MANY READERS are undoubtedly focused
on what it takes to keep a retail business viable
in the years to come. The perilous nature of this
undertaking is highlighted by a chart that listed
the top 10 retailers in 1990 in “How Retailers
Can Keep Up with Consumers,” a recent article
by McKinsey and Company’s Ian MacKenzie,
Chris Meyer, and Steve Noble.
Only four of the top 10 retailers overall in
1990 make that list today.
As a company devoted to improving physical
store environments and customer experience,
we embrace the authors’ point that “Stores can’t
simply be places where products happen to be
sold.” Future store configurations will have to
be places that promote customer learning and
In our view, technology and in-store merchandising work
hand in hand to fully engage customers. Interactivity drives
engagement, and shoppers who engage with a product are more
likely to buy, connect with the brand or service, and enter into a
loyalty relationship. We are intrigued with the notion that retailers who approach interactive in-store merchandising with a “have
it your way” strategy just might be onto something when it comes
to charting a course for longevity.
In-store merchandising is facilitating a retail model that is shifting from homogeneous delivery to individual and self-directed
experiences. We are beginning to see the melding of online and
in-store capabilities. Those who successfully make this shift will
be intentional about providing novel, flexible, and personal experiences that differentiate in the minds of consumers. Below are
some examples where retailers are striving to do just that:
Retailers need to investigate all the tools that deliver fresh experiences and incent shoppers to linger over products. At a recent
Digital Screenmedia Association symposium, I moderated a
panel that included Jared Schiffman, founder and CEO of Perch
Interactive, a start-up whose interactive tabletop displays combine
the benefits of online shopping with hands-on product exploration. Perch has offered Nordstrom an innovative experiential way
to engage customers.
Perch’s solution encourages shoppers to touch and pick up
products on display. When they do so, they get rewarded with
information, animations, and media on the tabletop that connects
them more closely to the brand.
Lindsay Wadelton of AT&T Mobility was on the
same DSA panel, discussing AT&T’s flagship
store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The store
is a shining example of a format designed for
maximum flexibility when it comes to product exploration. The environment is designed
not simply to sell products but to show consumers how products can help them. The new
Connected Experience Zone features “lifestyle
vignettes” that highlight categories such as
music, home security, and entertainment, and
offer customers a glimpse of how the solutions
can be used in their everyday lives.
The Community Zone, for example, features
“community tables” that encourage customers to shop and play with apps, accessories,
and devices. Customers choose how they want
to investigate AT&T’s solutions. The environments are set up for self-exploration or side-by-side interaction with store associates.
Customization, which has predominantly been an online tactic,
becomes a powerful tool to drive traffic and sales when customers can engage in co-creation with friends and family at retail.
In store, customers can touch sample products and display on a
touch screen for a wider audience the results of their creative
New Balance was recently in the news for personalizing both
their product and the individual quest for it by enabling mass customization in Foot Locker’s flagship store. An interactive touch
screen allows shoppers to choose fabric, color, phrases on shoe
heels, and laces. Although we haven’t verified the math, Foot
Locker claimed nearly endless possibilities in a tweet—48 quadrillion, to be exact! Personalizing the product experience at retail
brings both an immediate social aspect to product customization
and a wider aspect with social media integration.
We are poised to entice the next generation of shoppers into
retail and out-of-home environments with exciting store environments that help them connect individually and socially with the
possibilities before them. How retailers respond to their demands
for fresh environments and interactions with novel, flexible, and
personalized in-store merchandising may help chart a course to the
top of the retail achievers list over the next decade. The difference
between 1990 and now and between now and 2020 is that technological development has quickened the pace for everyone.
Ron Bowers is senior vice president of business development for
Frank Mayer and Associates Inc., based in Grafton, Wis. Contact
him at 800-225-3987, or e-mail email@example.com.
senior vice president of
FRANK MAYER AND