by Dwight D. Hill, McMillan Doolittle LLP
The continued growth of e-commerce, the customer, and the drive for differentiation are all forces that are forcing many retailers to question the role of their stores. How can the store be reinvented to combine elements of the physical and digital worlds? Can the store function as both a place of convenience for customers but also a spot to linger and experience the brand? These are questions retailers are asking as the store, once the singular channel for the majority of retailers, is evolving into an entity that is part product showcase, part window into the digital realm, and part brand experience.
To survive, retailers must reconsider how to leverage one of their greatest investments – their brick-and-mortar store base. To this end, several retailers around the world are elevating their stores to a new level and creating experiences for customers that not only encourage visits but also act as brand differentiators.
1. Sport Chek – with 163 stores, Sport Chek is the largest national sporting goods, apparel and footwear retailer in Canada. The company, owned by Canadian Tire, has launched a new concept store that is truly a digital mecca; the store showcases 140 digital screens, from small tablets to large 55 inch screens, that demonstrate product features and that customers can use to gain product knowledge about a wide range of sporting goods and apparel. Customers have access to coupons via Near Field Communication technology, and can interact with Sport Chek, other customers, and product manufacturers through Sport Chek's Twitter feed. Customization tools include a "build your own" Reebok shoe kiosk, a Sidas ski and snowboard boot insert tool that creates a 3D map of customer's feet to create a custom-made boot insert, customized Oakley eyewear, and technology to analyze customers' gait while running on a treadmill. A large wall with 19 screens displays promotions, events, and product features.
Innovation Takeaway #1: Sport Chek has joined an elite group of retailers that are redefining retail by combining the virtual and physical worlds. This new model exposes customers to an interactive experience that provides convenience, a new level of service, and new innovative ways to interact with the brand. What a differentiator!
2. ASICS – the global athletic apparel and footwear brand is launching concept stores that are striving to be the "temple" for runners. Besides offering a complete collection of merchandise for runners, ASICS stores provide 3 innovative services:
- A high-tech "Running Lab," where advanced biomechanical analysis systems are at the disposal of customers
- The "ASICS FOOT ID" service which helps runners select the most appropriate shoes by combining static and motion measurements
- "ASICS Running Club," a club for runners providing customers access to showers and locker services
Service staff in ASICS stores are experts in running and provide customers with expert product assessments, based on each individual's running style. In addition, ASICS actively engages in social media that converts stores into gathering spots for runners and generates additional traffic.
Innovation Takeaway #2: Through the use of sophisticated technology aimed specifically at helping runners prepare and get the most out of the sport, ASICS' new concept stores are rapidly redefining the brand and adding a new dimension to the typical retail store experience.
3. e-plus Base_Camp – e-plus, the third largest mobile network operator in Germany has launched a new mobile concept store in Berlin called "Base_Camp." The store is designed to provide customers with an experience in mobile communications like no other store in the world. Customers are provided the opportunity to interact with associates and experience all types of mobile devices. This, however, is where the similarities to a traditional wireless retail store end. Base_Camp provides customers with use of freely available co-working stations that are equipped with lockers, power and complimentary Wi-Fi, and lounge furniture provides a comfortable environment in which to try mobile devices placed nearby. In addition, an in-store café offers food and drink, thus encouraging shoppers to linger and meet, try out devices, and view the largest Twitter display in the world which is updated every 40 seconds.
Innovation Takeaway #3: Base_Camp creates a highly social environment that emphasizes the sensation of communication and product trial as a means to provide a unique customer experience unlike any other wireless retailer.
These are just a few examples of the many innovations that are occurring as retailers around the world consider and test methods that effectively are "reimagining" their brick-and-mortar store base. They are not simply creating new "stores," but instead are creating experiential centers whereby customers can gain knowledge, fulfill their shopping mission, and experience the brand in ways that no website can deliver! Have you reimagined your customer experience lately?
Examples and photos courtesy of "Retail Innovations 9," by the Ebeltoft Group – http://www.ebeltoftgroup.com.
Dwight D. Hill, whose background includes leadership roles with Neiman Marcus and Deloitte LLP, is Partner, McMillan Doolittle LLP. Dwight can be reached at email@example.com.
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