Retail has to change. It’s written everywhere. A mutation compelled not only by Amazon’s ruthless competition but also by the ever-developing relationship between individuals and shopping. This love story is increasingly lived through the filters of technology and of life rhythms, which impose less free time and more expectations in terms of experiential quality.
As we have already written, the dichotomy between physical and online Retail already belongs to the past. The gap having being filled by the Shoppers themselves. For them, differences are only relative to the opportunity at hand and it’s clear how translating from one solution to the other has become inalienable, as they search for comparisons, inspiration and convenience (this is the true omnichannel). A need that’s validated by the mass migration of traditional Brands online and by the debut of online Players in the offline space (see Amazon libraries and the Walmart acquisition).
In the past the shop experience was all about tactile and visual inputs: I see, I try, I buy. Tact and vision remain the privileged senses: the first being impossible to re-create online and the second being subject to severe limitations (while we wait for VR, 360 photography is rarely encountered, details are elusive, and colour rendition can be tricky).
Showing shelf upon shelf of items or clothes to be passively explored, though, is hardly enough. That’s the kind of browsing you do online. The new shop has to be immersive and interactive. It has to offer something, an experience, that you won’t find anywhere else.
Some examples: Nordstromm is testing a shop inside which everyone has a personal stylist. Goop has opened true living spaces, with working kitchens and furniture full of the Brand’s clothes. Moby Mart has built a shop on wheels that comes to you on-demand. Sephora offers augmented reality services, such as ipads in which you can see your face with the chosen make-up. Off-White, in New York, has a hybrid of apparel store and art gallery, where styles support each other, adapting to guest artists and to the current season. Nespresso, in its Paris and New York flagship stores, offers premium quality coffee and workshops about cooking coffee-related dishes, the history of coffee, etc.
Exclusivity is the essential trait of these stores. “Exclusive” not as in “luxury” but as in “focused” on a few products with a strong personality. Exactly the opposite of the huge inventory you’ll find on those marketplaces that rely on numbers only.
Many of these new shops put experience before selling. They know that an amazed Shopper will go back home and buy on the Brand’s eStore. In this last phase, it is paramount to remember (as we wrote here) that the “experience” doesn’t end with the last click. It ends when the item reaches the Shopper. To delight him first and then disappoint him right at the apex of pleasure is a sin that will be paid by helplessly watching as your Customer migrates to a competitor’s site.