When someone starts talking about the retail apocalypse, it’s unclear what they really mean. Is it the shift from the traditional store model to ecommerce, or is it a reaction to established chain retailers closing stores and filing for bankruptcy?
These are merely symptoms of the real issue: Retail is changing, not dying. Signifyd has taken on the retail metamorphosis topic before, by showing how the most successful retail leaders are basing their strategies on the value of customer experiences over transactional success.
This two-part blog series is for those who choose an optimistic point of view into how retail is changing. In part one, we’re looking at how retail services are redefining how customers shop with a look into three different experience models: one that relies on function above all else, one that focuses on fun and one that provides essential resources to the community.
In part two, we’ll take a look into how smart retail leaders are taking over the vacant and disused brick and mortar spaces left behind in this retail changing of the guard, to continue the retail services momentum and serve more customers better than ever before.
Retail is transforming, not dying
If you go by sensationalist media reports, retail has been dead on arrival since the Great Recession began in 2008. In reality, physical retail is as vital as ever. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that physical retail still commands nearly 90% of U.S. retail sales, and cites direct-to-consumer darlings like Casper and Allbirds expanding into brick-and-mortar commerce as a sign that shoppers still want physical stores to be a part of their omnichannel shopping experience.
There’s no easy answer for why huge chains like Forever 21 and Payless are closing most (or all) of their stores and filing for bankruptcy. However, these and other mass store closures are a clear sign of how retail changes shape the market. Retail leaders must understand how to adapt their products, services, experiences and locations to fit their customers’ needs to survive the so-called retail apocalypse and thrive in this new era.
Here are three mini case studies on how retailers utilize retail services in their brick-and-mortar locations and keep their customers coming back.
IKEA brings functionality to furniture shopping
Furniture retailer IKEA has thrived on their clean, classic designs for furnishings and other home goods, combined with affordable prices. An IKEA shopping trip can be a true excursion: Shoppers can stop by the in-store cafe for a quick and cheap meal in between browsing staged displays featuring entire room layouts.
IKEA creates interactive experiences for every customer. Shoppers can open wardrobe doors and drawers and lay on mattresses to test how a new piece of furniture will perform in their home. One entire IKEA staged kitchen display can cost upwards of $20,000, but it’s much easier to sell the full experience when a customer can see how the kitchen comes together right in front of them.
The Swedish furniture store understands that while many people love their pieces, not everyone is suited for shopping for large furnishings at a giant store. That’s why they created a smaller store concept in Manhattan. IKEA Planning Studio is about 5% the size of the usual 300,000-square-foot store and optimized based on what New Yorkers need: great looking furniture that fits into tiny apartments. IKEA gets how urbanites plan their lives around public transit and makes it easy for them to transport their furnishings and other home goods.
A company has staying power when it can pair essential items with functional customer experiences. Retailers that lack agility in their products, services and locations face the highest risk of failure in the new retail era.
Adidas adds reasons to stick around their store
Athletic footwear is a competitive category with a fan culture all its own and a fast-growing market. Adidas learned how to stand out with a customer experience that’s more fun and engaging than waiting in line at the newest sneaker release.
Its Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan encourages shoppers to stick around for experiences beyond completing a transaction. The store has features that appeal directly to sports and fitness fans: a juice press, bleachers for customers to sit and watch sports games, a print shop where guests can customize clothing and a miniature track on the sales floor where runners can take a run and get their stride analyzed.
To keep pace with other category heavyweights like Nike, who controls 21.1% share of the U.S. footwear market, Adidas has found ways to make their brand stand out. Take notes from Adidas on how to respond as customer needs change over time and how to be nimble to deliver these experiences.
Walmart adds health care to keep up with customer needs
Service takes on a different definition when applied to an essential function. Customer experience becomes even more important when shoppers have limited options and fewer places to find what they need.
Walmart gets this. It’s part of how it built its massive revenue machine to reach over $500 billion in 2019. Talking Points breaks down why Walmart succeeds in rural America — a region where many retailers struggle to connect with shoppers:
“In small towns and rural areas, Walmart is a staple. Walmart may be the only grocery store, or the only pharmacy, or the only place to buy books and DVDs in some towns. Walmart’s Supercenter stores are open 24 hours; in many small towns, they’re the only store with lights on after dinner time.”
It’s important to note where Walmart is building the next phase of its retail services growth: health care. Business Insider reported on Walmart’s health clinic test program that launched in Georgia in September. The clinic will operate in a separate location next to one of the company’s stores and offer primary care services, plus hearing tests, dental exams, counseling sessions and vision tests.
For Walmart, retail services includes providing essential health care to people who probably would otherwise lack access. As the pilot program expands, it could mean adding another service to the varied Walmart shopping experience alongside in-store restaurants, vision centers, automotive repair shops and veterinarian clinics.
Low prices are a good place to start with a retail strategy, but customers expect more than just cheap stuff. Finding everything they need in one location — groceries, goods and services — is a main reason why customers keep coming back to Walmart.
Retail should be more than just transactions
Retail services make up a big part of the customer experience. Services can create more meaningful connections between consumer and brand. Brands fail when they can’t maintain customer connections. It’s time to start asking critical questions of where retailers go wrong with customer experience, instead of blaming the “retail apocalypse” for everything wrong with the industry.
When retail stores close, they leave behind empty brick-and-mortar spaces. But these spaces don’t stay vacant for long. In part two of this series on retail services and customer experience, we’ll examine how companies are capitalizing on dead retail spaces to make experiential shopping the new normal.
Photo courtesy of iStock Photo
If you have questions about how to jump-start your omnichannel ecommerce strategy or you’re not sure where to begin with digital transformation for your brand, talk to Signifyd. Our experts are available to answer questions on key topics in retail like order automation, revenue optimization and more.