Retrofitting Experience Into Retail / Part 1: Making Connections

September 8, 2021

The retail industry has persevered through an especially difficult 18 months, and as a result, they’ve had to respond with a new set of tools. By having to adapt quicker than ever before, retailers have been forced to think more strategically about how to transform their physical retail experiences for future success. In this two-part series, our Director of Strategic Partnerships, Tom Kowalski, and Communications Director, Rebecca Dersh, share what retailers can do moving forward to retrofit experience into their retail spaces.

Physical stores are still the most immersive way to speak to your customers. The pandemic has highlighted the demand, in fact the craving, that consumers have for memorable in-person experiences. According to a recent report from Forrester, physical stores will still account for 72% of retail sales by 2024 despite the growth of online channels.

There’s no doubt that online shopping serves a purpose as an endless warehouse, with unlimited shelf space, hours, and selection. Yet, retail stores have an opportunity to be everything the “online warehouse” can’t be. Physical stores must provide a service or experience unique enough to motivate shoppers to get out.

Let’s take a look at some of the key ways that retailers can elevate their physical stores with inspiring and immersive experiences:

CREATE COMMUNITY

Even before the pandemic, savvy retailers recognized the power of events and experiences to attract in-person shopping. Going forward, brands can win by prioritizing design elements that connect customers not just with their brand, but with other shoppers. It sounds difficult and complicated, but facilitating connection and community can be quite simple.

Adidas’ MakerLab, for instance, joins like-minded creators with a simple and approachable, space that provides a unique, opportunity to engage with customers and staff. Retailers should examine how they can invite consumers to be hands-on with their physical retail experience.

Checkland Kindleyside

Physical stores can also create a deeper connection to the neighborhoods they inhabit. This is another effective way to build brand loyalty on a broader scale. Perhaps it’s filling a community need or giving a nod to the store’s region—whether it’s something as simple as a mural by a local artist or ensuring there’s space in the store to host thoughtful events. Often, the best retailers are vital difference makers in our communities.

SHARE KNOWLEDGE 

Retailers must also think about how they can use their space to deliver relevant and helpful content to their customers. Whether hosting classes or offering one-on-one consultations, the content you’re sharing or teaching in your stores can be a differentiating and valuable element of the design. Apple famously hosts classes at their stores and their well-trained “geniuses” have become a benchmark for the industry. While not all retailers can execute to the “Apple standard”, it’s important to consider what expertise you can bring to life in your physical space. How can retail brands help customers learn, and foster a deeper brand connection?

EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY

As businesses leverage digital for things like fulfilling customer orders, retail stores no longer must be packed with merchandise. New digital and operational efforts are helping free up space in stores. This allows more room to create new and innovative experiences. Retailers should examine how to leverage technology and new shopping modes to maximize their physical store space—repurposing square footage to build stronger connections with customers. 

Revea, embraces technology as a centerpiece of its retail experience. Advanced skin-scanning technology is at the heart of their bespoke skin-care concept.  The high-tech features pair with high-touch personal consultations to provide guests with a memorable and personalized retail experience.

Brands must examine how they’re using technology and personalized features in their physical stores to enhance the retail experience and facilitate better service. There are many opportunities for technology to become better integrated and central to a store concept.

Ultimately, the most successful retail strategy will integrate the best of both digital and physical experiences. Recent challenges have emphasized how important physical experiences are to consumers—highlighting that the retail store is often the only multi-sensory touchpoint for a brand.

Retail stores are the hub of a brand’s ecosystem. This means the retail space must become less of a static prototype and more of an adaptable platform that represents the broader and often dynamic status of the brand. For future success in retail, stores must be built to consider ongoing transformations. Retrofitting experience into retail doesn’t need to be overly complex, however it does need to be thoughtful, creative and flexible, because as we’ve all learned, in order to succeed we must expect the unexpected.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where we’ll focus on using design elements to retrofit experience into retail.