Things will never really be the same again. We can all agree on that right? Will you ever lick your fingers before trying to pry open the fresh produce bag at the grocery store again? Will you grab the bathroom door and wonder who might have touched it before you? How does that Mother’s Day buffet you go to with the family every year sound now? Even self-serve ice cream, testing out lipstick on your hand at the beauty store, and trying shoes on give you pause.
We are living in a new reality, and if we’re smart about it, we can make that reality a better place. We are not sprinting to the finish line, but instead running a marathon to a new beginning. In this article we take a look at how brands can picture a new or evolved way of operating in order to meet current and future needs, while engaging with customers in this new world order.
The impact this virus will have on consumer behavior, preferences and brand loyalty is lasting. How a brand evolves their physical space in order to meet these new needs will determine its success and path for growth. How resilient is your brand and more importantly your customer experience? Let’s look at a few key areas that you can impact now and in the future.
- Impacting the Physical Space
- Online-to-Offline (O2O)
Impacting the Physical Space
As consumers are more wary than ever before, how will your brand demonstrate a sense of structure and calm in your physical experience and through your associate interactions?
Brands in Action:
Swedish fashion brand, Acne, draws inspiration from healthcare by incorporating anti-microbial materials, finishes and top-coats including cleanable wallcoverings and upholstery.
Bring nature inside and offset rigid or cold materials in your space while upgrading air-filter systems with natural filtering plants.
British born mobile app Ubamarket, partners with retailers allowing customers to manage lists, offers and favorites while shopping in-store, scanning as they go and paying via the app.
With online sales hitting all-time records and many stores acting as micro-fulfillment centers, the division between online and offline has never been closer. Are you set up to serve your customer’s needs no matter where and how they choose to shop?
Brands in Action:
Beauty brand, Credo, leverages virtual tools to connect customers with in-store associates and experts to drive product recommendations, tips and safe product browsing.
Providing exclusivity to customer and fans with a live sale on social media, Montreal clothing store Editorial Boutique, has embraced virtual shopping through a series of live events.
UGG’s Ginza flagship store in Japan offers an upgraded luxury to enhance their click-and-collect service with concierge-style amenities.
The hyperawareness of safety and security will impact everything from your operations to your customer experience to your supply chain. As customers have a heightened interest in your brand’s transparency, how will you reassure them?
Brands in Action:
Nike’s “move to zero” initiative is a comprehensive sustainability plan incorporating efforts to embrace renewable energy and operate with zero carbon emissions in order to protect the world of sports.
Package Free is a zero waste brand and shop that encourages consumers to embrace a zero waste lifestyle through product recommendations, kits, classes and resources.
In the age of BOPIS (buy online pick-up in store) using clear, consistent and timely communication through email or text has never been more critical.
One positive thing coming out of COVID-19 is the rapid adoption of technology from both brands and consumers. How are you incorporating the desire for contactless everything (including payment and product pick-up) and this shift towards automation?
Many big boxes and grocery stores have started integrating cashierless checkout including retail behemoth Walmart, who launched scan and go technology well before the onset of the pandemic in an effort to meet customer needs.
This unmanned beauty store by Lululab leverages AI as customers take selfies to receive a detailed skin analysis and product recommendations all seamlessly delivered to their phone.
The innovative Nike Live concept uses real-time data to stock the stores bi-weekly, pulling from buying, browsing and events-based patterns within the NikePlus app.
One of the greatest strengths and differentiators for a brand’s physical space has always been the experience. In a world where the number of people in a space is limited, how is your brand building your community and evolving the experience to drive engagement?
The use of AR will accelerate as consumers relish shopping while in their PJs. The IKEA Place app helps you do just that as you browse various furnishings and can place them directly into your room to determine what will work best.
Beauty brand Lancome launched its first flagship store, intended to be an immersive exhibition space that updates décor and experiences multiple times a year to keep fans coming back.
What’s almost as good as meeting a celebrity athlete? Virtually meeting them in Puma’s Skill Cube experience that offers coaching sessions for visitors of their NYC store.
Net-Net: The store as we know it will never be the same.
So, the big question is: How should your brand evolve? What can you learn from the examples above? The majority of which were implemented well before the pandemic occurred.
It’s time to reassess the role of the store and your brand. Some final considerations…
- Stores are being reinvented—they are no longer the centerpiece of a retail business, but rather one part of the omnichannel experience
- Many traditional retail store locations will be transformed into micro-fulfillment centers
- Brands should no longer use cookie cutter designs for their stores, but rather a customized approach to each location based on market needs
- The adoption of technology, offering of services and meeting the consumer on their terms will determine which brands survive long after this crisis
- Adopting an agile, test-and-learn mindset allows brands to stay nimble, learn and evolve in this changing time