Retail stores, hotels, and restaurants have entered a critical stage and must be transformed to engage guests and shoppers in a deeper way. And fundamentally, physical spaces must express a brand’s story and meaning in a way that establishes a symbiotic relationship with the online world. But most importantly the retail brand space must engage each shopper in a one-on-one, personal “dialogue” that is also a reflection of the local community.
Regardless of how great the content might be, simply using interactive displays, rich audio, lighting, and connectivity with mobile (or Omni-Channel) without clear goals under-leverages a brand’s investments in technology. Whether they are fixture-based or embedded in the space, retailers need be purposeful and clear with respect to the goals of each detail within the experience and the inter-play with mobile and eCommerce sites. The key question is, “What are the specific senses and emotional responses that change guest or shopper behaviors?” And, “What core tools work best, together, to enable the expected ROI in a sustainable way?”
I believe retail branded brick and mortar spaces must become social and community experiences. Friends and families are out shopping for the fun of it – together. Malls and high street stores provide environments for people to get out of their apartments, condominiums, boats, RV’s, and yes, even single-family homes, to socialize in a real way that engages the senses and brings them together. Brands can transform these opportunities into win/win successes by making their places/spaces feel alive and entertaining (and of course profitable).
In the U.S., 72% of the population who are connected in some way to the Internet shopped online (or via mobile) in 2011. In Japan, the percentage is 97%! Why should branded retailers even bother spending money in traditional stores? Unless fundamental changes are made, there seem to be fewer reasons to stay in the brick and mortar model – or is this actually a new opportunity?
We are living during the dawn of a new era in retail place-making. More than ever, retailers need to interact with their shoppers and guests in a deeper, personalized, emotional way. Retail staff who can engage one-on-one with their customers enable them to capture the hearts and minds of brand fans. Messaging technology platforms provide Geo-fencing and other intriguing capabilities to pull in more customers with targeted promotions and communications. Stores and restaurants can become a reflection of the community in combination with social apps (a la Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc), user-generated content and physical immersive spaces using a variety of technologies, thus creating a renewed reason to visit “Your” Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, or Disney Store.
In the end, the payoff is making the “place” feel comfortable, familiar and personal. Digital makes this possible with scale. And that rewards businesses with more repeat customers, increased margins and brand loyalty. This is place-making at its best!
Prior to founding Fresh Juice Global, Neal Lassila held key executive technology leadership positions over 18 years in a variety of technology and business roles including Strategic Planning, Operations, Research and Development with The Walt Disney Company. His new company is focused on creating immersive customer experiences in retail environments through technology.