“We believe that we can shop night and day on line BUT there is no better place to engage with a brand than in store”
This quote is taken from our new website which launched recently and it’s a premise that we believe more retailers need to embrace. But it’s a concept that requires a clear understanding of your brand and importantly what and why your customers value it.
Take Apple for instance. A recent Bloomberg article explored Apple’s slowing sales and the appointment of a new retail chief. With customers and staff complaining about a lack of engagement in store and the controversial overhaul of the Genius Bar, the immediate challenge for Apple is to make their stores more ‘shopper-friendly’.
It’s a sobering thought then, that such a pioneering and successful retail format needs to be refocused. It’s also a cautionary tale as to why retailers large and small need to listen more closely to their customers. As this case study reveals, however great your retail store concept was, ignoring what your customers want from their in-store visit just isn’t an option for any retailer today.
Of course there is no shortage of major retail brands floundering with their physical retail futures. Here in the UK much of this will depend on how quickly landlords and tenants can agree on a common vision of economic success. But as in Apple’s case, delivering a fresh in-store brand experience for customers will be all-important too.
Successful retail brand Mountain Warehouse was in the news too recently, discussing their robust in-store and eCommerce model. Whilst I would take issue with their CEO’s dismissal of “experiential stuff” as “ a bit over-rated”, I was never-the-less pleased to read that after listening to staff and customers, he has just appointed a Head of Corporate Social Responsibility.
However, I think the Mountain Warehouse CEO was trying to make a fair point. I agree with him that the store ‘experience’ shouldn’t be a random thing. Beautifully designed and serviced bells and whistles added just for the sake of a ‘wow’ factor won’t cut it for today’s shoppers. The store experience means so much more than that.
I was reminded of KPMG’s retail predictions from earlier in the year. Among their top 10 take-outs from their research was ‘Experiential retail is coming to life’. Their case study about IKEA’s Big Sleepover is a good example of how retailers can build a better in-store experience for their customers whilst gaining feedback at the same time.
At the heart of IKEA’s success with their Big Sleepover is its relevance to the brand and the service it’s bedding department offers. It’s shows why the in-store retail ‘experience’ works best when it’s honest, real and totally ‘customer focused’. It’s an example of how to engage with customers and not just ‘wow’ them.
And the same is true of retail store design generally. Bringing a brand to life in-store is the best place to engage your customers. But in the current climate, success relies on retailers and their store designers knowing the answers to three critical questions:
- Who are you - what are your unique brand stories?
- Who are your customers – what do they want?
- Where are you going – what results do you want?
So good luck to Apple and to all future focussed retailers who are finally listening to their customers and putting them at the heart of the in-store experience.