THE FUTURE OF RETAIL is certain in one
sense. Retailers will continue to do everything
they can to offer shoppers what they want,
when they want it, where they want it. And
they’ll continue to provide information about
their products at the optimal time. The retailers
who are best at this will succeed.
But what does it mean to do “everything”
to reach shoppers? It goes beyond mobile,
beyond social, and back to differentiating
the brick-and-mortar shopping experience.
It means providing in-store services, offers,
and events that bring shoppers to stores, make
them stay longer, and make them come back
THE NEED FOR ANALY TICS
Analytics are crucial for measuring store and
product performance. Retailers need to know
what’s happening in real time to be able to
make quick decisions based on actual shopper
behavior and demand.
Like many industries, retail is looking to
leverage data to maximize sales, efficiencies,
and profits. In retail, good data means access to
real-time analytics that can fuel dynamic merchandising and pricing in-store. Real-time data
capabilities enable immediate action and provide an opportunity to customize the in-store
product offering frequently.
POS data and accurate customer counts are necessities. But to
optimize merchandise and improve store design and performance,
it’s also critical to understand how customers move through
stores, which displays draw their attention, and which products
they interact with the most.
Because everyone is constantly connected, mobile and e-commerce
are growing. But it’s easy to overlook the importance of making
connections not just digitally, but as part of a community.
In the past, a person visiting a local marketplace was in many
ways more emotionally connected to the local community than the
person now sitting online at home. Retailers were an important
part of this community. They knew their customers’ names, family
situations, favorite products, and desires. They depended on that
knowledge to be successful and to keep customers returning again
But things have changed, both with retail
itself and with customer demographics. Today,
27% of U.S. households are single-person
homes. And 40% of Americans say they’re
lonely, according to a recent study by the Center
for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the
University of Chicago.
This is where brick-and-mortar retail can
help build meaningful connections. By focusing on real-world things that people can’t get
online—a cup of coffee with friends, demos of
things we can’t afford yet, luxurious surroundings, the feel of textures and quality, the smells
and sights that overwhelm the senses—
retailers can create spaces that are integral parts of
the community. Those spaces ensure that customers will return again and again.
We live in a period of enormous change. It’s easy
A PATH FORWARD
to get distracted by the discussion about online
vs. brick-and-mortar retail. But it’s because of
this that we need to focus on retail theater.
Back in 1999, we focused on creating an
authentic customer experience with the open-
ing of Niketown London. To build memora-
ble experiences that make visitors long for
more and turn them into fans of the brand, we
needed to tell stories and engage and inspire
people to do something worthwhile. We didn’t
mind if they didn’t make a purchase directly in
the store. The goal was to make fans buy Nike
the next time, through whatever channel they
chose. That was more than a decade ago, yet it was very much
an “omnichannel” world we imagined.
We may be in the brick-and-mortar business, but in many ways
we’re also in the hospitality business. By creating meaningful
spaces and becoming part of our local communities, we can connect people and drive true customer loyalty.
To succeed, retailers must embrace new tools with better data—
on what products customers like, how long they stay, where the
store is busiest, and more. Of course, customers can be fickle, and
trends change quickly. But as long as retailers put the customer
first and use new data and technology to deliver a meaningful
customer experience, we will see a bright future ahead.
Cliff Crosbie, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-704-8762, is SVP of
managed services for Prism Skylabs. He has worked with leading
brands for 30 years.
The future of retail—it’s
simpler than you think
“It’s easy to overlook the importance of making
not just digitally,
but as part of
senior vice president
of managed services