The future of retail is bright but shifting. The industry’s past, traditional methods of reaching consumers are being redefined. In today’s world of retail, to reach success brands must break new ground and become more customer-centric while phasing out transactional retail and optimizing toward experimental.
Retail is Not Dead
The concept of a “retail apocalypse” overemphasizes the fact that large numbers of stores are closing around the U.S since they are unable to keep pace with today’s new world of retail. Old methods of shopping have long transpired. However, retail is not dead or dying, shoppers are simply looking for more than just completing a transaction, they want a memorable experience.
Many consumers value the physical interaction they receive when visiting retail stores. Brands like Casper have the right approach of drawing in customers by arousing their curiosity. Focusing on the buyer’s experience rather than highlighting the mattress itself. They are advertising more than just a product, they are selling a good night’s sleep. By establishing a storefront in New York where “you can pay to nap,” they are giving potential buyers the opportunity to try out their product, while also generating engaging marketing content.
Within the $17 billion mattress industry, what’s the alternative? A traditional mattress store such as Mattress Firm that has been around for decades, but is seldom in the news for being trendy or enhancing their customer experience is now filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. In contrast, up and coming brands like Casper and Tuft & Needle are making a lasting impact in the minds of their consumers due to their unconventional methods of captivating their audience.
Experiential Commerce is Everything
Brands who challenge the status quo and are unafraid to take intelligent risks are the ones who will prosper in the new, progressive retail environment. Innovation and strategy are what sets brands like Warby Parker and Buck Mason apart from other big box stores.
Many DNVBs in the past have viewed physical retail as a liability, when in fact, it is an opportunity. The rationale behind this false consideration is that real estate is too costly, along with other overhead factors that negatively shift the brand’s ROI. In reality, when done right, retail stores should attract more high-quality customers with a better lifetime value than their online counterparts.
U.S. retail is expanding, on and offline. Business Insider reported in the future of Retail 2018 slide deck, that US retail is growing at a rate of $200 billion YoY. The report emphasizes that although e-commerce is growing at a more accelerated pace, in-store retail still dominates the industry.
The next generation of physical retail brands hold the reins over online sales when they understand the importance of enhancing the customer experience, focus on omnichannel content strategy and dedicate marketing efforts toward experiential.
Enhance the Customer Journey
Away Travel, an American travel and lifestyle brand, prioritizes experience and their product. I visited one of their locations here in Austin, TX only to experience the most catered customer service. Upon entering, the store’s beautiful, minimalist design perfectly represented their brand’s aesthetic. A saleswoman kindly greeted me to ask a simple question, ‘what’s your dream vacation?’ This lead to a follow-up question, ‘where have you traveled?’ Before I knew it, we became acquaintances, exchanging friendly travel recommendations. At this point, I was invested. She began questioning my needs, ‘do you have back pain from traveling?’ She then proceeded to find luggage that worked with my lifestyle. This translated to purchasing $600 worth of products I was unaware I needed, all through successful product education.
Designing the ultimate customer experience from audience demographic and psychographic data is of the utmost importance. Establish a value proposition and uniquely amplify the customer experience by:
- Investing in the right sales staff training that focuses on helping customers, not just selling, as demonstrated with Away Travel.
- Encouraging employees to become product specialists, so they can provide thoughtful recommendations.
- Investing in mobile technology, a helpful tool that allows sales associates to find product descriptions, information and inventory all in real-time.
- Ensuring that the brand’s aesthetic and feel is directly translated through the atmosphere and environment of the physical store.
Additionally, a loyalty program may incentivize current customers to return and purchase from your brand rather than experimenting with competing brands. When signing up for the program, customers share valuable data that will be useful in prospecting in-store integrations and generating better online ad experiences.
Transactional Retail Is Not Optimal, Experiential Retail Is
The brands mentioned above are considered thought leaders in experiential marketing, setting the bar high for competitors. They understand the customers’ desire for more than just a mattress or a luggage, they want an experience worth sharing.
The future of retail will continue focusing on customer experience, both on and offline. Bad retail days that are very transactional are in the past and the future of retail remains bright.