The four most innovative ideas that will shape the future of Retail.
With the enormous growth of online shopping over the last couple of years, physical Retail has been struggling with the question on how to reinvent itself in this new era of digitalization. As soon as the first pure players arrived, many predicted the death of the physical store. I’ve read many suggestions on how to survive this new landscape, ideas that would save the stores from extinction. Amongst those ideas - that varied from introducing digital screens onto the shop floor, online shopping possibilities in a window to create interaction with consumers to beacons and virtual reality - none of them could take my love for the physical Retail store away. And none of them ever convinced me to take these suggestions on board.
You see, I’ve never stopped believing in the physcial store - how can I forget those years where I learned to master it, on the floor itself? As a true Retail ambassador, I’ve kept the faith, shared the love continuously and slowly but gradually I knew there’s one thing we needed to ask ourselves: Do we really know the essence of Retail? Do we know how to sell a product in a store? Do we know how to create a welcoming ambiance in a store? Do we have the skills to service a customer? Do we know what the heart of our brand is? And do we know what it takes to touch the heart of the new customer and build a community around their experiences? Forget about the fancy ideas and let’s go back to the true mastery of Retail.
Many tried and many have failed - but there are a few examples of Retailers who reinvented Retail without going overboard with fancy ideas. All of them started out with one thing in mind: how to seduce a customer with passion for Retail in this new era.
Story - New York, USA
A new way of experiential Retail by connecting brands and consumers.
Built on the idea to tell a unique Story every four to eight weeks and creating a community around that experience, founder Rachel Shechtman started Story - a 2000 square-feet store in New York, five years ago.
She believes that if we ask consumers to invest in time - a luxury nowadays, there needs to be a reason to visit a physical space. The idea of curating brands and collections with a strong story for a limited number of weeks and thus changing the design of the store, the products and the message continuously, takes guts and determination and is not risk-free. However, in an interview, Rachel stated “It’s about knowing what you do well. In this climate, I believe there’s more risk in not taking risks.”
Story is a platform to try new things and invests on experience per square foot. The store concept is a true role-model as it brings basic Retail principles together we all know but seem to have forgotten: experience, customers and taking risks.
Colette - Paris, France
A curated mix of experiences to bring people together.
Founded in 1997 by Colette Rousseau and her daughter Sarah Andelman, Parisian store Colette at 213, Rue Saint-Honoré has become an icon in the world of Retail. The store is an early adapter of curating an experience where fashion, design, beauty, culture, music, food, pup-up shops and events blend into one store experience.
At the same time, the store has become a cultural icon, making it a must-see during a Paris visit for everyone from all around the world. The Colette store mission is a strong one and has always played an important role in every story the store launches: bringing people together.
Colette was one of the first stores ever to take on such a bold approach in a time when this Retail experience was non-excisting and the new concept conquered the world. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the store has delivered a great Retail experience that outlasted all short-lived trends and Retail changes. And the learning here is actually applying the most basic rules of the Retail book: Sharing an experience by bringing people together with the right products at the right time.
Aesop - Melbourne, Australia
Branding skincare with knowledge, design and innovation.
Aesop was established in Melbourne in 1987 with the objective to bring skin, hair and body care products of the finest quality into the world. Their research led them to plant-based and lab-made ingredients, which brought a unique product range alive during a time when the quest to search for natural skincare products was just starting out. Nowadays, in any Aesop store, customers are serviced by Aesop consultants with a vast knowledge of the product and the brand.
The stores itself are unique architectural statements of well-considered design, based on local culture, history and sustainability principles. The first stand-alone store the brand openend in New York in 2011 immediately drew headlines on all design and Retail blogs as it had such a unique feel to it. And to this day, the Aesop store signature and its unique presentation are used as a Retail inspiration globally.
Next to the brand’s commercial activities, it explores and supports the arts as an important element to inspire, learn and communicate the brand essence.
In order to create a unique brand story for the world to feel and experience, all details must communicate as one, even the less obvious ones. And that’s exactly what the brand has done over the years. A salute to true heart of Retail: keep on innovating - on product & brand and consumer experience.
Back to our roots
The Retailers mentioned in this post all have the heart of Retail masters: everything evolves around consumers, products and innovation. Each of them, at their own unique way, adds value to their brand and communicate these values thoughout all touchpoints. Physical stores are not that difficult to invent, nor does it need complete re-invention. The strongest Retailers use the basic principles that are well known for hundreds of years: service your customers by selling unique products in a nice store, at the right time and spread the word. Really, it’s that simple.
Four innovative ideas
Not many Retailers sweep me off my feet and are able to inspire me. But I must confess - Colette, Story and Aesop do. Simply because they don’t use difficult formulas but in stead, use the oldest Retail knowledge known to mankind. Here are four key take-aways that every brand, entrepreneur or Retailer should bring on board to shape their future:
- Curate your assortment to a daring mix of unique products and services.
- Innovate every day and don’t be afraid to take a risk.
- Elevate your store experience by mixing collaborations with events, culture andproducts.
- Build a community around your brand to bring people together.
Retail innovation is learning and implementing some of the oldest trics in the book and translating them into this time and age. Are you ready to innovate?