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Experiential Retail: The New Brick and Mortar Model

Experiential Retail: The New Brick and Mortar Model

I often hear people in retail talk about how the “bricks and mortar” store model is a dying concept. With more and more sales being driven to online and mobile, why would customers want or need to come into a physical store? Skyrocketing rents combined with empty store fronts both in malls and in traditional shopping districts would lead people to believe that the experience of coming into a physical space and shopping is a dying concept.

2 Major Trends in Retail: Experiential Retail & Long and Short Term Pop Ups

From my perspective as a student of and executer of brand experiences, I believe nothing could be further from the truth. The old retail model of a traditional store might be dying, but what is replacing it is exciting, interactive and profitable, if done correctly. From my perspective there are two major trend happening in the retail space that anyone in retail should be paying attention to:

Experiential Retail

People are not going to stores, downtowns, and malls to shop anymore. They are going to be entertained and to interact. The experience of walking into a store and shopping is no longer a passive endeavor.

Today customers are going into a physical space to experience and interact with the brand in a way that they cannot do on line. This can mean anything from working with a sales associate to create something bespoke through a customization program in store (think the Coach House flagship on 5th Avenue with a personalization bar), to Supremes new Brooklyn outpost with a skate board “park” in the center of the store.

These brands have given customers a reason to come into the store and not just shop online. They might look at the products on their phone, but they have to come into the space to truly interact with and experience the brand. In the case of Supreme, there is a tremendous Instagramable aspect to the space.

Another example is Shinola's flagship store in LA. By combining a traditional retail space with a restaurant and a tattoo parlor, they have created something that can’t be replicated on line, but has to be experienced in person. This in store experience is interactive, experiential and fun!

Long and Short Term Pop Ups

Gone are the days of brands having to sign long term (10–15 year) leases and hope that the mall, high street or shopping district is able to maintain the right customer and foot traffic for that many years.

In today’s new world, brands can experiment with short term or longer term “pop up” shops to test their viability, build their presence in a market, collect customer data and create excitement for a limited amount of time and then move on.

Here in New York City I have seen pop up shops for Yankee Candles (super cool — who knew!), Snapchat, and Goop. Each one had a different “reason for being,” but all of them were interactive, social media savvy and BUSY! The ability for brands to cherry pick a location for a period of time that best suites their business needs and customer shopping patterns is a win-win for everyone.

It is immediate, exciting and there is an end date that creates a natural sense of urgency for customers. There are now malls that have a certain percentage of their space devoted to short term leasing. It keeps the malls fresh, relevant and current. It also gives customers a reason to keep coming back more often to see what’s new.

Mobile Anywhere

I love that I can do my retail shopping with my phone virtually anywhere I can get a signal. On the subway, at my favorite coffee spot, at the gym. It’s fast and easy but it does not replace an experience or a human connection.

Adopting to the New Way Consumers Shop

Brands and retailers that can create an dynamic retail experience and adopt the new way that customers are shopping physical spaces are going to win. They are the brands that we will be drawn to because we feel a connection with them both in the store and on line as well.