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 A value proposition that is no longer valid with Amazon search engine and smart marketing algorithms.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