As we continue to live in an experiential world, the role of physical retail continues to evolve. The store becomes a place to play, to discover, to stay a while and convene with others. Brands and retailers are leaning into the understanding that offline experiences drive greater brand loyalty and drive online sales. It’s when a consumer is immersed into the physicality of a brand’s mission, they become fans not just customers. During NRF 2020, the Big Retail Show that kicks off the year – HCL Commerce and The Lionesque Group took clients on a walking tour in NYC.
Here is a snapshot of our afternoon of retail play at its finest.
First stop, The Chanel Atelier, a beauty workshop and place of discovery
The first and only of its kind, Atelier Beauté CHANEL is a workshop where guests can explore beauty in their own way. It is an open space for learning, creation, and community, where masters and apprentices alike come to hone skills, learn new techniques and share the process of discovery. Via an immersive testing ground for products and experiential elements including blind fragrance testing, workshops led by industry leaders, makeup classes, beauty and skincare consultations, a branded selfie room for flat lays and selfies, the workshop is as personal as one would like to make it. Beginning with the creation of an online profile that empowers one to explore freely, guests can seamlessly save what they love (and record what they don’t) while discovering in real time. If one loves it enough they can add to cart on the spot via their phones or save it for later and easily complete a purchase from the comfort of their home. It’s truly one of the most elevated beauty experiences you can have in New York City.
Second stop, Reformation, a shopping lab
After proving success for the brand, Reformation is on a mission to convert all of their locations into “tech stores”. The store experience is as much digital as it is physical. Customers shop the store, which is designed as a shoppable showroom to browse, using touch screens that enable them to see items that are in-stock at the location and add them to their dressing room. The dressing room is more of a magical closet experience than the traditional dressing room powered by mirrors that allow shoppers to request additional items via an interactive screen. What’s more, as a busy New Yorker, you can add your dressing room time to a waitlist queue while you step out for coffee, or a mimosa, and they will text you when your room is ready.
The offline, online experience allows the brand to see all browsing and additions in real time. A couple of areas where they could elevate the experience further would be creating fully
shoppable outfits, where a customer could add an outfit to the dressing room in just one click and like Chanel, allow for the creation of customer accounts as a dressing room list is made.
Third stop, Restoration Hardware, the mansion experience
When one enters the sprawling 90,000 square foot gallery-inspired showroom, they are engulfed in elegance and luxurious living. It’s a place where one wants to stay a while. The experience is based on the idea of welcoming someone into the RH home. Shoppers are offered beverages while discovering all elements of home, from textiles to furnishings. Or one can ride the breathtaking fully glassed elevator through four floors of furnishings up to the wrap around, mystical rooftop restaurant. RH’s next generation model is a homage to finer living yet is an accessible experience to everyone. The showroom also has a design studio where shoppers can customize most goods being sold, allowing for one-to-one personalization. The overall experience is so hospitable that people often mistake it for a hotel and ask the concierge for a room – which isn’t too far off as the brand transforms a nearby building into the city’s first RH Guest house, a concept hotel with a boutique, full-service restaurant.
Final stop, Neighborhood Goods, the re-invented department store
The second location for Neighborhood Goods opened in NYC in December 2019, still quite fresh for the market. It’s a playful experience showcasing emerging digitally native brands that rotate regularly, with display periods ranging 2-12 months, driving foot traffic through the promise of a newly curated and constantly rotating product via a consignment model. Store associates, known as brand storytellers, are extensions of the brand with the intent of expressing the ethos, mission and purpose of the brands they showcase to shoppers. The experience is as interactive for the brands participating as it is for customers as brands are sent reports every Monday that illuminate stats around consumers interaction, dwell times, and traffic footprint. Communication reports are given from associates where they can discuss suggestions and feedback from consumers and their own interactions to further enhance the brand’s in-store experience. While tactile play and discovery is a core element of the experience, Neighborhood Goods is planning on launching an in-store app where consumers can purchase any product being sold from their location and have an associate bag and bring the product to their location leaning into the fluidity of the next gen check out experience.
The year ahead is proving to be a year where we see store transformation continue, with a mandate to create environments that drive human connection. Successful physical retail will be those that leverage these moments to differentiate from digital experience but also drive conversions across all channels. The average customer that interacts with a brand both offline and online, vs just online, spends up to 3x more when the store experience drives intrigue, discovery and high touch customer service.