Are you seeing what I’m seeing? An increasing number of boarded up buildings, store closing signs, and empty retail storefronts and commercial real estate. Is it true? Is brick-and-mortar really dying and are we all destined to shop online and have items delivered to our home, our car, or even our refrigerator?
I don’t think so.
In fact, for every shuttered building I pass, I see an equal number of encouraging indicators of a new phase of retail. Retail that is focused on shopper experience, curated to the delight of its patrons, and formed around today’s technology. Let me give you a couple of examples: Nike’s new “disrupt” retail approach. Assortment at these locations is based on shopper preferences in the community. It incorporates drive-through pickup or lockers where purchases can be retrieved. And, “The Sneaker Bar,” is a page taken right out of the Apple stores, complete with an assistant stationed at the bar to serve as advisor. The store also incorporates the “Dynamic Fit Zone” where customers can try out the latest gadgets and equipment while gaining access to one-on-one experts who offer training tips.
Have you seen the new Chicagoland McDonald’s? It’s a classy, glass-encased setting with live plants, table service, and ordering kiosks. This isn’t the McDonald’s I remember as a kid – but they have made a commitment to create the “Experience of the Future,” and, frankly, I think they nailed it.
If you’ve recently purchased an appliance at Home Depot you may have noticed that they have enhanced the customer experience and increased access to product information via iPad-sized devices. They’ve also rolled out small parcel express delivery and in-store lockers to support increasing interest in buy online and pickup in store.
Finally, one of my favorites is a highly-experiential pop-up retail operation called the Museum of Ice Cream. Not only can guests swim in a pool of plastic sprinkles or seesaw on a giant ice cream scoop, but they sell ice cream, too.
It’s this crossover to immersive experiences that may be shaping the future of brick-and-mortar retail. Although selling product remains important, some have said that entertainment is going to be the primary draw.
Think about your own retail encounters. Which ones stand out? If you’re a retail operator thinking about the future, start with the immersive part. If you’re a brand that sits on a shelf, it’s time to think bigger with a focus on the relevance of your brand’s customer experience.
Dave Wendland is vice president, strategic relations and co-owner of Hamacher Resource Group, a company focused on improving results across the retail supply chain located near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He directs business development, product innovation and marketing communications activities for the company and has been instrumental in positioning HRG among the industry’s foremost thought leaders. You may contact him at (414) 431-5301 or learn more at Hamacher.com.