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.