Experiential Retail

Bricks and mortars

The resignation of Best Buy’s CEO, Brian Dunn, led me to wonder how retail brands can remain relevant in the e-commerce era and whether veteran brands can reinvent themselves. I chose a few cases to make my point.

There is a chain of small convenience stores in South Florida called Farm Stores, which, despite having a concept, a brand and superb real estate, cannot stand out among the 5 gas stations, 3 pharmacies and 2 supermarkets that surround them. This is simply because they are selling the exact same products in almost the exact same way as their competitors. If only they took a step back and returned to their original story created back in the 30’s; To fill their shelves with unique products that fit the brand (i.e. farm fresh, artisanal dairy products) and use sensorial techniques (giving out samples, playing pleasant music) they could deliver a truly relevant and unique retail experience, especially combined with their drive through system.

With the digitalization of everything from music to books, Barnes and Noble is also struggling to provide a compelling reason for customers to step into their stores. Reshaping the inventory and remodeling the stores will not do the trick. Their shelves are still standing high, rigid and packed with titles, designed for an era in which going to a library was the only way to find books, and getting lost in their shelves was a Saturday afternoon adventure. A value proposition that is no longer valid with Amazon search engine and smart marketing algorithms. What Amazon or Apple, for that matter, cannot offer is the essence of the Barnes and Noble brand: a brick and mortar bookstore, a destination for those who love books. The fond memories of getting lost in bookstores are engrained in our desires as consumers. It’s a shared experience that we all treasure. We are also social animals who, despite appreciating the convenience the Internet provides, we crave interaction. These facts, combined with the charming functionality and, I might add, personality of the nook shows that B&N has a special set of assets to deliver, which nobody else does; something really enticing and unique. What a potential!

Times have changed. The shopping mall has become the park and the temple. People have a lot of free time in their hands, but very few retailers are taking this great opportunity to turn browsers into shoppers!

Retail is not on its way out anytime soon; if you disagree, simply walk past an Apple store. However, retail brands need to do less displaying and allow for more experiencing and entertaining. Consumers want more than just look around…they want to touch, feel, smell, and taste. We should bring back to mind those times when a store was about adding value, not reducing price. A few months ago, I experienced a great example with the Clarins/Bloomingdales partnership, worth learning from.

And, going back to Best Buy, I may say that their distinctive blue shirts are not enough; they are always busy and hard to find. They are unable to help me feel and hear the sound of the $200 earphones for my iPAD for which, if that were the case, I would have been ready to spend!

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June 27th, 2012 6 Comments Advertising / Branding / Retail Branding

  1. Marcio

    Great post…

    When I worked in retail – trust me not missing that anytime soon – the word I heard the most was shrinkage – which is basically the word retailers use to prevent shoplifting. Mac stores really don’t care that much – even though they have alarms on their computers. In most cases, people beat up the equipment pretty badly, so it’s not uncommon to see a shattered iPad or a bruised iPhone being displayed… let’s call that the price of doing business.

    On the other hand, you have B&N who has an entirely hands-on retail experience and not a way to create any type of serendipity with their products. I feel B&N is not a bookseller – it;s more of a book displayer. It displays a bunch of books with the hope you desperately need one so you buy it… they should all go to books and books in Coral Gables for a quick back to basics lesson.

    So how BB and BN run away from this try and buy online dilemma. First of all, I think it’s a matter of pricing – they are huge, they have pull and they should flex their muscles. Match online pricing on the spot – make a huge deal out of it as a marketing campaign and done. Second, unchain the equipment and forget about displaying boxes. They are so huge and inept and making good of the space you are basically walking at a warehouse. Hire more people who are well trained at what they sell, do away with all of the boxes and just simply let people touch what you are selling. In the meantime offer classes on how to use the gizmos you sell and invite vendors to do the same at your locations. I am not sad they are closing. I am sad they are not changing their retail approach. That worries me.

    Finally, let’s allow for some shoplifting… seriously… let’s forget about shrinkage – and in the meantime, let’s just hire more people. I usually go to BB for emergency purchases and it’s incredibly hard to get them to sell me something since everything I buy is usually tightly secured under lock and key…. that really sucks.

    Love the redesign…


    April 20th, 2012 //
  2. LarryChan

    Hey BMJ, what do you think of Dish buying Blockbuster and supposedly planning to use their stores? For me it appears as a step backward in retail evolution, specially in the Video/Movie market.

    I agree with Marcio, love the redesign.

    Bip Bip,

    April 23rd, 2012 //
  3. ftpmumbojumbo

    It depends on how they do it. Video-movies are fun enough to create an eiriene. Will dish have the vision?????

    April 23rd, 2012 //
  4. ftpmumbojumbo

    Hi Marcio, thanls for the comment. I was today in BN and saw how they are copying the Apple display/showroom model instead of inventing one for themselves. I agre with you that they are book displayers and I agree even more that Books and BOoks is doing a much better jon. As for shoplifting…as you say who cares.

    April 23rd, 2012 //

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