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Monday, September 21, 2009

Unique, Relevant, Memorable Retail Experiences

Pike Place Market, SeattleDo you remember Rethinking the Mall & Uncovering Retail Creativity? Here's another angle worth pondering: what about creating truly unique, relevant, memorable experiences?

How? But purposefully deciding NOT to be all things for all people.

For example, opting to focus on only serving the needs of a specific ethnicity.

According to Ethnic Malls Are Buzzing from 8/31/2009, malls like Kam Man Mall in Quincy MA, La Gran Plaza in Fort Worth, TX or The Great Wall Mall in Seattle, WA have created shopping environments that are bustling with customers despite the recession.

These malls each serve a specific demographic whose needs aren't being met elsewhere. Not only do they sell necessities, but they also offer valuable services and a sense of community. The end result is authentic, highly relevant and memorable. It also generates loyalty. Not a bad combination.

Another approach to creating an unique, relevant and memorable experience is by repurposing existing urban spaces, actively using everything that the building and space represents, to create a retail setting that reflects and engages a brand's customers. For example, Urban Outfitters Inc., which has "built an empire on knowing its customers intimately - then growing with them," routinely takes over pre-existing spaces, repurposing them without stripping away all of the history and character. The end result delivers no two stores that look or feel the same way and an experience that customers seek out because each is unique.

[Note: Apple took over a former post office building in SoHo and created a similarly memorable [yet different] unique experience relevant to the Apple brand.]

Given the frustration inherent to dealing with too many choices and the resulting extreme complexity, consider an unique, relevant and memorable retail experience based on simplicity! Become a curator as suggested in Sales Down? Time To Dial Down The SKUs [also see Refocus Product: Retail As Curator & Less But Better.] Imagine offering your customers solutions that cut through complexity and clutter and are relevant to them, even at a local level.

A powerful means of creating truly relevant retail experiences comes from asking your customers. That's the premise that Tom Jennings bases his 12/1-5/2008 Floor Covering Weekly article titled "Does one size fit all in your store?" He recommends finding out from your customers "what is it that turns ordinary product into extraordinary fashion" in their eyes. What a great question!

Interestingly, as I learned in
In Hard Times, Is Best Buy’s Best Good Enough?, Best Buy has established the "Omega Wolves program, a focus group made up of 3,500 working women in the United States and London, [which] has a page on Facebook; Omegas socialize and give the chain feedback..." [See WOLF @ Best Buy for more information.]

Tom Jennings suggests "tour[ing] businesses successfully specializing in fashionable products not sold in [y]our industry." You see, most customers look for relevance to themselves, for something unique and in a retail setting that is comfortable from all perspectives [lighting, display, service, selection...]. Learn from others.

Finally, consider experimenting, possibly using pop-up stores!
Pop-Up Stores Pop Up as Inexpensive Way to Build Buzz describes how brands can test and evaluate retail experience concepts using pop-ups. The article includes 5 watchouts, though, before 'popping up:'

1. Do your research.
2. Don't scrimp.
3. Get creative.
4. Don't expect a profit.
5. Take a chance.

What other approaches have you found conducive to creating unique, relevant, memorable retail experiences?

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Robyn McMaster, PhD said...

I like your idea of the simple, C.B. Do not be all things to all people. One way to do that is to focus on a specific ethnicity as you market.

I've never been to an ethnic mall, but would love to!

Like the way the goods are displayed.

CB Whittemore said...

Robyn, like you I am fascinated with the notion of an ethnic mall. Seems like an amazing opportunity to be transported to another world, right in our backyard. I'm hopeful that the cookie-cutter sameness that we've seen in retail will be replaced with memorable, unique and relevant experiences! Thanks for your insightful comment. CB

Promotional Products said...

This is an interesting concept and I like it a lot. Tailoring a product or entire mall, for example, is very daring and innovative in this economic climate. I also like the idea of keeping things simple at the same time. When implementing a strategy such as the one you wrote about, it is absolutely necessary to do your research about your target market, because if you fail at this your project could be an absolute disaster.

CB Whittemore said...

Promotional Products, you are absolutely right on the research. How else to ensure relevance? But, what a way to generate interest and loyalty when done right! Thanks for contributing to this discussion.

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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