What the Consumer of Today Means for the Store of Tomorrow

The digitally-empowered consumers of today thrive on experience – not only through their devices, but within physical environments. Far beyond serving a purchase, the role of brick and mortar continues to shift: it’s not that people don’t want to go to stores, but that the expectation for physical locations has evolved from transactional to experiential. This evolution has initiated a wave of challenges for those who had subpar experiences and many continue to struggle today.

With 91.5% of retail sales still taking place in physical stores, brick and mortar will continue to be relevant to business and retail strategy. But with this change in purpose, brands of today must reconsider the role and experience of their physical environments – be it store, restaurant, hotel, or other – if they wish to be successful tomorrow.

Reimagining the Store with Purpose. Activating the Space.

A reimagined store experience is one that not only aims to increase store traffic and sales, but plays a huge role in brand engagement, eCommerce, marketing, sales promotion, and customer retention. A reimagined store transforms a space focused solely on transactions into one that stands as an experiential destination. As brands aim to engage customers across multiple channels and devices, those who are able to physically create customer-centric destinations and infuse them with digital elements create purpose-driven stores.

Purpose is what resonates with customers. They don’t necessarily think about separate channels. They recognize the entirety of their experience with a brand, be it in a store, on the phone, or through an app. And as the lines between physical and digital continue to blur, all touch points should be considered as either a storefront or the entryway into one that needs to be activated.

When brands “activate” a space, they add purpose. Activated space is curated with intention and brought to life not only with product, but with music, video, and interactive components that along with empowered employees, collectively shapes perception and adds value to the experience. It communicates an understanding of the brand itself and what it means to customers, and provides a reason to come through the door.

Reimagined Stores in Action

Successful brands like NYX Cosmetics, UNIQLO and adidas continuously work to challenge customer expectations and compete in a digital world through their physical locations. They recognize the importance of the store as a marketing vehicle, not just as a transactional one, and invest in the creation of activated spaces. This approach manifests itself into customer-centric store designs filled with content, interactivity, and personalization to support the presentation of product and connect with each visitor.

adidas has done this extremely well at their New York City global flagship location. It consists of four floors and 45,000 square feet that tell the adidas story in a physical space. Bleacher seating is interspersed with pullovers, large screen displays hang from walls for live game viewing, and an exclusive branded element creates a defined sense of place: a strategic music program.

Music is core to adidas brand strategy; it’s a major differentiator they use to bring distinction to each of their retail concepts, localize those experiences, and connect with diverse audiences. The music strategy aligns segmented playlists with core messages, campaigns, products, and environmental attributes for each store type. For the NYC flagship, this includes a mix of contemporary rap, stylish R&B, adidas-sponsored musicians, and exclusive underground tracks from artists that can only be heard through adidas channels.

This content is then delivered through A/V systems that bring the Stadium flagship concept to life, including a sophisticated sound system that utilizes cloud-connected hardware for remote management and control of the multi-zone experience.

By integrating music content and advanced A/V systems into store environments, adidas is fueling their narrative and inviting consumers to hear the brand. These activated spaces bring purpose to the stores helps set the tone for a reimagined store experience.

What to Consider When Reimagining a Store

  • Connect concept with a 360-degree view of the customer. What’s the feeling a customer should takeaway from a store experience? What do you want them to understand about the brand? How should they describe the store to friends? These outcomes should be pre-determined and the store experience designed to support the realization of each.
  • Enhance with content. Empower customers to interact before, during, and after visits with digital content that supports the brand story. Utilize content formats that generate emotion, such as music and video, to get better engagement rates. Allow them to experience product at each of these stages and make the store visit an event.
  • Focus on technology and hardware. How will content be delivered, what protocols and processes exist or will be needed to manage it, and what hardware and software can be leveraged to make this happen? Outline the operational impact and needs that technology needs to serve to select platforms that provide a better fit.
  • Integrate beyond the four walls. Stores, websites, and apps shouldn’t be thought of separately – they should be reimagined congruently and deliver a unified representation of the brand. The more consistent each touch point can be from a capability and content perspective, the more seamless the customer experience.