3 Retail Trends that Demonstrate How Experimentation is Shaping a Retail Revival


There is a revival in the retail market.

For some time, the old giants of brick-and-mortar retail have been accused, and rightly so, of resting on their laurels, holding onto past successes and refusing to be flexible as new retail models crept into our homes and onto our devices through cables and satellites.

Retail giants that succeeded under the old models are fast becoming relics because they looked the other way while others looked far ahead. We have watched these iconic brands supplanted by the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and iTunes, because these new brands were willing to use disruptive technologies and new customer experience and service models to lead the way into a new era of retail. 

Today, retailers that are growing and thriving are experimenting more, taking more risks, and willing to re-invest their profits into research that will drive future growth. In the process, these retail revivalists are finding incrementally new ways to win in this changing marketplace, increasing credibility and market share. Here are three trends that are changing the way that we do business. 

Trend #1: The Magical Marketplace.

While Gen X helped usher in the virtual marketplace and is still one of the demographics that is the most comfortable operating within its landscape, Baby Boomers and even Millennials are still looking for a personal touch that only real people in brick and mortar stores can provide. Pop-Up retail and the Town Square are two concepts that are helping drive and support this trend. 

Pop Up Stores: A faster, less expensive way to test new concepts

As you know, "Pop-Up" describes temporary or seasonal stores with themed concepts. The pop-up market began in the early 2000s as an experimental niche concept, and eventually became a permanent retail tool when the market crashed in the late 2000s. The reason it continues to grow in popularity is because it allows retailers to pitch new products to current and future audiences without investing millions in overhead.

The ready-to-assemble furniture store IKEA found the pop-up model useful as an entirely different experience from its big box store, which this year saw slower than expected growth from its brick and mortar stores. The home and business furnishings retailer, which has 400 massive stores around the world that have multiple floors and an average of 7.3 acres of floor space, needed a less expensive outlet for future growth. They turned to kiosks in shopping malls, which allow users to click and collect merchandise (IKEA delivers and has numerous pick-up locations), and has developed pop-up stores that are in effect small studios that carry a narrower selection of impulse, carry-away items.  More importantly, they provide a friendly environment where large furnishings can be ordered. One location in London offered a cooking class and another had a "breakfast in bed" motif.  

Nestle opened a temporary chocolate shop where customers could make a custom Kit Kat to order and even design the packaging. Axe body spray created a pop-up barbershop. The pop-up possibilities for retail marketing are endless, and coupled with a smooth documentary-style advertising video and an invitation to journalists to "come see", a retailer's campaign could go viral.

Town Square Stores

Others retailers are creating "town square" stores. Apple recently announced that its town square concept will be a cross between a retail store and an educational facility, designed to resemble a leafy green plaza where people can come to learn and collaborate. Apple will offer hands on workshops on coding, photography, music, gaming and other topics,  

Whole Foods has a town-square branding model called "365". The 365 stores are smaller models of their regular markets. In addition to selling food and the usual wares, the stores also host the products of independent local vendors. In addition, each 365 store has interactive kiosks to help with purchases, and robots to make you a cup of tea. You can even scan a bottle of wine and it will offer food-pairing options for you. 

Trend #2: The Monitoring Machines.

Machines are inconspicuously following us online and off, recording our purchases of food, entertainment, household goods, travel choices. They are using that data to offer us personalized recommendations that match our recent purchase decisions. It is an easy task for online retailers to monitor our movements because everything we do is recorded as we move about our technology devices. It is more of a challenge to collect data at physical retail locations, but it can and is being done.

Retailers like Target and Wal-mart are offering their customers reward programs which track every purchase they make at checkout. Customers information can then be gathered with each transaction in order to target those consumers when they are shopping at that retailer's  brick-and-mortar and online stores. 

Trend #3: The Menaissance Movement.

Studies have shown that women make or influence 95% of the purchase decisions for their households, but men are outspending women in several important ways. They spend more on holiday shopping, on cyber shopping holidays like Black Friday, on luxury items, and if you believe one study, even on clothing . In response to that last statistic, menswear markets and the men's departments at major retailers are expanding. Forbes calls the new trend "The Menaissance."

The key, according to some experts, is to tailor your shopping experience to how men want to shop.  Some retailers are giving men gadgets to assist them with their shopping experience and providing them with "playgrounds" for interactive experiences. It is also important to train and position employees nearby who truly understand how a man makes his purchase decisions.. Finally, experts say it's important to stock less and target more; men are not into wandering through rows and rows of clothing options to find what they want. So it's important to tell them what they need by fine tuning and norrowing your offerings.

These days, retailers are finding new ways to make their brick and mortar stores more interactive and educational; they are using customer data to help influence future purchase decisions; and they are using the latest research to make the shopping experience more appealing to men. If you want to grow and prosper in this new retail landscape examine each of these trends, and decide how you might leverage one or more of them to support the transformation of your retail brand.

About Brick to Click!

With nearly 20 years of experience in retail marketing, Sean Baker, president of IMM, has immeasurable insights and strategies to bring to you. With the Brick to Click blog and newsletter, he is here to provide the tips, tools and resources you’re looking for to take your in-store and online retail traffic to the next level.

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