McKinsey’s Modern Retail Collective Serves as Ultimate ‘Test & Learn’ Lab

Ray Hartjen
Ray Hartjen
Guest Contributor

Viewing the store – every store – as a learning lab helps brands uncover critical shopper insights and, in turn, better design their deliveries of the ultimate connected shopping experience.

The retail industry has been turned on its head as of late, and even the best of brands have struggled to come to grips with it. And, it’s all our own fault – us, being shoppers!

Long gone are the days where retailers dictated to consumers what could be bought, where, when, now and for how much. Even as difficult as it was back then, that was the retail industry’s easy, good old days.

Today, shoppers have wrested control, now and forever more. We have the power, and it rests, literally, in the palm of our hands. With a few simple clicks and swipes, we avail themselves to all the product and service information they could ever desire, along with a nearly unlimited number of alternative of which to browse, consider, shop and buy.

It’s amazing! For us as shoppers, that is.

For us as retail professionals, it presents an amazing challenge.

Today’s new connected shopping journeys force retailers to reconsider, rethink, and reinvent the entire retail enterprise, from the stock room up to the board room. As a result, every single process and system is under scrutiny, from supply chain and logistics to product assortments, from digital touchpoints with consumers to the brick-and-mortar store. There has never been a time in retail where so much emphasis is being placed on testing and learning.

In that vein, in September McKinsey & Company opened its first-ever retail concept, the Modern Retail Collective, at the Mall of America. It’s a live retail space allowing retailers to test and experiment with dozens of state-of-the-art technologies and discover what’s possible when brands blend together multiple technologies, data analytics and store operations concepts to elevate in-store shopping experiences.

McKinsey’s Modern Retail Collective at the Mall of America from RetailNext on Vimeo.

At present, the fashion and beauty brands Elevé Cosmetics, Kendra Scott, ThirdLove and type:A Deodorant occupy the space, and they’re testing solutions from technology and advisory participants like RetailNext, Chatter Research, Compass Marketing, ComQi, FaceCake, Farfetch, Flexa, Microsoft, MSM Solutions, Smartrac, Square and Zebra Technologies.

Today’ connected shopping journeys create incredible challenge – and opportunity – for brands, as every single interaction and touchpoint between brand and shopper, both digital and physical, is critically important. The imperative for the brand is to meet or exceed a shopper’s need at that touchpoint and guide her to the next step in her purchase consideration process. When a brand succeeds and makes the right impact at those touchpoints, it’s rewarded with a sale and a satisfied customer.

In learning labs like Modern Retail Collective, brands embrace a “test and learn” mentally, experimenting with the various levers they can push and pull upon to affect their delivered shopping experiences and then evaluating the effectiveness. Solutions like RetailNext’s advanced analytics and Full Path Analysis deliver the hard and fast quantitative data necessary to better understanding shoppers’ needs, values and desires, particularly at those shopper engagement touchpoints in-store. In turn, based on those aggregated data-driven shopper insights, brands continually are equipped to fine-tune and adjust shopper-centric strategies to best meet the needs of their shoppers.

Perhaps the best result of adding ‘learning lab’ to the ever-expanding role of the store is the fostering of a data-driven discipline throughout the enterprise. Data first allows a brand to develop insights and create appropriate strategies and tactics. Then, when those tactics are implemented, data can be generated to determine effectiveness relative to goals. Data provides the fuel for a continuous test-learn-improve cycle that results in delighted customers and increased performance, as well as a nimble, agile organization that can effectively change on a dime.

At the Modern Retail Collective in the Mall of America, four brands are currently discovering and capitalizing on market opportunities for their retailing segments, niches and brands. It’s shaping their designs on store of the future and it’s place in the connected shopping journey. And, it’s a blueprint for success for all retail enterprises.

Join the #retail, #ConnectedJourney and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter a  @RayHartjen and @RetailNext, as well as at