As retailers celebrate the end of a strong holiday season, the attention shifted to the store. During NRF 2018, we toured a freezing but beautiful New York.
Three retailers stood out as new concept stores. They mastered the trends of Unified Commerce, Customer Experience, and Customer Loyalty.
The Unified Commerce of Rebecca Minkoff
Students play with smart mirrors at the Rebecca Minkoff store (Credit NRF)
Rebecca Minkoff cracked the code for Unified Commerce. The sauce to success is a mix of high tech stores, discounted warehouse, and savvy online site.
Located in Soho, the tiny flagship store packs high tech. The store connects smart walls, tagged apparel, and digital fitting rooms. Each step in the Customer’s Journey is captured and tracked.
At first glance, you see the long mirror. Part touch screen, part mirror, the smart wall is the gateway to the store. You can search for products, colors and sizes. You can ask Rebecca for her personal recommendations. And you can also order coffee, tea, or a glass of champagne.
And every page entices you to enter your phone number and go to the fitting rooms. This serves two purposes. First, phone numbers are the entry to the retailer’s loyalty list. Second, the fitting rooms are the store’s highest level of conversion.
While Rebecca Minkoff is known for her designer bags, the focus in the store is apparel. Each bag, accessory, and dress is tagged with RFID. As a result, the retailer monitors which products enter the fitting room.
Inside the digital fitting room, mirrors, lights and communication power the customer’s experience. You can change the lights to see how you look in different shades. You can browse for styles. And if you need a different size, you all need is to push the call button for customer service.
Most important, the fitting room is a self-service checkout.
The smart fitting room takes away the friction of the checkout. During the fitting experience, customers can enter their credit cards and pay. By combining the “touch and feel” with the checkout, the retailer speeded the sales process. And it works. During the first year, sales of apparel tripled.
From the customer’s point of view, the smart store is “cool”. For the retailer, the fitting room is a hub of personalized data.
An important benefit of the data is better incentives for the store’s associates. Beyond the initial visit to the store, the staff further connects with customers. In return, the associates receive commissions from online purchases.
The Soho store serves a marketing vehicle. The store hosts a variety of events, from women groups to student programs. The retailer also sponsors street parties and parades. It is often promoted to the press as the Connect Store.
The physical store is one piece in the business model. Nearby, the retailer has a warehouse that sells discounted designer cloths and bags. And the online store serves as a vibrant and global store.
The Rebecca Minkoff high-tech store is a great example of selling fun and fashion.
The Customer Experience of Sonos
Sonos playhouse in the Soho store (Credit Ronny Max)
Across the street from Rebecca Minkoff, we find a popup store by Sonos. The retailer took digital connectivity into a physical store.
While Sonos sells stereos and speakers, it positions itself as a Home Sound System. The Sonos application connects multiple speakers, in different rooms, for a powerful experience. The value to the customer is the immersive sound of music.
The Sonos store turns the experience of shopping for speakers into a game. As you walked into the store, you will see a long corridor aligned with sound proof booth.
The booths are designed to emulate the home. Each wall symbolizes a room – Living Room, Dining Room, and Kitchen.
At the center of the booth, there is a tablet where you can play with the Sonos Application. The software connects the multiple speakers around the booth. You can change songs, control the features such as sound, and check speakers in each room. Since you are standing in a sound-proof booth, the sound takes over.
The elegant design of the store considers key elements in retail. Gamification is a successful strategy in selling to young adults, which is the core retail segment. The sound-proof booth serves as a enticing trigger to engage. And the customer experience is both personal and social. There were 4 people in the group and we spend more than 20 minutes in the store.
Sonos sells speakers but their store tells the love of sound.
Loyalty & Leverage in Amazon’s Bookstore
Amazon Bookstore features “If You Like” and “Prime Pricing” (Source Nicholas Giuloff)
Amazon’s foray into bookstores was at the heart of New York’s publishing hub. Located at Columbus Circle Mall, the Amazon Bookstore is a symbol of retail dominance.
The image of wall-to-wall shelves covered with books does not fit this book stores. Yes, there are print books. Not many. We saw the best sellers, some children books, and few selected business and travel books. Most of the store was about Alexa.
If Google powers text searches and Facebook dominates imaging, Amazon focused on voice. With a treasure of audio books, the company is the king of Machine Learning AI in Voice.
In the store, there was a display table with umpteen Alexa products. There was a wall full of Kindle Covers. And even the bookcases reminded us of the online site with the headers of “If You Like”.
In almost every corner, there was a tablet where you can connect to your account on Amazon.com. In fact, the many associates in the store were there to help you browse and order through the website.
The design of the physical store has one core goal – make you an Amazon Prime Member!
The prominent evidence to the leverage of Amazon was in pricing. Rather the lack of prices. Instead there is a plank and a tablet instructing customers to check prices on the website.
As an Amazon Prime Member, you get the discount online price. Others get the Suggested Retail Price. Only a dominate player gets away with such games with no discord from millions of customers.
Amazon is the first retailer that is a true Technology Company. The motto of the company is Customer First. At this point, the strategy may be better called Amazon First.
Store of the Future
2018 is the year when new store concepts will mushroom across the globe. We will see more high tech stores with tagged products, dynamic pricing, and smart mirrors. A better shopping experience is pushing for more games, dining, and design. The retail landscape will be more dominated by winners and specialty niches.
The “Stores of the Future” are already in New York.