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Monday, November 16, 2009

Higher Calling For Retail Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Las Vegas Retail Store InspirationDid you catch the 9/28/09 article from AdAge titled Boost, Microsoft market via bricks, mortar [registration required, but here is link to pdf of the full article]? It's mostly about cell phone providers, with a dash of banking thrown in, but it includes significant insights for flooring and non-flooring retailers alike. Particularly those with brick & mortar stores!

More specifically, according to Wachovia Bank research, "brick-and-mortar investment was the single biggest contributor to customer acquisition, outpacing advertising..."

Now, that does that capture your attention? It did mine.

Why brick-and-mortar stores are so important.

They represent an effective means for communicating with customers. Particularly for complicated categories, a store represents an opportunity for a customer to get one-on-one time with a sales representative for guidance and to help make sense of the plethora of choices.

Stores are where the brand comes alive, where you can demonstrate your commitment to customer service and truly humanize your brand, where you deliver your customer retail experience and demonstrate marketing value. Stores are much more than just distribution points .

Note the five recommendations for enhancing the retail brand experience in-store:
1. "Present your merchandise in a way that helps shoppers navigate through the sea of products."
2. "Help customers feel comfortable with their choices and decisions."
3. "Train store reps to be knowledgeable."
4. "Define what customer enjoyment is for your brand and express that in your physical environment."
5. "Provide great customer service."

The Apple retail experience

One of the best retail experience stories is Apple, and one of the most disappointing - considering its entertainment heritage and its strong commitment to storytelling - Disney. What a delight, then, to learn that the two have teamed up to deliver a reinvented retail experience. Per Disney's Retail Plan Is a Theme Park in Its Stores from the New York Times, "it's time to take risks" and deliver experiences! These may include scent elements [something done in the theme parks], technology and new recreational activities. Some of the Apple touches that will be adopted include "mobile checkout, ... emphasis on community, ... focus on interactivity." The goal, "dream bigger" and turn these brick-and-mortar stores into true destinations.

Retail Customer Experience's Five things any retailer can learn from Apple lists the following to remember:

1. "Product knowledge isn't everything... and the world needs new and exciting retail experiences."
2. To get unstuck, "call in people you respect from a wide range of professional and personal backgrounds and keep an open mind."
3. Experiences represent a competitive advantage - so create a memorable one.
4. "We need to bring the joy back to shopping."
5. "Innovate in downturns."

To those, I add:
+ Don't dumb down your merchandising. Instead, create magic and stories.
+ Figure out how to simplify your processes to benefit your customers.

And, then, make sure you have people in your organization with strong passion for wanting to "make people look good, feel good" as described in Women trust Gamble's fashion tastes from the Poughkeepsie Journal. Gamble strikes me as having a higher calling. "...He connects with his clients by listening carefully to learn who they are and what they want." He's not just selling stuff, he's solving problems.

Would you like more ideas? Then read through this article Mixing It Up from Metropolis Magazine. In it, you'll learn about L.A. based firm Commune and how it combines inspiration and authenticity to create unique brick-and-mortar retail experiences with fabulous photos of three projects: the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, Juicy Couture in London and Heath Ceramics in Los Angeles.

By the way, Commune equates being a designer to being a therapist.

Sounds like another higher calling...

So, what is your higher calling for your retail brick-and-mortar experience?

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