The headlines share nothing but bad news for retail, but often fail to highlight the unique retail experiences that are completely captivating customers.
Here are great examples of retail leaders who are rewriting the retail playbook, plus lessons you can learn from their success.
"I don't think retail is dead. Mediocre retail experiences are dead."
- Neil Blumenthal, CEO of Warby Parker
Warby Parker is a disruptive eyeglasses company that was founded in 2010 and is now worth $1.2 billion. As of 2018, the company has 64 retail stores in the US and plans to open more.
Their secret to success is providing authentic and low-pressure retail experiences. Many of their stores look like libraries complete with reference desks, especially locations in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Their location on 25th Street in Miami has a whimsical pool-inspired motif that appeals to the city's consumers.
Customers also like their "Buy a Pair, Give a Pair" program, which is similar to TOMS and Figs. For each pair of glasses Warby Parker sells, they also give a pair to someone in need.
“The opportunity to shop, eat and learn at the same time has made customers fall in love with Eataly. Before Eataly, there has never been a format that proposed these three activities in the same big place, open to everybody. In my opinion, this potential hadn’t yet been taken advantage of. Somebody needed to do so.”
- Oscar Farinetti, CEO of Eataly
Farinetti opened the first Eataly location in 2007 on the site of a shuttered vermouth factory in Turin, Italy. Eataly (rhymes with Italy) provides an innovative food experience at its 37 locations around the world. These gigantic urban stores range in size from 25,000 square feet to over 60,000 square feet. From the Flatiron location in New York City to the Prudential Center location in Boston, each store has its own local character.
With Eataly, the aim was to build a store that harked back to old-style markets such as the bazaars of Istanbul or the fish markets of Sicily. What is the secret to their success? These stores are — first and foremost — destinations. Although consumers might go there just to pick up something quick, these stores suck consumers in with fantastic aromas, energetic employees, and new delights around every corner. Ultimately, what Eataly is selling is an experience, though they also focus on education through cooking classes and events.
“In the age of the digital revolution, real-life driving experiences are becoming increasingly important for our brand. Our cars represent performance and driving pleasure — and this is exactly what our customers can enjoy in the experience centres.”
- Detlev von Platen, Member of the Executive Board responsible for Sales and Marketing at Porsche AG
Porsche has 189 showrooms in the US, but they wanted to offer their customers and prospects an experience that a typical automobile showroom couldn’t. Over the past year, Porsche has opened 2 new customer driving centers complete with a race track and over 100 vehicles; one in Atlanta and one in Los Angeles. At a cost of $60 million per driving center, they are a driving enthusiast’s dream experience. Now, for as little as $300 an hour, you can test drive a very expensive sports car.
It's clear that retail is not dead.
Successful retailers strive to deliver fantastic in-person experiences that both entertain and educate. These cutting-edge leaders combine technology with well-trained staff to deliver a service that is anything but boring. As a retailer, there are several lessons you can learn from these examples.
- Authenticity: Warby Parker and Eataly are both very authentic brands and tell a story. Even if you have hundreds of stores, make each one little bit different. Offer unique products. Provide the unexpected.
- Create a destination location: People will come if you build it. Both Porsche and Eataly have created large destinations while Warby Parker has focused on smaller stores. Regardless of size, people travel to experience these brands in person. Share effective elements from the destination store with your other stores.
- Offer personal shopping: Any retailer can offer personal shopping. It can be part of your core offering or it can be an added value service that's only offered to your best customers. We make it easy for your customers to book personal shopping appointments.
- Create an event: Having in-store demonstrations of your best products are great to attract new and existing customers. Here are some great event ideas.
- Get out of the store: Go to an event where your customers naturally congregate and create a pop-up store. Two examples include 5K runs and local fairs. If you aren’t sure which event to choose, ask customers what they are doing this weekend.
- Education: All our retail superstars focus on consumer education. Try to include various opportunities for learning, because your customers want to learn more and they want to know what your company is passionate about. Oftentimes, you can tie in education with scheduling events.
- Group products by end goal: Some grocery stores make bananas available in the cereal aisle, which is such an easy way to create convenience for the customer. Do you have opportunities to create your own "banana in the cereal aisle" idea?
- Enable product usage: Can your customers use your products in store? Why not? REI offers climbing walls and Nike offers treadmills in their stores.
- Use technology: Incorporate social media, ensure a seamless integration between online and offline, and step up your in-store technology with augmented-reality dressing rooms and retail touch screens.
- Speed: Physical retailers can definitely compete with online retailers on speed, since most online retailers need two to five days to ship. Use this to your advantage.
Learn how the leading retailers are investing in in-store design and innovation to create a first class customer experience.