By Robin Lewis
What is the future of the store? First, get rid of the word “store,” which defines a physical building that stores stuff. And the stuff sits there until somebody goes to the store to buy it. For those retailers who do not replace that definition of the old- world model with a new model, there will be no future.
This old-world reference is automatic, and it triggers an automatic image of…well, a “store.” And this embedded image is an enormous mental barrier to re-envisioning the model.
Two examples of visionary leaders who replaced the “store” mindset with a new world vision for their brands are Vittorio Radice (now CEO of la Rinascente in Italy) and Angela Ahrendts, SVP, Apple Retail. Radice, upon taking the helm of Selfridge’s in London during the early 90s, declared to his staff that going forward, Selfridge’s would no longer be a store. They were to redefine the brand and reinvent the model to be the coolest place in London as a compelling destination for young people. Entertainment, art and fashion shows, restaurants, theatre, music and events of all types soon filled the physical location, branded Selfridge’s, turned it into a community – no longer a “store.”
Ahrendts, since taking on her role in 2014, eliminated the mindset of Apple “stores.” She reimagined and is now reconstructing Apple’s global retail locations into what she calls “town squares,” each one reflective of the particular community they reside in. These town squares become a place where one meets up with friends, local artisans, techies and entrepreneurs, surrounded by music while hanging out over a coffee, and on and on. They also serve as educational centers with, for example, coding classes for children in Apple’s programming language, Swift.
These are two well-known examples that stand out as bold breakthrough transformations, powerful enough to eliminate the old world “store” mindset. Shoptalk gets it. Accordingly, they have identified many old and new world retailers, including startups, who are taking a variety of different approaches to create compelling destinations for personalized experiences and community gathering places — places that consumers will no longer envision as stores full of stuff. These retailers will be joined at Shoptalk by design agencies, architecture firms and more who are creating the “stores” of the future.
And finally, just as the design, layout and overall goal of physical retail locations are changing, so, too, are the technologies powering these locations. Recent advances in technology have enabled retailers to create far more streamlined experiences and operations. Old and new world retailers at Shoptalk will highlight how technology is powering the next generation of “stores” and changing the role of associates who work in them.
Shoptalk has been a professional “school” with powerful educational content from its get-go. For the 2018 event, I call it Shoptalk’s Academy. You need to go there for another great learning experience.
The Future of the “Store”
By Zia Daniell Wigder
Here are three of the sessions at Shoptalk where you’ll hear a variety of perspectives on how the store is fundamentally changing—and the speakers that will join the conversation.
Innovative Experiential Retail
Leading retailers are creating new physical environments that enable consumers to experience their products in more immersive and memorable ways. Some are creating experiences where customers can interact with their products in a one-on-one setting; others are enabling shoppers to explore and experiment through services, exhibitions or social gatherings. In this session, we’ll hear from one design agency and two startups:
- Since its founding in 1999 as a network of German design agencies, dan pearlman Group has built locations that help customers experience brands in new ways. Among its 1,500 completed projects are the cutting-edge shopping center Bikini Berlin, which brings together shopping, dining, exhibitions and rooftop views of Berlin’s Zoo under a unique architectural design. The firm’s Co-Founder and CEO will show examples of the projects her firm has conceptualized as well as share key learnings so that brands, retailers and shopping center owners can create memorable experiences that attract shoppers around the world.
- Launched in 2010 as a personalized subscription service that gives members an easy way to discover and buy beauty products, Birchbox has raised $87 million in funding. The company opened its first physical shop in 2014–with the same goal as its original online offerings, Birchbox’s New York City location was designed to create a way for casual beauty consumers to experiment with the category. The store features a Try Bar where shoppers can test a rotating selection of products; a mini-salon where customers can get their hair or makeup done; and an area where they can hand-pick their own box of products. We’ll hear from Birchbox, which has since opened a second location in Paris, about how the startup is bringing the essence of its brand into a real-life setting and learning how customers engage with its products.
- Over the past two years, INDOCHINO has raised over $70 million in funding to provide men with the luxury experience of ordering a custom suit at a reasonable price. The Canada-based digitally native brand has since opened nearly two dozen showrooms where men are paired with a style expert who helps them design one-of-a-kind garments made to their measurements. The CEO will speak about INDOCHINO’s unique experiential approach to retail via stores that don’t carry any inventory. He’ll also outline the company’s future brick-and-mortar plans and how these locations have helped the company achieve a two-year compound annual growth rate of over 50% while becoming EBITDA positive in 2017.
Omnichannel and Seamless Customer Experiences
Few retailers have a truly seamless omnichannel customer experience–they must still manage myriad issues including prices, products and promotions across every consumer touchpoint. Retailers are also seeking competitive advantages with initiatives such as infinite shelf capabilities and click and collect, popular consumer offerings that require high levels of inventory visibility. In this session, we’ll hear from three established retailers:
- BJ’s Wholesale Club runs more than 200 clubs across the East Coast of the U.S. The 33-year-old chain recently accelerated its investment into an arsenal of omnichannel capabilities, including the recent launch of its mobile app. The app ties together BJ’s physical and digital offerings, allowing members to save coupons directly to their digital account for use at the in-store checkout. The chain is also testing a self-checkout technology that accelerates the checkout process. The company’s first Chief Digital Officer will talk about how these types of technologies deliver a more seamless shopping experience for customers. He will also discuss the ingredients required to make these frictionless experiences work.
- Ulta Beauty is a $5 billion specialty retailer that sells both mass and prestige beauty brands. The 27-year-old company is enjoying a period of rapid growth as it opens 100 locations a year and invests in technologies that tie its in-store experiences to its website and mobile app. That includes rolling out endless shelf capabilities across its chain of 1,000+ stores. The SVP of Strategic Marketing, CRM, and Loyalty will share how Ulta is creating a seamless experience across channels for its shoppers–and, most importantly, the 26 million members of its ULTAmate Rewards loyalty program.
- With $39 billion in revenues, Best Buy has dispelled the notion that its network of 1,500 stores would be its downfall. By investing in technologies that allow shoppers to search for products available at their nearest location; shipping inventory from its stores; and allowing shoppers to pick up their orders from its shops or warehouses, the retailer is using its physical footprint to reduce delivery times–and in some cases, offer same-day shipping. The President of Ecommerce will share how Best Buy has overcome myriad operational and technical challenges to become a leader in omnichannel retailing.
The Evolving Store Workforce
The role of stores is changing. Store inventory is increasingly being used to fulfill online orders–at the same time, stores are becoming more experiential as retailers add new services and features. Physical retail locations are also being infused with technologies that both improve customer experiences and streamline operations. The store workforce needs to adapt to these changes: Employees must now be flexible enough to pick up new skills and knowledgeable enough to cater to higher customer expectations. In this session, leading retailers will discuss how they are using new tools and strategies to train, schedule and incentivize the store workforce:
- The Source is Canada’s largest consumer electronics retailer with more than 500 locations across the country. This over 40-year-old chain is transforming as it faces pressure from both big box retailers and ecommerce giants. As part of the transformation, the company has added new categories and must-have brands to its product assortment, and renovated its stores to provide customers with a more interactive, hands-on experience. In this session, the President will discuss the investment the company is making in its staff to create a better customer experience, including increasing the amount of annual training employees receive and more.
- The Container Store has grown to be the leading specialty retailer of storage and organization products in the U.S. The company has built its brand on an employee-first culture by hiring highly productive people, paying them above the industry average and providing more than 200 hours of formal training. In this session, the EVP of Technology and Business Development will discuss how the company uses technology to empower its highly engaged and skilled workforce. He will also share how investments in real-time inventory visibility and efficient associate communication technologies have helped the company improve productivity and provide a better in-store customer experience.
- Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, announced in 2015 that the company was raising the wages of its associates. The retailer also replaced its existing training program with Walmart Academy to teach associates customer service skills, “retail math” and how to use new in-store technologies developed specifically for associates. In this session, the SVP of Store Operations will discuss the changing role of the store employees, including the shift toward customer service and away from operational tasks such as product searches in the stockroom. He will also share Walmart’s experience with technologies that are helping to automate tasks and allow store associates to become more productive.