If data analytics and price optimization are major drivers at the back end of today's Retail business, the biggest challenge on the front end is to woo customers through the adroit use of socials -- and then win them over with unique customer experiences in the store. Here are just a few recent headlines that show the extent to which retailers recognize the importance of giving attention to customers (including Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z'ers) to provide positive, appealing experiences demanded in today’s brave new retail world:
New Saks is 'first of its kind' (Chain Store Age, Sept. 9, 2016).
"This week, Saks announced its new store, full of innovation." Unique, open design; emphasis on emerging designers; grouping by brand rather than specific departments; a power-lunch offering that includes a 60-minute style consultation, express beauty treatment, and lunch; and a "save me" hotline to help with fashion emergencies.
Apple Retail Chief Angela Ahrendts on Turning Stores Into Town Squares. (Fortune, Oct. 18, 2016).
"Apple views its newly-redesigned retail outlets not just as stores, but as potential town squares"… serving as educational centers with coding classes for children, Teacher Tuesdays to help educate teachers on how to incorporate technology into their classrooms; experts teaching customer skills such as how to use your iPhone camera better; and newly redesigned "Genius Groves."
Macy's Flagship in New York debuts Apple shop (Associated Press. October 14, 2016).
"Customers at Macy's flagship store in New York will be able to wander over from eyeliner to iPads." Macy's launched an Apple shop Friday at its Herald Square store, the first U.S. department store with a hub devoted to the (Apple) brand.
Luxury stores add more amenities in a tougher market (Associated Press, Sept. 22, 2016)
"With designer goods available online anytime, luxury retailers (like Saks and Ralph Lauren) are adding more amenities and personal touches for in-person shopping." That includes personal shoppers that come to your home, chauffeured pickups and drop-offs to shop and get alterations, also in-store concierges in upscale store branches.
Why Best Buy is betting big on virtual reality (Retail Dive, October 6, 2016).
The most powerful sales tool for virtual reality gear is allowing potential customers to experience it (virtual reality) first hand. Best Buy is dramatically expanding live, in-store demos of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset -- even though they may not buy the product, it's another way to draw people into the store.
Nordstrom -- Innovating to Stay Relevant (Harvard Business Review, Sept. 12, 2015).
"The move to digital has been detrimental to the brick and mortar retail world… Nordstrom has always prided itself on putting the customer first… Nordstrom has done a good job innovating to stay relevant…capital spend to technology… invested in new mobile POS systems… rollout of tablets in dressing rooms…Trunk Club online service that gives customers shopping advice and sends them premium clothes to try on and choose from… (ultimately) avoiding the need for frequent discounts that is currently straining the margins of some of its competitors."
Why 30 Dallas-area Target stores are going to look different soon (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 15, 2016)
"Target CEO Brian Cornell has decided that grocery is part of the convenience of shopping at Target, not as a full-service supermarket, but to provide the quality and freshness of a full-service market." That includes hundreds of new groceries to respond to demand for fresher, organic, natural produce, gluten-free and other specialty products. In addition, Target has hired a new chief merchant to uplift its fashion quotient, and has sold its in-store pharmacies to CVS so it can focus on the rest of the store.
Abercrombie unveils new image (FierceRetail, Oct. 13, 2016)
Abercrombie & Fitch has a whole new image, website and coordinated marketing campaign… the focus is now on individuality rather than conforming… "To create a brand identity that communicates our focus on our customers' needs and aspirations…"
Combatant Gentlemen to open Bloomingdale's store-within-a-store concept. (Women's Wear Daily, Sept. 15, 2016).
Menswear work clothes retailer, Combatant Gentlemen… will open a shop within a shop on Nov. 3 at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza shop, as well as Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York City. At the shop, customers can use a touch screen to personalize suits and work directly with tailors…
Banana Republic is transitioning to outlet stores amid sales slump (New York Post, Oct. 14, 2016)
"Banana Republic shifts several of its full-line stores to factory outlets." In the store, you'll find improvements in assortments, delivering more commercially friendly patterns and key item offerings, new collaboration with fashion influencer Olivia Palermo and Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Kevin Love; but… "The shift to factory stores could undercut the in-store efforts." A bit oxymoronic, we think.
Bottom Line For Your Bottom Line:
As retail scrambles to survive and thrive in today's challenging omni-channel arena, stores are striving to provide memorable customer experiences and smooth omni-channel transactions -- absolutely essential to answering the question of what customers want. Look at the barrage of recent headlines that show how retail is scrambling to stay relevant and interesting to its consumers.