At Springboard, we think there's a bright future for retail. When you begin to understand the shifts that are occurring, start to embrace the change and learn to navigate this new frontier, the possibilities are exciting. Retailers all over the world are trying new things, from tweaking their current models to facilitating complete overhauls. They're taking the best of both worlds, online and offline, and merging them in dynamic new ways. In this new fronteir, pure ecommerce retailers have the advantage of a constant stream of data; the ability to collect, analyze and respond to data quickly. They understand where their customers are located, see what pages and items they are looking at in real-time and can map their customer's digital journey. They have a direct connection with the customer and can quickly pivot based on the insight they glean from their analytics. And, they are using this intelligence when they jump into the brick and mortar realm.
Traditional brick and mortar retailers on the other hand still have the advantage when it comes to amplifying the human connection, giving people the ability to touch, feel and interact with products. They can facilitate or curate a community of like-minded people. It's the ability to offer a visceral experience that ultimately will attract people away from their devices and into the world through a form of social discovery.
When the two forces meet we get some dynamic new concepts. Ecommerce retailers are moving into brick and mortar at a fast pace and seem to be inclined to reinvent retail, more naturally disposed to look at physical stores in new ways. This trend seems to indicate that the omnichannel store of the future...
- will be a much smaller footprint unconcerned with packing in inventory (because of the ecommerce component)
- will collect data as a matter of course whether online or offline
- will factor in immediacy to provide a seamless, quick and painless experience
- will be agile, able to morph quickly and respond to insight and trends
So, that's the theory... what's the practical application? Well, let's get inspired. Here are 5 examples of retailers who are experimenting, choosing to reimagine or reinvent retail in one way or another, pushing the boundaries and leading the way.
Story | NYC Idea: Store as media outlet
Here's how they describe themselves, "STORY is a retail concept that takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store. That means every four to eight weeks, STORY completely reinvents itself – from the design to the merchandise – with the goal of bringing to light a new theme, trend or issue." And guess what, they've found a way to make it exciting for the customer and monetize it. By looking at the store as a media opportunity for brands, Story can charge brands upfront for creating a curated and media-worthy buzz. Have fun, check out all their stories.
Mon Purse | Sydney Idea: Customization
Here's how they describe themselves, "With the customer journey at the heart of everything we do, Mon Purse enables you to design and personalize your very own leather handbag and accessories using our custom 3D bag designer (with over 10 billion design combinations) crafted by generational European artisans." They've brilliantly combined technology with artisanal craftsmanship to give their customers the thrill of creating something unique. And, they are doing this both in stores and online. This is happening with shoes Tanya Heath and all sorts of other products. Want to make your own bag?
Rapha | London Idea: Build Community
This retailer is the quintessential example of building a community around a specific interest. In this case it's cycling. They call their stores clubhouses. They describe themselves this way, "Rapha is now more than just a clothing company – in addition to an online emporium of performance roadwear, accessories and publications, the brand includes physical retail locations, luxury travel, and a cycling club with global membership." Many other retailers are experimenting with this as well, Bandier combines athletic wear with a fitness studio, Sur La Table has offered cooking classes in it's retail spaces for many years.
B8ta | Palo Alto Idea: Data collection through direct feedback
Love technology, then you'll love this idea. It's kind of like an Apple store with lots of different emerging technology brands that you can play with. And this interaction and direct feedback from the customer is very valuable indeed (think selling it back to the brands). They say, "At b8ta, our mission is to make retail accessible for all, whether you're a product maker or product lover. We make launching products into physical retail simple, so more people have access to what the world's creating." Think less about on-hand inventory and more about the power of interaction. Coming soon to a city or Lowe's near you!
Warby Parker | New York Idea: New manufacturing/distribution model with social conscious mission
These guys say it best, "Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. By circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, we’re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear at a fraction of the going price." In short, they weren't afraid to blow up the model. Toms is another great example of this and we're seeing brands go direct to consumer on a regular basis. See the results of their efforts!
Admittedly, some of these stores are highly aspirational (and possibly very well funded). But the ideas and lessons learned here can be applied to main street retail as well. How can you offer experiences that inspire community? Or find ways to monetize your real estate beyond sales per square foot? Or offer customization or personalized product? Some of these omnichannel retail trends will be the mainstay of the future so making small investments now will go a long way. Need some more inspiration? Check out this article, 20 Ideas Worth Stealing in 2016.
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Topics: Business of Retail