By Tara Yavorsky
The adage "the customer is always right" is not new. But never has it been truer than this year. The "Uberization" of retail—give me what I want when and how I want it—has shifted the way customers expect to interact with brands and retailers and it's not going to change anytime soon.
In an upcoming episode of WDCast, we talk with Alison Embrey Medina (Director of Content at Retail X) about this exact phenomenon. She tells us that she likes to think of retail as a two-sided coin: the shopping side versus the buying side. The shopping side of retail emphasizes the tactical experience of being in a physical store, engaging with a brand or product and is often referred to as "experiential retail" today. The buying side is that fast and frictionless "get it to me now" demand and expectation the customer is requiring from retailers (thanks Amazon).
The customer of now (and tomorrow) demands more from brands. Don't simply be a box with racks full of stuff and assume the customer will shop or care. Brands must be the epitome of the intersection between .com and physical retail. You need to know your customers—who they are, what they want to buy and how they like to buy it—and then offer it to them on their terms.
Consumers are addicted to (and even crave) newness—Alison cites this as one of the major reasons why digitally native brands are doing so well in today's market. How is your brand being perceived as new? Are you remaining relevant in the eyes of your consumers while meeting that buying/demand expectation? Alison and WDCast's host, Lee Peterson (EVP, Thought Leadership and Marketing at WD Partners) discuss the many brands that are continually evolving and even reinventing themselves to live up to their customer's cravings.
- One of their newest stores in Miami is a sight to be seen. Blending in (as best you can when you have a 35-foot tall pavilion) to the local flavor, the building boasts a classic mid-century design to match the region. More importantly, the interior includes an amphitheater dubbed the Forum with a video wall and leather seating where the Today at Apple community learning sessions are held. But beyond expanding their experiential footprint, the brand continues to innovate through product designs & partnerships (we see you Lumos bike helmet) and is stepping up their game as a payment provider through the launch of their Apple Card.
- Madison Reed
- This brand was created with a simple mission—to disrupt the hair color industry by making beautiful at-home hair color with ingredients that you can feel good about using. This DTC hair color brand has continued to grow and evolve, expanding their product line to include more salon like items (root touch-up, color reviving gloss) while staying true to what their consumers love about them. They've recently announced that they're opening 500 salons (named Color Bars) in the next four years. Their founder and CEO said it best: "Our customers come first, and we want to support them regardless of whether they color at home or in a Color Bar. Our responsibility is to ensure that her experience is the same regardless if she is walking into an existing Color Bar, shopping online, coloring at home, or visiting a franchise location. She will get the same high-quality hair color and the same unique brand experience."1
- The company was born out of a broken suitcase while traveling and the need to find a new one when none of their friends could give them a real recommendation. Three years later and the co-founders of Away have raised $100M and have a $1.4B valuation. They went from a single carry-on suitcase to becoming a travel company with seven stores (and a slated 50 more to come)2, a suite of products geared towards the everyday traveler and even a magazine providing city guides and travel inspiration. Their website, social media presence and customer referrals merge perfectly together to reinforce the seamless travel experience their products and branding embody.
What's one of the things that all three of these examples have at their core? Putting the customer at the center of everything they do. They've created a trusting relationship with their consumers… becoming more than a brand and instead, turning into a part of their life. As Alison & Lee put it, there is no omni-channel. There is one channel—the customer. Brands need to meet her (or him) where she is by creating experiences, moments, and opportunities around her behavior and preferences.
Be sure to subscribe to the WD podcast, WDCast for more great conversations and insights around the issues and opportunities facing businesses today. Keep an ear out 😊 for Alison's episode coming soon.