“Sometimes people want to shop. And sometimes people want to go shopping.” Tim Kobe is the lead designer behind the Apple store and he picked up on what is perhaps the key theme of this year’s World Retail Congress.
Retail is polarising. The more we see the rise of highly efficient online retailers on the one hand, the more we will see the rise of highly experiential retailers on the other.
When it comes to efficiency, all eyes at the WRC are on Amazon. Just last week Amazon launched two concept stores in Seattle called Amazon Fresh Pick Up. They claim that this is the fastest way to order fresh produce. Just drive in, wait while the products are packed straight into the boot of your car, and then drive out. There are no check-outs, no queues and no need to get out of your car. And when that level of convenience is combined with Amazon’s prices it presents a formidable proposition for customers ticking off their routine shop.
At the other end of the spectrum we have retailers like Jo Malone who are championing the return of creativity in retail. ‘Jo Loves’ is her latest retail concept that offers customers “tapas for the nose”. Jo’s team take customers on a four course journey where shower gels are prepared in cocktail shakers, bath cologne is warmed in tagines before being released via a cloud of scented steam, and body lotion is whipped into a foam and then brushed onto your skin. Sounds crazy but her conversion rate instore sits at 94 per cent.
But perhaps the most interesting challenges are for the retailers sitting in the middle. Karen Katz is the CEO of Neiman Marcus and she believes that department stores need to win on experience and service. She talked about turning stores (originally named because they stored products until customers came to buy them) into experience centres. She also explained that last year she gave every sales associate an iPhone with an app loaded on it called iSell. This clever piece of tech gives sales associates a world of information to help empower them to provide a better experience for the customer they are serving. iSell accesses product information, product availability, recent promotional campaigns as well as information on the customer such as previous purchases. “Technology that makes our people look like superstars is great” says Katz. “We are moving from service that is over the counter, to service that is shoulder to shoulder.”
There will be a handful or retailers that take on Amazon at the efficiency end of the spectrum. But for everyone else, it’s about winning on experience.
Matt Newell is covering the World Retail Congress exclusively for Inside Retail. He is the founder and executive strategy director of The General Store, a company that specialises in retail strategy and innovation.
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For more insights on the World Retail Congress, or to organise a boardroom presentation, contact Matt Newell on firstname.lastname@example.org / +61 403 821 025.